Organization Trends

A Blue Wave on the Horizon?

Since the 2016 election, media outlets have been discussing the idea of a “blue wave” as the midterm elections approach. Democrats are hoping they can take back the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. While many Democrats are certain of the “blue wave,” their confidence has not stopped Democrats from trying to find ways to improve their party’s and candidates’ chances of sweeping the midterm elections.

The National Democratic Training Committee (NDTC) PAC was created in 2016 by Kelly Dietrich, a Democratic Party campaign operative. The political action committee provides online campaign training for Democratic candidates. The National Democratic Training Committee’s stated goal is: “teaching Democrats how to adapt winning tactics to their own race.”

The focus of the NDTC is to win races up and down the ballot. The group created a free online training platform that offers online courses specifically for first-time Democratic candidates hoping to run for office at any level, with classes in fundraising, communications and messaging, and campaign finance offered. Dietrich consulted with U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL) who created a one-day candidate training seminar called “Build the Bench,” which served as inspiration for NDTC. Bustos’s ideas on innovative campaign training methods helped Dietrich establish the idea for the PAC.

One of the most significant ways the NDTC is attempting to gain traction in elections is by encouraging young people, people of color, and women to run for office at no cost to the candidate. The NDTC supports these individuals to rally left-leaning younger and minority voters.  To date, the NDTC has signed up over 20,660 individuals for the online training services and has 10,000 Democratic candidates in training programs.

The NDTC is a partner of the Democratic Party, but it also aligns itself with other left-of-center groups, which strengthen its position in the overall political landscape. The most notable groups that the NDTC partners with are American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a government worker union; ActBlue, a left-wing fundraising service; Emerge America, a PAC that recruits female candidates for the Democratic Party; the left-wing pressure group Progressive Change Campaign Committee; and the labor union  Communications Workers of America (CWA).

With the midterm elections just weeks away, the NDTC is highlighting its top candidates. Almost all of its candidates support expanding Medicare, implementing free higher education, and—because all of these things cost money—increasing taxes. Some of the NDTC’s most notable candidates are Shelly Hutchinson, Tom Tull, Amelia Marquez, and David Williams. Shelly Hutchinson is candidate for State Representative in Georgia’s 107th District; her campaign’s main focus is expanding Medicaid and enforcing competitive pricing between insurance companies. Tom Tull, candidate for West Virginia House of Delegates in District 38, supports affordable Medicare and states he will vote to fully fund the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA). Amelia Marquez, candidate for Montana State Representative in District 52, supports tuition-free higher education. David Williams, candidate for Oklahoma State Representative in District 95, supports expanding Medicaid under Obamacare.

The NDTC receives funding from many different individuals and organizations. Its most notable donor is government worker union AFSCME, which donated $50,000 in both 2017 and 2018. The NDTC’s contributions substantially increased from $851,400 in 2016 to $4.1 million in 2018. Its greatest expenditures are fundraising and consulting services, on which it has spent $1.5 million so far in this election cycle.

The NDTC’s largest campaign expenditure recipients in the 2016 election cycle include:

In the 2018 election cycle, the organization’s expenditures increased substantially:

  • Mothership Strategies received $1.5 million
  • Paychex received $297,000
  • ActBlue received $157,000
  • The Nation received $74,000

The NDTC is emerging as a group that could influence the future of campaigning for the Democratic Party. The PAC attempts to capitalize on recent enthusiasm among Democrats and left-wing activists to oppose Donald Trump’s presidency, supporting candidates who will implement left-wing progressive policies at the local level, while also having mutual interests with unions and environmentalist groups, uniting and boosting the Democratic Party’s voting base. However, the only true determination of the NDTC’s success will come after the 2018 midterm elections. If the Democratic Party fails to deliver its promise of a “blue wave,” many will question the true importance and effect of the NDTC.