From our earliest days, Daily Kos has always believed that the best way to effect progressive change in this country is to elect more and better Democrats. That’s why, starting with a special election for the House back in 2004, we’ve regularly endorsed, written about, and raised grassroots money for worthy Democrats running in races across the nation. It’s simple: Unless and until we obtain legislative and executive power in both Washington, D.C., and the states, we can’t enact the policies that we all want—and our nation needs.
Along the way, thanks to your generous support, we’ve helped hundreds of candidates win elections in every part of the country, capped off by last year’s astonishing runoff victories in Georgia that allowed us to flip the Senate. We count Jon Ossoff as a particular success story as it was Daily Kos’ early intervention in his 2017 House bid that launched his career and set the stage for so many successes that followed.
But Daily Kos has been involved at every level of the ballot, and your hard-earned, small-dollar donations, as well as your countless volunteer hours, have made a difference in so many races large and small. We’re endlessly grateful for the continuing trust you place in us, and for that reason we strive for the utmost transparency when it comes to our endorsement process.
To that end, we want to share some important resources with our community and those who might seek our support. Anyone—whether a candidate, a staffer, or a supporter—can propose an endorsement using one of the forms below:
In addition, we’ve put together a list of key questions we ask when considering any candidate endorsement. This list attempts to summarize all of the information below, though it should be treated as a starting point rather than an ending point, because there's always more we might ask.
You can find a continually updated list of all of our current endorsements right here, and we welcome your questions and feedback in the comments below.
Offices we endorse for
Our primary focus is the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, governorships, and state legislatures since Congress and statehouses are the places where policy is crafted and legislation is passed. We have also supported Democratic nominees for president, although we do not endorse in Democratic presidential primaries.
We raise money for escrow funds for federal races (what the progressive fundraising hub ActBlue calls “nominee funds”). These escrow funds allow us to invest in key opportunities to flip Republican seats months or even years before Democratic nominees for these races are selected in primaries. The money raised and held in escrow is given directly to the Democratic nominees right after they win their primaries, giving them an important infusion of resources the moment they begin their general election campaigns.
At the state level, we back candidates for secretary of state since these officials are charged with protecting the voting rights Republicans are always eager to suppress. We also support candidates for attorney general as many Democrats who hold this post have been leaders in courtroom battles against regressive policies.
In addition, we support candidates for state supreme courts. These courts rule on issues touching every aspect of daily life, including abortion rights, climate change, and gerrymandering. That makes it vitally important that we ensure that independent, fair-minded justices—and not conservative ideologues—sit on the bench.
We also endorse organizations promoting progressive ballot measures ranging from protecting marriage equality to expanding Medicaid.
From time to time we’ve gotten involved in other types of races, such as those for critical law enforcement posts like the 2016 election for sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona—a post that the notorious Joe Arpaio finally lost.
While it’s always possible that we might expand our endorsement program, these categories by and large are the ones in which we endorse. For one, there’s a limit to how deep into the weeds we can go—though we’ve grown tremendously, we are still a small, lean operation. Daily Kos’ audience is also primarily national in its focus, so our endorsements aim to be as well: Even state races heavily impact issues such as voting rights and redistricting.
We only endorse Democrats
Daily Kos has always been, and will always be, a Democratic site. The only exceptions we ever make are in officially nonpartisan races (such as those for certain state supreme courts) in which candidates run without formal party labels. In such cases, we may support candidates who are backed by local Democrats and progressive organizations.
We want to beat Republicans!
In order to win back power we need to pick up Republican seats, so our strong preference is to endorse in races either with Republican incumbents or Republican-held open seats. Sometimes, when vulnerable and critical Democratic open seats are on the line, we’ll get involved in those races as well.
We’ll occasionally help at-risk Democratic incumbents we are especially fond of, but for the most part we steer clear of Democrats seeking reelection simply because they have far greater access to resources than challengers do. And we don’t endorse Democratic incumbents in safe blue seats: Our scarce resources need to go toward defeating Republicans.
We respect local voters
Generally speaking, we don’t get involved in contested Democratic primaries because we don’t want to be perceived as a huge national organization bigfooting into a local race and telling folks what to do—it’s not good for democracy or for Daily Kos. But there are some important exceptions when it does make sense for Daily Kos to jump into primaries, which we’ll discuss below.
We want to stop awful Democrats
Fortunately, there aren't too many truly crummy Democrats left in our party these days. But if there’s a particularly lousy Democratic incumbent who’s out of step with his or her constituents and a good progressive comes along to challenge them, then we’ll consider getting involved. (One example is stridently anti-choice Rep. Henry Cuellar, who represents a blue-leaning district in Texas.) The same goes for awful Democrats running in primaries for open seats. These sort of races will only ever be a small part of our portfolio, though, because our main focus is always going to be defeating Republicans.
We want to build our bench and elect office-holders who reflect the Democratic Party
Electing more candidates from underrepresented communities is a high priority for Daily Kos. The most loyal Democratic voters include women, people of color, religious minorities, LGBTQ people, and everyone who isn’t a member of this country’s dominant class. We as a party can only hope to fully understand the concerns and meet the needs of these communities if we elect people from these communities. And when the demographics of our elected officials start to better reflect the demographics of our voters, we’ll be on our way toward a more just society.
To achieve this goal, it can be necessary to get involved in Democratic primaries, particularly since it’s often harder for candidates from underrepresented communities to obtain the resources they need to compete early enough. And it’s not about choosing ideological favorites or saying we have an objection to the other candidates in these primaries. Rather, it’s about building our bench—and a more inclusive Democratic Party. The folks who win races for state legislatures eventually go on to run for the House, then the Senate, then the presidency. We want to help build up that pipeline of good candidates.
As noted above, though, we aren’t going to tromp into local races uninvited. If and when we detect real grassroots enthusiasm behind a particular candidate, then we’ll take that as an invitation to get involved.
We want to get good bang for our buck
If we can send, say, $10,000 to a particular candidate, that money will go a lot further in a race where the total budget is $1 million rather than $10 million. This means that we can have a bigger impact the further down the ballot we go. In a tough special election for the New Hampshire state Senate in 2017, for instance, we provided fully 13% of Democrat Kevin Cavanaugh’s total fundraising; Democrats flipped the Senate from Republicans the following year.
By the same token, we’re generally disinclined to support self-funding candidates. Candidates who can draw on their own personal resources simply need less help than those who cannot.
Still, given their importance, we can’t just ignore more expensive races such as those for Senate or governor, so we get involved there, too—and given the impressive size and generosity of the Daily Kos community, we can have a real effect even on big-ticket races. It’s all about striking the right balance.
We want to help candidates who aren’t getting a ton of attention
Again, some of the races we endorse in will be high-profile contests. But we also want to help expand the playing field as much as possible, and that means giving some love to candidates who aren’t in the top tier. We’re able to do this because this community understands the need to embrace longer shots and readily accepts that in order to win, you have to take risks. If there’s the possibility of a wave election, as there was in 2018, we want to make sure it crests as high as it can.
We want to help candidates who can make a meaningful impact
As we have said, we are open to more challenging contests, but since we’re asking the members of this community to donate money to candidates, we feel it’s incumbent upon us to make sure we vet races properly and only ask you to give to those who merit it. That means we take into account both candidate quality and the demographics of the district or state in question.
How we assess both of these things involves a very detailed and complex analysis, one we’ve continually honed over two decades. In short, we want to see that a candidate is running a serious race, and that they are running in a place that isn’t implacably red. It does us no good to endorse a candidate who refuses to raise money, for instance, or who is running in a district no Democrat could ever hope to carry. At the very least, someone we endorse has to be capable of putting a scare into their opponent and forcing Republicans to spend money where they otherwise wouldn’t.
That’s not to say we don’t believe Democrats should field candidates everywhere—we should! But we can’t help everyone, so we have to be selective. Again, we’re willing to give many folks a shot who lots of others would overlook.
We want to elect progressives, but we don’t demand perfection
We’ve always taken a heterodox approach to supporting candidates, and we’re cognizant that a message that might work in one part of the country might not in another. We also appreciate that candidates need to be the right fit for their states or districts. And besides, no two people will agree on what makes a “perfect” candidate.
We research the background of every candidate we consider endorsing to determine whether there’s anything that might give us pause. We also ask campaigns if there’s anything in their candidate’s record, or that they’re campaigning on, that might raise a red flag with a progressive community such as Daily Kos. This allows us to cast the broadest possible net for potential concerns, something we couldn’t do even with the longest, most detailed questionnaire.
Campaigns understand exactly what we mean by our question, and they’ve been very candid with us because they know an endorsement only makes sense if both sides are a good fit. And fortunately, very few red flags have emerged over the years.
That said, there will inevitably be some deal breakers. One red line for us: We won’t back candidates who don’t support women’s reproductive rights. Fortunately, that’s rare to see among Democrats these days. If and when we encounter others, we’ll update this post as needed.
How we find candidates
A small team of Daily Kos employees with many years of expertise meets regularly to consider potential endorsements, and when its members are in agreement, Daily Kos will issue an endorsement.
In addition, the Daily Kos Elections section of our site covers downballot races as comprehensively as possible. We have a team of dedicated election nerds who devote themselves to assessing candidates and races. Information this squad produces is continually shared with the endorsements team.
But where do we get endorsement ideas? From all over! Endorsements team members and the Elections department scour the news daily, talk to knowledgeable operatives and activists, and consult with other members of the Daily Kos staff.
We are also very eager for input from the Daily Kos community. Even in the universe of offices we focus on, there are thousands of races and even more candidates, and no matter how hard we try, we can’t possibly know everything ourselves. But Daily Kos members live in every state and district, and you’re going to know stuff we simply won’t. Help make us smarter and make your voice heard by proposing ideas for us. You can find links to do so at the top of this post.
What we do for endorsees
Whenever Daily Kos makes an endorsement, we publish a blog post, issue a press release, send an email to our list of members, and promote the endorsement on social media. We write about and raise money for every candidate we endorse on ActBlue, and where we can, we also help direct volunteers (whether virtual or in-person) our endorsees’ way using the platform MobilizeAmerica.
In other words, we ask you, the amazing members of this amazing community, to part with your time and money to help make a difference. We’re constantly humbled by the trust you place in us.
We also always encourage candidates to come blog themselves at Daily Kos—and to stick around in comments and answer questions. If they’d spend an hour at a fundraiser pressing the flesh, it is equally vital for them to spend an hour at Daily Kos talking to highly motivated activists, and this is precisely what we tell them. Daily Kos can also be a great way for candidates to get their message out beyond the reach of traditional channels.
Note: Potential endorsees must be listed on ActBlue as this is the only fundraising platform that works with our systems.