Highlight Reel from MO: Real Missourians, Real Stories | Dana Sandweiss

How did you begin political/social work; what was the first experience?

I grew up with parents who were advocates. I am drawn to people who inspire and make change. As I became more educated, I found myself wanting to have more knowledge so I earned a law degree to learn more about our political system but at that point, I still had no specific goals in mind. Years after graduating from law school, I joined the Planned Parenthood board where I was empowered by other board members and staff who were dissecting and solving problems. I remember thinking, “Wow, you can just change that?” And that is really when I started to put it all together. These people were not only talking about the issues, not only coming up with solutions, but they were also acting and implementing positive change. This is when I realized that I too could help.  

What is something you want to win; that will make MO a better place?

I want to make sure that there is affordable access to reproductive healthcare for every person in Missouri. I want voting to be easier and more accessible. I would like to see a Missouri Governor Nicole Galloway, a Missouri Secretary of State Yinka Faleti and a State Senator Deb Lavender.  But mostly, I want to win the trust and confidence of Missourians so that they will continue to be active and believe that you can have an impact by participating in our democracy. 

What are you working on right now?

I serve on boards and help raise awareness for the important work of Planned Parenthood, ACLU-MO, Progress Women, Access MO and It Starts Today Missouri.  I also help raise awareness about political candidates and organizations throughout the state that are aligned with my values.   

What inspires you in your work lately?

People. People always inspire me. I am in awe of the strengths of others.

What’s the most important thing you want MO ex-pats to know about MO?

From the outside, progressives may think Missouri looks like a hopeless cause, but that perception is very far from the truth.  On the ground, the state is filled with positive energy, brilliant passionate people and strategic coalitions all working together to increase protections for civil liberties and restore a more progressive platform to Missouri politics.  Progressive state-wide ballot initiative wins in 2018 demonstrate that a major of Missourians want these changes as well. We have lots of strong candidates on the 2020 ballot in Missouri and if we invest in the candidates and allow them to spread their messages throughout the state, we have the ingredients for big changes.   

What’s been your proudest moment in your work for social/political change?

My work has so many rewarding moments but it has been particularly rewarding watching Planned Parenthood’s Women’s Leadership Circle grow from its inception in 2012 to over 600 current members.

Tell us about someone who has helped and or inspired you in becoming a leader in this work?

So many people along my path have inspired me but three women come to mind that inspired me early on . . . Geetha Sant, Shanti Parikh and Linda Raclin.  All three are brilliant, strategic, daring, strong and welcoming women that have inspired me and continue to inspire me at every step along my journey. 

What is the most important thing we can do in 2020 to make MO better?

Continue to push for positive social change while engaging with and educating new people. 

A quick update

I’ve been thinking a lot about last Tuesday’s elections, and I’m sure you have, too.

Twenty miles from where I’m sitting now, Trish Gunby won the State House seat vacated by the Chair of the Missouri Republican Party. She won by eight points in suburban turf that Republicans have controlled for decades.

In January, she’ll be joined in Jefferson City by Rasheen Aldridge, who also won a special election to replace Bruce Franks in the statehouse. I first met Rasheen in 2011 as a young worker at a movie theater owned by Bain Capital, managed by then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He went on to become the first striking worker in the Fight for $15 in St. Louis, the youngest member of the Governor’s Ferguson Commission. Last Tuesday, he became a state representative in the district next to mine.

Across the Mississippi, voters rejected a governor who stood in the way of Medicaid expansion, attacked workers, and put his party before his people.

And in Virginia, a decade of investment in grassroots organizing and gerrymandering reform flipped the State Senate and State House blue for the first time in 26 years.

We know we can win here in Missouri because (1) it’s happening here and across the country, and (2) we’ve got a plan to do it.

You’ll be hearing a lot more from me and my colleagues in the weeks to come as we share the work, the plans, and introduce you to the people who are winning Missouri back. We want to hear from you, know what excites you, help you spread the word, and help grow this network for allies.

Together, we will win.

Shared Roots Donor Alliance, Director

Make a contribution to the Shared Roots Show Me Capacity Fund. Contributions to Shared Roots Show Me Capacity Fund are tax deductible.

Make a contribution to the Shared Roots Show Me Action Fund. Contributions to Shared Roots Show Me Action Fund are not tax deductible.

What We Won in 2018

A lot of hard work went into transforming Missouri into a more progressive state. Here are the highlights of what Missourians won in 2018 & 2019:

  • Voter defeated right to work. In the August 8th primary election voters rejected and repealed the “Right to Work” law passed by the state legislature.
  • St. Louis County voters said “Bye, Bob”. Wesley Bell unseated 27-year incumbent Bob McCulloch as St. Louis County Prosecutor. McCulloch was most infamously known as the prosecutor who refused to charge Mike Brown’s murderer.
  • Family farmers and consumers won big against corporate agriculture. Howard County voters turned out in the primary election to pass an ordinance restricting big Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)
  • Record participation by communities of color and progressive voters. Voters across the state turned out at near Presidential Election levels for the Nov 6th Midterm election. There was a 69% increase in turnout from 2014 and only 382,000 fewer voters turned out this year than in 2016.
  • Voters raised the minimum wage. 62% of voters turned out to raise the wage (Proposition B) for over 600,000 Missouri workers.
  • Voters turned out to pass major reforms on money in politics and gerrymandering. 62% of voters turned out to overhaul redistricting & campaign finance (Amendment 1).
  • Voters chose a Democrat to watch over state lawmakers.Voters also elected Nicole Galloway as State Auditor making her the only democrat to hold a statewide office and an important leader overseeing the new legislative re-districting process put in place by Amendment 1.

Shared Roots invested in six grassroots, independent political organizations in 2018 who moved a solid base of voters who support progressive policies and are willing to go to the polls and vote for them – but Missouri also saw a record turnout of conservative voters that tipped the US Senate Race and maintained conservative super-majorities in the state legislature. Like in many other midwest states, this paradox has set the stage for 2019 to be a showdown between the will of the voters and the commitment of conservative lawmakers. As we’ve already seen in lame duck sessions in Michigan and Wisconsin, Missouri Republicans are poised to propose legislation that repeals and replaces these ballot victories when they reconvene in January.

The work of 2019 is much like the work that leaders and organizations have been doing in Missouri over the past decade; groups like the ones funded by Shared Roots Donors will take the power they’ve built to hold elected leaders accountable to their communities and will continue to build the infrastructure needed to elect new representatives to state and local lawmaking bodies who believe in the values voters stand for at the ballot box.

Shared Roots Donors came together with the clear-eyed commitment that our investment is consistent, year-round and multi-year, and connected, invested through a consultation and shared decision-making with brilliant Missouri leaders who know just what needs doing, and WHEN.

Shared Roots will be ready and at the side of Missouri leaders when the conservative legislature gears up in January.

A Progressive Missouri is Possible

Last week, Missourians and much of the country turned out at near presidential election levels to have their voices heard. For many the results are bittersweet. At the same time Democrats took control of the house we also lost seats in the senate, including one in Missouri.

Despite Claire McCaskill’s devastating loss, last Tuesday was a huge night for progressive policies in Missouri.

62% of voters turned out to overhaul redistricting & campaign finance (Amendment 1)  and raised the wage (Proposition B) for over 600,000 Missouri workers. Voters also elected Nicole Galloway as State Auditor making her the only democrat to hold a statewide office and an important leader overseeing the new legislative re-districting process put in place by Amendment 1.

Passage of Amendment 1 and Proposition B along with the defeat of Right to Work in the August election shows that across the state Missourians are rejecting the conservative legislative agenda and shining a light on Missouri as a purple state where progressive reforms can win.

Like in the rest of the country, grassroots organizing – real people having one on one conversations with their neighbors at their doors, over the phone, and through text messaging – made the difference here in Missouri. The work funded by Shared Roots this cycle focused on supporting those grassroots efforts across the state and helped reach over 97,000 voters.

We helped organizations like Action St. Louis hold community brunches to educate voters and organizations like Missouri Faith Voices and Missouri Rural Crisis Center train and deploy volunteers to mobilize voters in all corners of the state.

This election was only the beginning for the Shared Roots Donor Alliance. There is long-term, bottom-up work happening here – work that began before the 2016 elections and has already seen real progressive results. By investing in innovative leadership, building lasting infrastructure, and creating more opportunities for change, Shared Roots is supporting the work that will not only change Missouri but also further a national progressive shift in power.

Your support is crucial to furthering the work in Missouri. Next year we’ll face legislative attacks, legal challenges to redistricting reform, and local elections. Help us continue to fund social change work in Missouri. Make a donation today to invest in the work happening here in your home state.

Maps provided by MOVE Action.