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Welcome to the WhoWhatWhy Podcast.

Oct 22, 2018

While the congressional midterm elections and some statewide races dominate mainstream media coverage, there’s a lot of action at the local, grassroots level. As minority communities grow and the dominance of the white majority wanes, immigrants and first generation Americans are running for office — and winning.

Sayu Bhojwani served as Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs in New York City, and eight years ago she founded the nonprofit New American Leaders. Her new book is People Like Us: The New Wave of Candidates Knocking on Democracy’s Door. She profiles a new generation of candidates of color across the country, and their paths to election. Bhojwani explains that the ACLU has sued local governments to enforce a portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to establish district elections. Compared to running “at large” in an entire jurisdiction, district elections lower the barrier to entry for new candidates, allowing community-based campaigns with smaller budgets and more personal contact with voters.

Bhojwani also notes that, in states like Arizona, public campaign financing has empowered people with limited resources to challenge powerful incumbents, and win. We also touch on Michigan’s ballot initiative 18-2, which would establish a citizens’ redistricting commission to draw the district lines following the 2020 Census. And Bhojwani closes with some advice for listeners who are considering running for local office.

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