Several repeat Democratic candidates in high-profile races who lost their 2018 bids for Congress got direct financial help from a nonprofit organization in the form of an unusual “fellowship” during the interim period before they launched 2020 campaigns.
New Politics is a 527 advocacy group that seeks to “revitalize American democracy by recruiting, developing, and electing servant leaders” — mostly veterans, but also those who were part of national organizations or worked in national security and intelligence — ”who put community and country over self.” It has an affiliated 501(c)3 charitable nonprofit group called the New Politics Leadership Academy, which hosts a training program for prospective candidates and a fellowship program.
Six unsuccessful Democratic 2018 congressional candidates were named fellows in the inaugural fellowship class in January 2019, and four of them later launched campaigns in major races again this year: Amy McGrath, Gina Ortiz Jones, Dan Feehan, and Roger Dean Huffstetler.
A press release announcing the program gave vague descriptions of projects, such as, “examine the nature of today’s political engagement with rural voters” or to “conduct research on how to further close the rural-urban political gap.”
Gabriel Ramos, communications director for both New Politics and the New Politics Leadership Academy, told the Washington Examiner that the opportunity to become a fellow was extended to both Republican and Democratic former candidates.
“The expectation of these fellows was that they would work to advance and inform NPLA’s mission of ‘revitalizing our democracy’ through their advocacy, research, and engagement with our community,” Ramos said in a statement. “The fellows worked on several initiatives related to NPLA’s leadership development and educational mission — including projects that provided NPLA with quantitative research about the rural-urban divide and insight into how issues that are typically understood as domestic or state-level challenges, may ultimately affect national security.”
Previous comments from the group’s founder and director, Emily Cherniack, seemed to suggest that the fellowship endeavor is part of a creative way to give perpetual candidates a financial cushion in the brief period between runs for office in back-to-back election cycles.