Late last week, our team here hosted a conversation with rural organizers and strategists who worked tirelessly over the last several months in rural communities on key House and Senate campaigns across the country. You can watch the highlights from that conversation here.
Watch: Rural Strategists Reflect on the 2022 Midterm Elections
There’s no doubt about it! 2022 has been a historic year for us here at RuralOrganizing.org.
Not only did our Campaign for Rural Progress–our national grassroots lobbying effort to rebuild rural economies–take a billion-dollar step in the right direction through the passage of the RECOMPETE pilot program, but we also dramatically expanded our organizing footprint through strategic campaigns across the country.
In recent years, Republicans have focused on consolidating votes in red states and rural areas because they know that half of the United States—roughly 330 million people—live in just nine states. As a result, 50 percent of the United States population, the half that is statistically more rural, is represented by 18 U.S. senators, while the other half is represented by 82.
If this trend continues, in 20 years, about 70 percent of U.S. residents are expected to live in the 15 largest states. These 15 states will choose 30 Senators, and the remaining 30 percent of Americans—living in the remaining smaller states—will choose 70 Senators who, in turn, decide who sits on the Supreme Court.
This trend explains why the Senate and Supreme Court have become more conservative as the population of the United States has become more progressive and why there are now three more rural districts in the House than there used to be.
But for the last four years, we’ve been writing the winning playbook to cut Republican margins in small towns and rural communities. We know that rural voters have a massive impact on the Senate and Supreme court.
In fact, our efforts, along with our partners at RuralOrganizing.org Education Fund and RuralVote.org Super Pac, reached over 600,000 voters in Iowa and Ohio alone. And that doesn’t even include the impact of the over 600 rural organizers and strategists across the country who our downloaded our “Running Rural Campaigns Resource.”
From the Pennsylvania gubernatorial and Senate races to Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, candidates across the country closed rural margins while continuing to turn out the Democratic base in major cities. And it’s no accident that they succeeded where the party as a whole has failed. Those candidates won because they understood that there are plenty of progressives in rural America working to turn their communities blue, and they followed our playbook to reduce Republican margins in small towns and rural communities.
In 2022, We Introduced Policies That Progressives Ran On In Rural America
Nationally, we worked to ensure progressives delivered concrete solutions to some of the most challenging issues impacting rural America through an innovative political strategy that identified and equipped locally trusted rural civic leaders to mobilize their community members to vote, elected officials and candidates with a localized progressive rural platform to engage their rural constituencies, and a frontline coalition of rural policy experts to enact a sophisticated legislative lobbying campaign to move our rural prosperity agenda on Capitol Hill.
2022 HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY EFFORTS
- We successfully pitched our idea for an Office for Rural Prosperity to multiple offices and secured Senator Kelly to lead on legislation to create an Office for Rural Prosperity and Rep. Angie Craig as the House lead.
- On March 10 in the Senate and March 21 in the House, the Rural Prosperity Act was introduced. Both the House and Senate bills have bipartisan support.
- We identified a new legislative opportunity with the RECOMPETE Act. This bill, led by Rep. Derek Kilmer, creates long-term grants for underserved communities, including rural communities.
- As the Senate and House negotiated a conference bill, we worked closely with Rep Kilmer’s office and Sen Cantwell (the lead Senate negotiator) staff to ensure the pilot was passed in the CHIPS bill.
- We successfully secured $4 billion for the Rural Partnership Program in the House Build Back Better bill. Unfortunately, the legislation stalled in the Senate
We Launched An Innovative Experimental Field Campaign in Three Ohio Counties
Specifically in Ohio, our experimental field capacity program integrated experimental field and communication-building strategies to close margins in rural and small-town Ohio. Our strategy prioritized strategies that leverage dollars spent this cycle that will last through the 2024 cycle.
2022 HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR LOCAL ORGANIZING CAMPAIGN IN OHIO
- We built the capacity of 501c3 and 501c4 organizations by providing fiscal sponsorship and technical assistance for the groups to run experimental field methodology focused on soliciting feedback directly from rural voters through an innovation known as the “Drop Off and Pick Up Surveys.”
- We regranted over $150K to three local organizations in Licking, Fairfield, and Athens counties: without this investment, there would have been no IE investment in these counties for the 2022 cycle
- With our financial support, three local organizations hired a total of 15 local organizers who knocked over 7K doors, spoke to 2,500 local community members and completed over 1,000 surveys identifying future organizing opportunities
- We published three local progress reports for each county resulting in 10 Local Progress Events and five resources
- Our internal team deployed an aggressive electoral field program that sought to mobilize base voters’ on abortion access and persuade others to vote against Republican JD Vance
- We knocked over 11K doors in our target counties during the final weeks of the election; we sent over 53K texts to voters in our target counties and the competitive Ohio congressional districts, and we called over 10,000 people on the phone
- We organized over 20 direct voter contact trainings and recruited over 30 volunteers both locally and nationally to contact Ohio voters
- Our Super Pac ran ads on streaming services in our target counties which yielded over 141,000 impressions
- We purchased two billboards in Ohio, one in Athens County and one in Fairfield County, featuring JD Vance’s sham efforts to curb the opioid epidemic, thus highlighting his authenticity as a candidate
We Engaged In Strategic Organizing Efforts Across the Country
This election cycle, we provided rural campaign support to progressive civic leaders across the country, including launching a new resource collating over $400,000 worth of the latest public opinion research and field best practices. Over 600 organizers and strategists have downloaded our seminal playbook including the co-leader of the Arizona Democratic Party Rural Council, the Campaign Manager for Rep.Tom O’Halleran, the Lead Organizer for Oklahoma Rural Schools Coalition, and county party chairs in key rural counties in Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia.
2022 HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR ORGANIZING EFFORTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY
- Our Super Pac held a national rural strategy summit in March. Over 100 people attended
- We organized over 80 1:1s with state, local, and national organizations and held six monthly calls training with over 100 people participating who were running rural campaigns this cycle
- We commissioned a national poll showing a candidate’s pro-choice position was the most important issue tested among rural voters polled in 10 battleground states, even outpacing party ID (i.e., being a Republican), which came in second. Planned Parenthood used this polling to inform their rural flyers
- We erected over 1,000 pro-abortion access yard signs in our target Ohio counties in key precincts with young and newly registered voters
- In Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, we researched, documented, and tracked American Rescue Plan Act dollars allocated to small towns and rural communities while supporting rural civic leaders in effectively communicating the impact of this funding in their communities.
- We published over 30 op-eds and letters to the editor in key counties highlighting the role of ARPA dollars in local projects in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin
- We published over 100 local case studies highlighting the positive impacts of the American Rescue Plan on our 501c3 website www.ruralprogress.org
- We ran political visibility campaigns in key U.S. Senate and U.S. House districts highlighting rural progress champions facing a tough reelection and supporting rural newspapers
- We spent $100K 501c3 dollars on rural newspaper ads highlighting the American Rescue Plan in Iowa’s Greene County Jefferson Bee & Herald, which is located in Rep. Cindy Axne’s district (IA-03)
- We regranted $20K 501c4 dollars to My Rural America to supplement their program in incumbent districts Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-08) and Rep. Susan Wild (PA-07).
- We ran accountability campaigns raising awareness of those incumbents who voted against Biden’s rural legislative agenda and other pieces of progressive legislation, like Senator Ron Johnson in Wisconsin and Senator Chuck Grassley in Iowa
- We erected two billboards in rural Wisconsin, one in Pierce County and one in Douglas County, drawing public attention to the local ARPA dollars and how they would be spent
- Our Super Pac ran this ad highlighting Grassley’s antiquated views on abortion access targeting Iowa colleges and universities which has yielded over 386,000 impressions
- We also texted over 40K voters in Iowa with a pro-reproductive freedom message asking them to vote for Admiral Mike Franken
- Via the super PAC, we harnessed the power of the emerging rural field by convening new groups and rising rural leaders that have surfaced since 2020 via our Rural Strategy Summits
- We held five Twitter spaces over the course of Midterms, elevating the efforts of organizers across the country and welcoming a new punditry class
Watch: RuralVote.org Super Pac’s Ad In Ohio
WATCH: RuralVote.org SuperPAC’s Ad in Iowa
We Know How to Win. Our Playbook Works!
For the last four years, we’ve been writing the winning playbook to cut Republican margins in small towns and rural communities. But this year, through our innovative campaign in Ohio, we proved that our playbook in rural America works. While our efforts to elect Tim Ryan to the US Senate ultimately failed, a detailed analysis from the New York Times, along with a map of our work in Ohio, clearly demonstrates that we are moving the margins in the right direction.
Ohio Voter Trends from the New York Times
Our Organizing Efforts in Rural Ohio
We’re already building out our campaign for the 2024 cycle. With your continued support, we’re confident that we will successfully reshape the rural political landscape through our commitment to strategic organizing and our bold agenda that delivers concrete results for rural voters across the country.