The activist group Progressive Maryland, working with partner organizations, has launched a program to train and educate potential candidates for office and other political advocates.
The first session for what’s being called the People’s Leadership Institute program launched at the end of July, with a cohort of 18 leaders, activists and Progressive Maryland members. It is due to last through mid-September.
The program will provide modules on political history, public policy, leadership, and the elements of successful electoral campaigns.
“The [People’s Leadership Institute] will be a place for activists and leaders to learn about strategic organizing in the political arena,” Progressive Maryland said in a statement. “We are pulling together what we think will be a relevant curriculum for the times we’re in. We’re assembling a team of national and local trainers to lead the training.”
Progressive Maryland’s program bears some resemblance to the candidate training program that the group Emerge Maryland started organizing for Democratic women in the months before the 2014 election cycle. Three dozen women now in elected office are Emerge graduates, including 14 members of the Maryland General Assembly.
Harnessing a slew of progressive activists eyeing public office could have some implications for Democratic primaries in Maryland going forward. Progressive and labor organizations aren’t always in sync with the Democratic establishment — and candidates who emerge with backing from Progressive Maryland frequently chafe when they’re told to wait their turn by party leaders.
The new program is supported by several of Progressive Maryland’s affiliated organizations, including SEIU 1199, CASA, the Montgomery County Education Association and the Prince George’s County Educators Association.
“This is a great opportunity to lay the groundwork for a successful election cycle in 2022 and in years to come,” said Ricarra Jones, political director for SEIU 1199. “We’re excited to help build a strong bench of future progressive candidates and election campaign organizers.”
Patty Snee, a longtime Montgomery County political organizer and former national field director for USAction, an umbrella organization for progressive groups, will be the project’s coordinator in her current role as special projects manager for Progressive Maryland.
“The pandemic and the crisis we’re in underscores the importance of government and the need to elect champions to public offices across the board,” she said. “We need to
galvanize the people, the tools and collective experience we have to field a great team of candidates and campaign managers for important local and state legislative races.”
A combination of thought leaders, political strategists, policy experts and organizers have developed the leadership institute’s curriculum. Topics include:
Movement Politics: The economy, a progressive issue platform, organizing methodologies
Leadership: Leadership skills, developing leaders, building community power, fundraising
Communication: Messaging, strategies, narrative, presentation skills
Campaigns: Field and voter contact programs, data and volunteer management, endorsements
The first cohort includes some well-known community leaders, elected officials and candidates. Progressive Maryland is spotlighting four of them:
— Marylin Pierre, a candidate for Montgomery Circuit Court judge, who upended the slate of incumbent judges who were running in June’s Democratic primary and will be on the general election ballot.
— State Del. Sheila Ruth (D-Baltimore County), who ran unsuccessfully for County Council in 2018 and was appointed to fill a vacancy in the House of Delegates earlier this year, after getting her start in politics in 2016 as a volunteer for the Bernie Sanders campaign.
— Oscar Alvarenga, a prospective candidate in Montgomery County who is a parent community organizer on the staff of the Montgomery County Education Association.
— Mckayla Wilkes, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) in the Democratic primary this year. She recently started an organization called Schools Not Jails.
The other members of the inaugural class are:
— Aaron Seyedian, a Montgomery County business owner and living wage advocate.
— Bill Reid, a veterinarian and member of the Frederick County NAACP, among other organizations.
— Carlos Childs, the state organizing director for Our Revolution Maryland, who lives in Charles County.
— Clint Sobratti, a shop steward for MCGEO Local 1994, the municipal workers’ union in Montgomery County, who ran unsuccessfully for a House seat in 2018.
— Dannine Johnson, an engineer with the federal government, union activist and leader with the Prince George’s County PTSA.
— Gabriela Ines Sevilla, a lawyer and advocate for the homeless who lives in Baltimore.
— Janssen E. Evelyn, a lawyer with the Howard County government who is active with the NAACP and Howard County Conservancy.
— Januari McKay, a youth advocate who lives in Prince George’s County.
— Karen Guzmán, an immigration rights advocate from Prince George’s County.
— Katina Burks, a youth advocate from Prince George’s County.
— Louis Koutras, a Progressive Maryland leader from Montgomery County.
— Marlin Payne, a fundraiser for progressive organizations and causes who lives in Anne Arundel County.
— Maxwell Bero, a high school teacher in Montgomery County who ran unsuccessfully for the 6th District congressional seat earlier this year.
— Richard “Kap” Kaplowitz, a social justice organizer from Frederick County.