On Nov. 6 2018, something remarkable happened: two first time, Democratic candidates — in the deep red political pond of South Carolina — managed to defeat their respective Republican (did I mention incumbent?) opposition.
With their wins, JA Moore and Krystle Simmons are officially part of the new guard. Unsatisfied with the ways of the world, they led upstanding campaigns, connecting with constituents on a personal level in a way their predecessors rarely did. It was those connections that compelled citizens to vote in their favor.
I had never heard of Ms. Simmons before her run for office. But, to me, that didn’t matter. My time as a member of the Center for Women’s advisory board taught me that, unfortunately, most women are reluctant to run for political office even though studies and polls show, from an educational standpoint, women are more than qualified for these positions. More often than not, they won’t even attempt the feat. Rep. Simmons is part of a growing group of women who have decided to be the change they wish to see.
In contrast, JA is the homie. I’ve come to know him over the years as a man who is passionate about helping others. Pair that with his growing comfort with speaking openly about the injustices that plague our society and it’s no surprise he was willing to make the transition from behind-the-scenes to center stage. Like Krystle, he decided to take a leap of faith, going from chef to a political candidate to representative in less than one year.
And while I’m happy to see these two join the ranks of the legislature, this column is less about them and more about us, their supporters. I’m concerned about there being an Obama ’08 type of hangover; that we will, collectively, rest on our laurels, lulled into a feeling that because they won, we can safely remove our civic engagement capes for two more years. But I am here to expressly warn against this attitude. If anything, now is the time to kick our support into overdrive. With this in mind, I took it upon myself to create a list of three concrete, actionable items to show our continued support for Reps. Moore and Simmons.
FOLLOW: The easiest thing we can do is follow Reps. Moore and Simmons on social media. I’m not even suggesting that you follow them on every single platform, choose either the one they update the most or the platform you use the most. Do more than like their post, interact with them. When it comes to social media, likes are passé; it’s all about reach. On Facebook, sharing their post to your feed is a great way they can be seen by more than just their intended audience. On Instagram, sharing their post on your stories will have a similar effect. Comments are key as well. They cue a higher level of engagement which, in turn, makes their content easier to find. The easier they are to find, the more likely they get shared, and the cycle continues. By interacting with them on social media, we can help them stay visible year-round and not just during election cycles.
FUND: Donate money to their campaigns. Yeah, even now when no one is even remotely talking about voting. Rep. Simmons beat a four-time incumbent even though she raised less than $1,500. If you divide the 5,577 people who voted for her by the amount she raised, you come to a total of about 27 cents per voter. That is not a typo. Nor is that common. I know Obama had us believing that political campaigns run on hope, but that ain’t it, chief. And unless some major political reform takes place between now and 2020, money is going to continue to be a determining factor in whether someone can win a political race. According to a 2014 Washington Post report, congressional candidates who raise more money than their opponents win, on average, 91 percent of the time. My idea: Donate $100 a year until the next election. If one third of the 5,577 people who voted for Rep. Simmons did that, she’d raise over $300,000. It really is that simple.
FORMATION: When they get ready to speak on an issue that matters to you, channel your inner Beyonce and “…get in formation.” When I was an undergrad at South Carolina State University, the students from the Charleston metro area went everywhere together. We walked to the cafeteria together, ate together, skipped class together, partied together, and sat with each other at sporting events and probate shows. If there was anything that could be done in a group, we did it. We were a wondrous murmuration, moving both as individual people and a collective. The size of our flock turned heads wherever we went. Our representatives could really use that type of support, especially during their first year in office. It’d be great for them, both personally and professionally, if they had an army of supporters at their back when facing their peers.
If we want to make sure that their respective wins are a trend and not an aberration, we have to be willing to do our part. That means following them on social media, funding their campaigns, and falling into formation during legislative sessions. It could mean the difference between this being their one and only opportunity or the foundation for their encore.