Kara Lynum was meeting with a client Monday morning when she decided to run for office. The client was an undocumented man from Mexico, and Lynum, who is an immigration lawyer in St. Paul, Minnesota, brought up current events. "I said to him, 'I'm really sad about Trump,' and he said, 'Yeah, you're sad, but I'm really worried about my family,'" she says. Lynum, 35, had joined thousands of protesters at a march through the Twin Cities on Saturday and had spent weeks thinking about what the Trump administration's immigration policies would mean for her clients.
"He was a nice guy," she says. "He's been here for like 15 years. He's got a 12-year-old daughter. He said that, and I was so upset and I was like, 'You know what? I'm gonna sign up.'"
So that afternoon, Lynum filled out an online form created by Run for Something, a new political nonprofit founded by two veteran Democratic digital organizers to recruit progressive millennials to run for office. Like many of the people contacting Run for Something, Lynum hasn't thought much about what position she'll end up running for. But she's in good company; according to the group's co-founder, Amanda Litman, more than 650 people contacted it about running in the six days since it launched on Friday. As Democrats wrestle with how to turn mass demonstrations against the new administration into political gains, Run for Something is one of a number of liberal organizations hoping the Trump era ushers in a new wave of first-time office-seekers.
Run for Something's mission is not to stop Trump in 2020, at least not directly. Its focus is on local races, where Democrats have been creamed over the last eight years, losing some 935 state legislative seats during the Obama era. In 2017, it is focusing its efforts on Virginia and North Carolina, two places where Democratic gains at the state level (the party controls the governor's mansion in both states) are undercut by conservative legislatures. In Virginia, a blue state in the last three presidential elections, Democrats have failed even to show up in some races: 44 of the state's 67 Republican delegates ran unopposed in 2015, including three Republicans in districts carried by Hillary Clinton. Democrats have a long way to go to recoup what they lost, but they've also left a lot of low-hanging fruit on the vine.