Blog - Rights and Democracy

Opening the 2019 Legislative Session with Energy

100+ people braved a statewide snowstorm to attend our Opening Day People Power Lobby events on January 8th, the first day of Vermont's 2019 Legislative Session. The event began with a welcome from Lt. Governor David Zuckerman and was followed by a panel exploring our People’s Platform in Vermont. The panel was led by Kate Logan, Rights & Democracy’s Director of Programming and Policy, and Maeve McBride from 350 Vermont. Panelists included:

  • Amanda Garces with Vermont Coalition for Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools
  • Brenda Churchill with Vermont LGBTQ Alliance
  • Chloe White with ACLU VT
  • Auburn Watersong with Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
  • Max Barrows with Green Mountain Self-Advocates
  • Sarah Launderville with Vermont Coalition For Disability Rights
  • Abel Luna and Kike Balcazar with Migrant Justice
  • Lauren Hierl with Vermont Conservation Voters
  • Colin Robinson with Vermont NEA.

The whole morning was live streamed and can be watched here with the panel starting at about the 1 hour and 13 minute mark in the video. 

In the afternoon we held the New Voices, Bold Solutions press conference showcasing the many young activists who are working for change. You can also see the video of the livestream here.  

Media Coverage:

VPR - 'A Clean Slate': Republican Governor, Democratic Lawmakers Look For Unity In Divided Government 

Seven Days - Rallies Abound on Vermont Legislature's Opening Day

Bennington Banner - Progressive groups gather at opening of legislative session 


Top 10 RAD Highlights for 2018


INTRODUCTION: Around New Year's Eve every year, I like to reflect on the highlights from the previous year in our work. I hope in reading this you may be so moved to help me reach my fundraising goal for Rights & Democracy here:

For a little background, the Rights & Democracy Project (RAD) is a 501c4 member organization that was launched at the end of 2015 to build independent political power. In three short years, we have grown to a network of thousands of people including hundreds of grassroots leaders all across New Hampshire and Vermont. Our members work together to push for public policy changes and impact elections to advance rights and build a stronger democracy. We employ a full range of strategies and tactics to advance progressive change through community organizing, mass mobilization, voter engagement, legislative advocacy, direct action, leadership development including candidate training, digital outreach tools and strategic communications.  We organize across a broad range of issues that impact our communities, forming coalitions with local partners, and taking action in solidarity with national and global movements. In 2018, we impacted elections up and down the ballot to transform our state legislatures and build political momentum for a populist agenda of economic, social and climate justice. The success was achieved by the work of dozens of incredibly hardworking staff and member leaders, strong support from hundreds of contributing members and volunteers, with the backing of thousands of supporters throughout our two states and beyond. It is not easy to choose, but here are are my top ten.  



Ali is a founding leader of RAD and is a great example of what we call #MovementPolitics. In the Summer of 2017, Ali won a special election for Burlington City Council and then won re-election going up against a former elected City Councilor. His district is known for being one of the most conservative areas of the city and to win he has had to not only go up against some of the most powerful old guard politicians in the city (both Republicans and Democrats). Yet, he has won every race by a large margin because people know he actually listens to his community and is pushing for policies that benefit all of us. Please make a contribution at his giving page to support the organizing and the development of the next generation of leaders.


Since Trump was elected in 2016, RAD joined with our partners especially the Center for Popular Democracy, to send leaders to DC to join resistance movements to stop the attacks on the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, Medicare, prevent the GOP billionaire tax cuts and try to prevent the Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court. In a democracy, we believe that ultimately when policies threaten our our communities that exercising free speech including civil disobedience is a critical part of holding elected officials accountable. Special shout outs to Mari Cordes (more below), Vickie Lampron, Emily Ahtúnan, Kate Lapp, Mary Gerisch, Elizabeth Deutsch, Jennifer Flynn Walker and photographer T.W. Collins (check out his photos here).

8. PEOPLE POWER TOURS with Nina Turner, Ady Barkan, Ana Maria Archila, Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard

In 2018, RAD organized barnstorming people power tours with dozens of public events attracting thousands of people to join our movement with national movement leaders like Senator Nina Turner - President of Our Revolution, US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).  This also included the #BeAHero Tour led by Ady Barkan and his organizing peers Ana Maria Archila, Tracey Corder and Jennifer Flynn Walker. These tours not only helped us build significant momentum for the 2018 Midterm Election but were the entry point for many new RAD members who are now helping us build and strengthen local organizing chapters.

As Senator Nina Turner reminded us about the stakes in turning this country around, "all that we love is on the line, that's it. Just all that we love." <3


After years of organizing and working with our partners in 2018 we were able to pass paid family leave and a $15/hour minimum wage bill in Vermont through both chambers of the Vermont Legislature. RAD helped thousands of Vermonters make their voices heard about the need to raise up the working and living conditions for working families. While Governor Scott would go on to veto these bills, this effort helped create a political mandate in the 2018 election setting the stage for a veto proof legislature to be elected.  Pictured here include RAD VT leaders Elise Greaves, Mary Gerisch and Kevin Kirkpatrick at State House press conference with our partners Vermont Interfaith Action


After the 2016 election when Republicans seized power at the state level in New Hampshire, social movements were put in the defensive.. After narrowly preventing Right To Work in 2017, RAD’s big defensive fight with our partners was to stop a radical school voucher bill that would undermine public education.


RAD Champion Vermont Lt. Governor David Zuckerman (Progressive/Democrat) retained his seat despite being outspent by the Republicans 3-to-1.  We also defended a leading progressive voice for re-election, Executive Councilor Andru Volinksky. We have seen too many politicians get elected who do so to build only their own power and advance their career. We need more candidates like David and Andru who understand the importance of grassroots movements and actively work to help build them.  



4. MOVEMENT CANDIDATES ELECTED DOWN BALLOT: Highlighted by RAD core leaders Mari Cordes and Emilie Kornheiser we saw a number of key victories down ballot in 2018. Our collaborative candidate training program LEAD Vermont trained 32 people including 5 people who won: Zach Ralph, and four who flipped Republican House seats—Mari, Kathleen James, Charen Fegard, and Scott Campbell.  More than a half dozen of these trainees ran for the first time. In New Hampshire, RAD members like Mark King, Jan Schmidt and Gerri Cannon won their seats and will represent our movements in the State House. In both states while the Presidential race will be getting all the attention, we will be looking to further train and recruit candidates down ballot for city council, select board and school board races in 2019 and beyond.  


Winning a veto-proof majority in the House means that we've shifted the balance of power in our state from a pen back to the people. We have paved the way to pass bold legislation like a $15 an hour minimum wage and paid family and medical leave. And we’ve increased the chances for success on legislation that tackles systemic racism, and takes real action on climate change—issues that already enjoy support by the majority of Vermonters. Our top goal of building a veto-proof VT Legislature was achieved when 12 seats were flipped in the House to win a Democrat-Progressive majority in the Vermont House. A highlight here was in the New North End of Burlington, where despite political pundits saying it was impossible, RAD leaders like Perri Freeman led dozens of volunteers to do a mass voter engagement effort that unseated longtime Republican incumbent Kurt Wright electing Bob Hooper, former president of the state employees union. Democrats and Progressives now hold 102 seats in the House out of 150. It takes 100 votes to override a veto.  We expanded a veto-proof majority in the Vermont Senate by flipping a seat in Rutland County. Democrats and Progressives hold 24 of 30 seats in this chamber.


Flipped House, Senate and Executive Council, Chris Pappas won the CD-1 seat and Annie Kuster retained the CD-2 seat as part of all of New England now sending Democrats to Congress. Pappas is the first openly gay candidate to win and serve in Congress from New Hampshire.

We played a key role supporting and leading a massive field outreach effort as part a coordinated effort with our partners with Win Together. We were told that it may be possible to win back the House, but the Senate and Executive Council were likely impossible. Thank you to all our partners and supporters for helping make the impossible happen.  


Most importantly, RAD harvested lessons to develop our people power organizing model to expand our network in  2019, arguably the most important election year in human history. We need to be building strong statewide organization as we get ready to for the 2020 Election with the first in the nation primary in New Hampshire and opportunities to elect new Governors in each state. Building a stronger democracy is not a race, but an ongoing process and we need to grow deep roots through organizing chapters across our states to be able to be ready for the battles to come next year and in the decades ahead.  

Please help me reach my 2018 fundraising goal here:

THANK YOU! Bring it on 2019.  

Note: If you would like to make a tax-deductible gift to our sibling organization the Rights & Democracy Education Fund you can do so by clicking here.

We Need to Be RAD now, more than ever

My name is Teddy Waszazak and I’m a member of Rights & Democracy (RAD).

Like more than 50,000 of my neighbors in the Green Mountain State, I have struggled to find work that pays more than $15 an hour. While I do not have any children to support, this income is barely enough for me to pay my bills, and certainly not enough to help me build credit or save for my future.

My parents taught me when I was young that dollars need to be stretched. But, with the rising cost of living, those dollars only stretch so far. I was a child raised poor, with my family dependent on Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and other public programs to cover our basic needs. This is still the reality for more half the kids in Vermont today.

That’s why, as a young low-income worker, community organizer, and vocal citizen from Barre, I believe that all people working in the State of Vermont deserve a livable minimum wage of at least $15 per hour.

RAD gives me, and so many others like me, more than a voice but chance to work with others to build the power we need to make the changes we want to see here in Vermont, our country, and the world.

Join me today in support of our Together We Win campaign because it’s clear we need organizations like RAD now, more than ever.

Donate today!

Teddy Waszazak, Barre

RAD member

Incoming RAD Board Member

Standing up for Our Rights, Our Communities

My name is Mary Gerisch and I’m a member of Rights & Democracy (RAD) and a leader the RAD Bennington Chapter.

The lack of access to safe drinking water has caused significant strain on thousands of Vermonters’ health and finances—far beyond what you may have heard happened here in Bennington.

I fail to understand how Vermont’s most precious resource has been so severely neglected. Vermont communities are riddled with water infrastructure problems: our lakes, rivers, streams, and drinking water systems need better oversight and accountability to ensure a better quality for future generations.

How many times have there been warnings of contamination in your community’s water? Here in Bennington, we’ve seen the disastrous and costly health and financial effects of letting those responsible for poisoning water off scot-free.

RAD gives me, and so many others like me, more than a voice but chance to work with others to build the power we need to make the changes we want to see here in Vermont, our country, and the world.

From healthcare to raising the minimum wage to working with other organizations and elected officials to ensure there is clean water for all.

Join me today in support of our Together We Win campaign because it’s clear we need organizations like RAD now, more than ever.

Donate today!

Mary Gerisch, Bennington

RAD Bennington Organizing Team

RAD member

Join RAD & Help Us Make Real Change

My name is Jubilee McGill and I’m a member of Rights & Democracy (RAD).

Like you, real-life experiences lit a fire in me and fueled my desire to make real changes.

Six years ago, my husband and I found out that we were expecting—twins!—and due to medical complications, I was unable to continue working.

At at time when we should have been celebrating and focusing on the arrival of our children, we were stressed about paying bills while I was out of work, he was overworked, and we worried constantly about what the future would bring. Could we do it?

To make up for the loss of my income, my husband began to work six days a week quite regularly, and eight-hour days often stretched into nine or 10 hours. It was impossible to build up any sort of savings, so the day after we came home from the hospital, my husband returned to work. We could only afford for him to miss three days of work for the birth of our children.

No one should have to make this choice, yet there are countless people like me here in Vermont and millions of people across the nation grappling with the same, dire dilemma. That’s why I want to see our state pass a strong paid family leave bill.

RAD gives me, and so many others like me, more than a voice but chance to work with others to build the power we need to make the changes we want to see here in Vermont, our country, and the world.

Join me today in support of our Together We Win campaign because it’s clear we need organizations like RAD now, more than ever.

Donate today!

Jubilee McGill, Bridport

Member, Vermont Leadership Committee

RAD Addison County Organizing Team

Giving Thanks on #GivingTuesday

Want to help us create safe, just, and healthy communities that we can thrive in?

Give to RAD this #Giving Tuesday!

Next Tuesday, November 27th is a chance for you to show up and support the work of organizations that champion our values and build community.

Help us raise $10,000 in one day! How? Your #GivingTuesday donation will be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $5,000.

Let’s build on the success of the midterm elections and continue our momentum of making real change: raising wages, creating a healthcare system for health, protecting public education and workers rights! We can improve the lives of thousands of people across New Hampshire and Vermont by organizing and transforming policy so that it serves OUR communities and families.

Your one-time contribution of $10, $25, $50, $100 or more on #GivingTuesday will be doubled & help us make true, lasting social and economic change through our organizing in communities across New Hampshire and Vermont.

In just three years, Rights & Democracy has gone from being a scrappy startup grassroots organization with a handful of volunteer leaders and staff, to a bi-state organization that helped to secure a veto-proof majority in the Vermont House and Senate, and helped to flip the New Hampshire House, Senate, and Executive Council to Democratic control.

We have the opportunity to hold Vermont Governor Phil Scott, and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, accountable and work to stop the disastrous effects of the Trump administration's policies toward women, people of color, the poor, the elderly, our LGBTQ family members and more. And, we must also continue to build momentum in order to win big during the 2020 elections—one of the most consequential elections in a generation.

So consider making a one-time contribution of $10, $25, $50, $100 or more on #GivingTuesday so we can — together — build the world we want to see.

Thank you!

Jaime Contois, Strategic Development Director



Congratulations RAD Champions!

WOW. Thank you.

You helped Rights & Democracy (RAD) members and volunteers reach thousands of voters and create a record turnout for a midterm election in Vermont and re-elect some key leaders in the People's House as well as build a veto-proof majority in the House.

Winning a veto-proof majority in the House means that we've shifted the balance of power in our state from a pen back to the people. We have paved the way to pass bold legislation like a $15 an hour minimum wage, paid family and medical leave, tackling systemic racism, and taking real action on climate change—issues that already enjoy support by the majority of Vermonters.

While RAD candidates didn't win in ALL of the 42 races where our members endorsed, we did elect these incredible 24 RAD leaders to office:

  • US Sen. Bernie Sanders
  • Lt. Governor David Zuckerman
  • Treasurer Beth Pearce
  • Addison County Senator Ruth Hardy
  • Chittenden County Senators Debbie Ingram, Michael Sirotkin, and Chris Pearson
  • Washington County Senators Andrew Perchlik and Anthony Pollina
  • Mari Cordes - State Representative, Addison-4
  • Kathleen James - State Representative, Bennington 4
  • Chip Troiano -  State Representative, Caledonia 2
  • Scott Campbell - State Representative, Caledonia 3
  • Bob Hooper - State Representative, Chittenden 6-1
  • Selene Colburn - State Representative, Chittenden 6-4
  • Brian Cina - State Representative, Chittenden 6-4
  • Diana Gonzalez - State Representative, Chittenden 6-7
  • Mike McCarthy - State Representative, Franklin 3-1
  • Charen Fegard - State Representative, Franklin 5
  • Avram Patt - State Representative, Lamoille-Washington
  • Sarah Copeland Hanzas - State Representative, Orange 2
  • Logan Nicoll - State Representative, Rutland-Windsor 2
  • Maxine Grad - State Representative, Washington-7
  • Tom Stevens - State Representative, Washington-Chittenden
  • Emilie Kornheiser - State Representative, Windham 2-1
  • Zachariah Ralph - State Representative, Windsor 1
  • Randall Szott - State Representative, Windsor 4-1

We have to thank all of the candidates who ran this election season and proudly carried RAD endorsement. We know that we'll be seeing some of these candidates running again in 2020, as they built a strong base of support in this election.

Gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist championed raising the minimum wage and paid family leave, among other top issues, as did our first-time candidates Tanya Vyhovsky, Kate Larose, Barb Wilson, Heather Stevenson, and many others.

As an aside, RAD leader Mari Cordes didn't win her first election in 2016, but she did this time around - ousting a longtime Republican and helped to secure a veto-proof majority in the Vermont House.

These RAD candidates pledge to work with us—not stand against us—to raise the minimum wage, enact paid family leave, defend public education, tackle systemic racism, as well as protect our water, air, and move Vermont toward a real renewables future.

We will be in touch soon about how you can keep the momentum going as we head into a very important legislative session, where we have plans to pass - again - measures that will improve the lives of our families and communities.

We hope you'll join us so that, together, we can make the change we want to see in the world.

Take a bow. Take a breath. Let's keep organizing!


Kate, Elise, Emma, Johanna, Perri, Jaime, James, Shay, Hilary and all of our member leaders and volunteer at Team Rights & Democracy

PS: Help us build a 365-day-a-year, member-led movement throughout Vermont by becoming a member today - either with an annual gift or monthly sustaining donation.

Vote: Our Environment Needs You

by Martha Sylvester

Vermont’s nickname is the Green Mountain State, and all of our beautiful state—from our wildlife to our economy—needs clean water for survival.

It has been over two years since I’ve been able to consume the water that comes out of my home’s faucets in Coventry. I started questioning the safety of my water at Town Meeting Day in March of 2016 after learning of arsenic and manganese contaminations in my municipal water. Then, I started attending select board and fire district meetings. After nearly a year of researching Vermont’s water and meeting laws things grew worse—despite trying to work with local and state officials.

Like many Vermonters I am taking care of aging parents, and the lack of access to safe drinking water has caused significant strain on our health and finances. All I want is to be part of the solution. Ultimately, I took our municipal water district to court this April for failing to adhere to Vermont’s election process.

Read more

The Last Weekend

This is it!

No, seriously. We mean it this time.

We’re down to the final DAYS of this historic midterm election where Rights & Democracy members are doing all they can to ensure a record turnout on Tuesday, November 6th.

Here are two things you can do.

First: watch this video.

Second: Volunteer at a RAD phonebank to call folks around the state and urge people to vote on Tuesday—especially for those candidates who have pledged to work with us, not stand against us, on issues that matter most to our communities.

If you can’t make it into our Burlington office to phonebank, no worries. You can call right from the comfort of your own home.


You'll be part of important conversations with voters who have not yet made up their mind about who to vote for on November 6th.

You could help us win big on Election Day and set the stage for key victories on economic, social, racial, gender, and environmental issues in the next legislative session.

Thank you!

Emma Schoenberg, Lead Organizer

Rights & Democracy VT


PS: If you can't make a phonebank, you can still support our work this election season and beyond by becoming a RAD member today with an annual or monthly donation. Even $5 a month goes a long way to build our movement.

All that we love is on the line

"Whether you care about the environment or women's rights or racial justice or what's happening to our sisters and brothers on the southern border, all that we love is on the line.”

Those were the words of Sen. Nina Turner of Our Revolution during her barnstorm tour of Vermont and New Hampshire this summer.

"To get the wonderful change that we know that we can have in this country, it is really up to us."

As we head into the final two weeks of these historic mid-term elections, we’re asking you to help us elect the candidates who will stand with us - not work against us - to raise the minimum wage, provide paid family leave, stop corporate abuse of workers and consumers, stand with teachers and defend public education, as well as protect our water, air, and move us more quickly to a clean energy future that empowers local communities.

You can help us win big on November 6th by becoming a member today - either with an annual gift or monthly sustaining donation.

Vermont has been willing to stand on the side of justice and to lead the nation on many key issues facing communities across the nation — and it’s clear we have much more work to do.

This makes Vermont a target of right-wing mega-donors like the billionaire Koch Brothers, and their wealthy allies, who are plowing hundreds of thousands of dollars into this election in a desperate attempt to buy the election and stall our progress.

As Sen. Turner said: All that we love is on the line - that’s all.

Your donation helps us fight for what we love, and create the future we want for ourselves, our families, and our communities.

Make an annual donation

Become a monthly sustainer

Become a member of Rights & Democracy during this crucial time and help support our work to build that future—during this election and beyond.

— James Haslam, Executive Director, Rights & Democracy


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