In The News

Re-Elect Mayor Edna Jackson (Savannah, GA)

On Tuesday, December 1, 2015, voters in Savannah, GA will go to the polls and vote in a run-off election for Mayor.  Incumbent Mayor Edna Jackson is running for re-election.

South Forward is on the air with this radio ad in support of Mayor Jackson. Learn more about Mayor Jackson.


Add your reaction Share

Val Applewhite for Mayor (Fayetteville, NC)

Voters in Fayetteville, NC go to the polls next Tuesday, November 3.  Val Applewhite is the Democratic candidate for Mayor. Learn more about Val.  

South Forward is on the radio in Fayetteville in support of Val's candidacy.  Listen to our radio ad.



Add your reaction Share

Lessie Price for Aiken Mayor (SC)

Local elections matter and electing Democratic Mayors is a critical to strengthening the Democratic Party in the South. Next Tuesday, residents of Aiken, South Carolina will go to the polls to elect a new mayor for the first time in 24 years.  Lessie Price is the Democratic candidate and has served on the Aiken City Council for 28 years. Learn more about Lessie's vision for Aiken.

Listen to South Forward's radio ad in support of Lessie's candidacy.


Add your reaction Share

Cecil Brown for Public Service Commission (Mississippi)

With less than a week to go until the November, 3 election, South Forward is on the radio in the Central District of Mississippi in support of Cecil Brown for Public Service Commissioner. Cecil is a current Mississippi State Representative and a victory next Tuesday will give Democrats a majority on the Mississippi Public Service Commission.  Visits Cecil's website for more information.

Listen to our radio ad here:


Add your reaction Share

Campaign Training in Birmingham, Alabama on August 8 and 9! You don't want to miss it.



We are pleased to announce a SouthForward Campaign Training in Birmingham, AL on August 8 and 9, 2015. We are partnering with Forward Alabama and we hope you will join us for a great weekend of training!

Click here to register or to get more information.

Add your reaction Share

Politics 101: So You Want to Run for Office!

South Forward Executive Director Jay Parmley and South Forward Trainer Helen Strain will be joining the Alachua County Democratic Party on Saturday, June 13, 2015 for a one-day campaign training at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida. We are always excited to partner with local county party committees to offer campaign training for anyone interested in running for office, campaign staff and volunteers. Thanks to Alachua County DEC Chair Cynthia Chestnut for making this happen. It's never to early to start preparing for the next election!

Add your reaction Share

Welcome Forward Alabama

South Forward leaders have been working over the past few months with a committed group of activists and donors in Alabama to launch a progressive organizing effort across Alabama. We are pleased to introduce Forward Alabama.  As a dynamic state-focused political organization, Forward Alabama will partner with South Forward to train activists, educate voters, and support progressive candidates and issues throughout Alabama with a particular emphasis on building the Democratic bench.  

Disastrous GOP budget policies are now forcing Alabama to deal with a $700 million debt. The GOP-controlled Alabama House, Senate and Governor's office continue to try to cut critical services in order to make up for their economic failures.

Watch this video detailing real consequences for Alabama families:




Add your reaction Share

National Journal: Democrats' Mississippi Dilemma: Great Candidates Who Refuse to Run

By Zach Cohen

February 26, 2015- Democrats have been decimated in the Deep South, having lost control of nearly every legislative chamber and statewide office—and falling even deeper after the last two midterm elections saw the Dixiecrats obliterated and Republicans cementing states like Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina as seemingly impenetrable GOP strongholds.

But Mississippi is different. The state's Democrats have an unusually strong bench of potential candidates—including the party's only statewide elected official in that region, a sizable minority in the state house, and a cadre of midsized-city mayors. "We're not at the numeric disadvantage that some of our fellow Southern Democrats are," said state Democratic Party Chairman Rickey Cole.

But for now, the party's stars are unwilling to risk running in the state's biggest race: the governor's election that will take place this November. The party had two strong, potential challengers to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant: Attorney General Jim Hood and Public Commissioner Brandon Presley. But both declined to challenge Bryant and are instead running for reelection to their current jobs.

Ultimately, the unfriendly landscape in Mississippi may have dissuaded the party's top-tier prospects. Republicans have held the governor's mansion since 2003, and the state has favored the Republican presidential nominee by at least 10 points in every White House race since 2004.

Nevertheless, both would have made formidable candidates. Hood won 61 percent of the state's support in his 2011 run for reelection. And since 2003, during his first successful run for attorney general, he has raised over $5 million, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

But Hood says he is not looking to make the leap to higher office. His plans before deciding to seek reelection? "I was going to retire," he told National Journal, saying he's only running again because of "unfinished business" and ongoing litigation with power companies and Google.

Presley also burnishes strong credentials. He represents the northern third of the state, a territory split between the solidly Democratic (and majority-minority) northwest and the more Republican and white northeast. He has reportedly raised over half a million dollars ($182,000 of that from his own pocket) during his political career. But he declined to run either for governor or the open congressional seat following Rep. Alan Nunnelee's death. "I believe that public officials should strive to do the best job they can where they are," Presley said, "and if doors open in the future, they open, but we'll see where that goes."

With the party's preferred picks opting out, Vicki Slater, a trial attorney from the Jackson suburbs, is now the front-runner to be the Democratic nominee for governor. Democrats tout her ability to fundraise (and donate to) other candidates; she has given at least $215,000 to political campaigns and groups since 2002, according to records compiled by the Federal Election Commission and the National Institute on Money in State Politics. But she has never held public office or even campaigned before. The closest Slater came was in 2012, when she toyed with challenging Republican Rep. Gregg Harper before backing out.

As frustrating as it is for the state's Democrats to see their brightest lights pass on their biggest races, the state party's position is preferable to its peers in the region—who largely lack viable statewide candidates to begin with. So how have Mississippi Democrats kept a strong crop when their neighbors couldn't?

For one, Mississippi has the largest black minority of any U.S. state, with African Americans making up 37 percent of the population. That bloc has helped elect Democrats in local jurisdictions and in Bennie Thompson's black-majority congressional district. "One of the things that makes local government different ... is that politics break down racially," said Parker Wiseman, the Democratic mayor of Starkville, a town with a similar demographic makeup to the rest of the state.

Additionally, Democrats' current state-office exile is relatively recent; they lost the state House in 2011 by a narrow margin. Hood has been able to hold firm against repeated Republican waves using the power of incumbency and a significant fundraising advantage.

And finally, some candidates have successfully untied themselves from the national party.

Their message succeeds even in deeply Republican homes because they focus on local issues and service to their constituents, the Democrats say. Hood has developed a reputation as a fighter for the little guy, taking on everything from tech giants to the Ku Klux Klan. And Presley has bipartisan appeal as a hard worker who genuinely enjoys getting into the weeds on consumer-protection issues.

"You don't have to talk about Washington, D.C.," said Ronnie Musgrove, the last Democratic governor of the state. "You can talk about Washington County, Mississippi. You can talk about Washington, Mississippi, in Adams County. You talk about our local schools and our local communities. … You just talk about what's happening in Mississippi."

But even as they distance themselves from national Democratic figures, the state party is looking for help from the national party apparatus, with some members saying they aren't getting the support they need. If Washington helped local Mississippi Democrats, they'd be able to launch statewide bids. But Democrats in D.C. likely won't be interested in sinking money into a losing contest; this creates a sort of "chicken-and-the-egg conundrum that Mississippi Democrats cannot escape at the moment," according to University of Mississippi political science professor Marvin King. (A spokesman for the Democratic National Committee declined to comment.)

In order to get those candidates to risk higher-office runs, party members say it's also critical that Democrats retake the state legislature.

State Rep. David Baria, a Democrat involved in recruiting, said they'd found 15 "quality candidates—not just a warm body"—for their 17 state House targets. 

The lack of safe seats in the legislature for Democrats may be part of the reason it's difficult to entice lawmakers to leave their current jobs and risk being left out of office altogether, according to South Forward Executive Director Jay Parmley, a former Mississippi staffer for the Democratic National Committee under Howard Dean.

"I think for a while, until they regain the majority ..., you will see statewide candidates come from nontraditional routes," Parmley said. "Yes, there's a bench, but gone are the days where you had so many Democrats in the state where you kind of could all play musical chairs and know that if five legislators ran for governor, those legislative seats would be perfectly safe and fine."

Correction: This story originally misidentified Parmley's organizational affiliation. He's executive director of South Forward.

Add your reaction Share

Why South Forward?

The Importance of the South

The Democratic Party and progressives should be working to promote a progressive message, recruit candidates and invest in building a robust infrastructure in the South, instead of writing off an entire region of the country.

The South is growing – the region gained seven Congressional seats (and Electoral College votes) after the 2010 Census, and is projected to gain another five in 2020. One-third of the Electoral College votes needed to be elected president are in the South. Ignoring the South is potentially disastrous for Democratic and progressive politics.

Republican margins in the South are smaller than in the Great Plains states. With nearly half of all African Americans in the country residing in the South and a rapid in-migration and growth in the Asian and Latino communities, there is an emerging electorate in the South that could provide a solid foundation for a future of progressive electoral politics.

South Forward's 2015 Electoral and Training Priorities

  • Legislative and statewide races in Louisiana and Mississippi, statewide races in Kentucky and legislative races in Virginia (where Republicans hold a slim 21-19 margin in the state Senate). There are also key municipal races all across the South.
  • Expanded training opportunities for candidates, campaign staff and activists to begin to reverse the dramatic experience and talent deficit throughout the region.  

Please join us as we continue our work to move the South Forward!

Add your reaction Share

Update on South Forward's Investment and Activities

Since 2013, South Forward has invested resources in 48 campaigns in 12 Southern states – from mayor and city council, state representative and senate, to Congress and Governor and other statewide races. We know that today's city council member is tomorrow’s state senator, mayor, governor or US Senator.

In 2014, South Forward also piloted a very successful absentee ballot initiative in six legislative races, and launched a Voter Identification Assistance Project in North Carolina. We have trained activists, candidates and campaign staff throughout the South, so we can run campaigns that are well-executed and can deliver a strong progressive message.

Add your reaction Share