Run For Something (RFS) was incorporated in Washington, DC in December 2016—about a month after Republican Donald Trump had defeated Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential election—and formally began its activities in January 2017. RFS includes both a “Section 527” component under the IRS tax code which regulates nonprofit organizations, and a 501(c)(4) component. The former, which receives the bulk of RFS's financial resources, is responsible for setting up state-affiliated political action committees through which RFS gives direct support to candidates. The latter uses its funds for such activities as “list-building, organization building, and staffing — building a progressive network of staff and young people who want to get engaged in politics.”
RFS's mission is to “recruit and support talented, passionate young people who will advocate for progressive values now and for the next 30 years,” and who are willing to run in “down-ballot races” for offices like state legislatures, mayorships, and city council seats. “These races,” notes RFS, “are often the entry-point for careers as public servants. Nearly half of all governors in 2014 got their start as members of a state legislature.” At its inception, RFS's initial short-term goal was to recruit “five strong candidates” to run in Virginia and possibly North Carolina.
RFS seeks to recruit only people younger than 35 who self-identify as Democrats and “progressives.” Specifically, the organization looks for candidates who will be:
- committed to placing their “primary focus on inequality, raising incomes, and jobs” (i.e., by promoting measures like minimum-wage hikes and “ living-wage” laws)
- capable of passionately articulating the notion that “climate change is real, man-made, and our responsibility to fight [against]”
- supportive of “criminal justice reform” (releasing, or reducing the sentences of, large numbers of nonwhite prisoners allegedly victimized by racism in the criminal-justice system)
- “ pro-universal health care” (in favor of a socialist, government-run medical system)
- “ pro-choice” (supportive of an unrestricted right to taxpayer-funded abortion at any stage of pregnancy)
- “pro-LGBT equality”
- “pro-working families and labor” (in favor of minimum-wage hikes, “living wage” laws, and paid parental leave)
- “pro-voting rights” (opposed to Voter ID laws, on grounds that they discriminate against nonwhites and the poor)
- “ pro-campaign-finance reform” (supportive of government funding, rather than private funding, of political elections)
- “ pro-immigration reform” (in favor of open borders, amnesty, and access to taxpayer-funded social services for illegal aliens residing in the United States)
- “pro-gun-violence prevention” (supportive of restrictions to, or the repeal of, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution).
Moreover, RFS seeks out young people who are “diverse,” meaning “women and members of underrepresented communities” such as “LGBTQ Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders.” “Our candidates will be at least half women,” says RFS, “as well as men of color.”
RFS also tries to find potential candidates who are well “connected,” meaning that they have a large number of connections on social sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as numerous local contacts in their cell phones.
In an effort to find and identify highly qualified young people, RFS employs a variety of strategies. These include:
- pitching its mission to reporters at college newspapers, online platforms, YouTubers, and “other less 'conventional' news sources”
- pitching its mission to college groups and student body presidents in targeted states
- using online advertising such as search ads and paid posts on Facebook and Twitter
- engaging in outreach to leaders at “progressive groups of all types,” for help in identifying young people who would make good political candidates
- creating a central listing of candidate training sessions and other events, and then conferring with training organizations to identify top potential candidates
- persuading young elected officials to act as “validators” who can encourage other young people to run for office
Once RFS has identified certain young people as viable candidates worthy of its assistance, the group helps them with such tasks as fundraising, organization building, staff hiring, and “press and social media amplification.” It also sets up mentorship connections for these young candidates, and puts them in touch with training organizations like Wellstone, EMILY’s List, the Latino Victory Project, She Should Run, Emerge America, and Higher Heights.
One of RFS's co-founders is Amanda Litman, who served as an email writer for Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012, deputy email director at Organizing for Action, digital director for Charlie Crist’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign in Florida, and email director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. The organization's other co-founder is Ross Morales Rocketto, described by RFS as a “progressive political operative” who worked for Julian Castro's 2005 mayoral campaign in San Antonio, and Bill Richardson's presidential campaign in 2007.
RFS's board of advisers includes individuals affiliated with an array of leftist groups and causes, such as the Latino Victory Fund, the For Our Future Fund, Organizing For Action, Be Bold Media, Keith Ellison for DNC Chair, EMILY’s List, Precision Strategies, and the Democratic National Committee. Some RFS board members also worked for the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama (2008 & 2012) and Hillary Clinton (2016).