Jessica Post, the president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), was just 16 when she first walked into the campaign office of a local Missouri woman running for Congress, and she was instantly hooked by the energy.
She was a high school student in her home state of Missouri, shadowing the candidate for a school project and reveals to HollywoodLife that “I decided, ‘This is what I’m going to do. I’m going to do campaigns.’” Post, now 40 and heading up the 2020 strategy to elect Democratic candidates in state legislatures across the country, explains that, “I realized that the way I would fight for the America I wanted, was by getting involved in politics and supporting campaigns.”
The teenage Post’s epiphany wasn’t entirely surprising considering that she came from a long line of strong women. “There’s this big feminist streak in our family. My mother is a pharmacist and my grandmother, who was a Marine, used to say to me, ‘Jessica, if you love your country, you fight for it in whatever way you know how.’ She, of course, wanted me to join the military and the Marines, too, but I decided on politics… and as time went on I realized that the Democratic party was the party that aligned with my values,” she told HollywoodLife in an exclusive interview.
Now, Jessica, who grew up in a suburb of St. Louis, is hard at work preparing for what are probably the most consequential elections in our lifetimes, this coming Nov 3. While Post and the DLCC don’t work on the Presidential campaign or to elect candidates in Congress’s Senate or House races, their work is equally, if not arguably more important.
Post leads the Democratic party’s national strategy for electing far more Democrats into every state legislature across the country. As she points out- “The impact of state legislatures is enormous. State legislatures actually control and govern most of your day to day life- the quality of the schools that your kids might go to, the quality of roads, mass transit, the economic opportunities in your area, voting rights, the districts that you might vote in- all of those are determined by state legislatures.”
To get an idea of how state laws can affect your life in very personal ways: in many states, you can still legally be fired from your job, solely because you are LGBT. In Virginia, the newly elected Democratic-controlled Senate and House, just passed legislation to ban conversion therapy for LGBT youth, on February 17th. That only happened because of the landmark election in November, 2019, in which Democrats won full control of Virginia’s General Assembly, after winning the Governorship in 2017.
The now blue Virginia legislature also just became the 38th state to approve the Equal Rights Amendment in January 2020, guaranteeing equal rights to women and men. “When Democrats take control of state legislatures, they make changes to laws of that type,” she points out.
Need another huge example of why Jessica and the DLCC’s work is so critical, consider your reproductive rights. “Having access to abortion in your state is truly determined by your state legislature”,explains Jessica. “In states where Republicans control the legislature, they’ve passed restrictive laws… laws to make it very difficult for abortion providers and even for women’s health clinics to operate.”
For example, while the Supreme Court ruling, Roe V. Wade, keeps abortion technically legal for now, throughout the country, Alabama passed a law in 2019 banning all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. Georgia passed a “fetal heartbeat” law banning abortions after 6 weeks, as did a number of other “red” states, and Missouri banned abortion after 8 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest. If Roe V. Wade is overturned, which could happen later this year, these laws will instantly all go into effect, and will have enormous impact on the lives of women living in those states.
On the other hand, Jessica points out that when Democrats are elected to majorities in state legislatures like New York and Washington, they pass laws protecting the right to an abortion.
After Post was first inspired to pursue a career in political campaign work at 16, she started volunteering in college for state legislative candidates, going door to door to meet with voters. When she graduated, she was hired by Missouri’s Democratic Campaign Committee to work with their candidates all over eastern Missouri. Now, it wasn’t exactly glamorous “West Wing” work, but Post thrived on it. One of her “client candidates” was a farmer, and she had to advise him in phone calls at 6 am because that was the only time he could talk. Another candidate was the night manager at a grocery store in St. Louis, and she would call Jessica on her break at midnight. “I’d wake up to talk to her.”
The night manager, Pat Yaeger, was one of her favorite candidates, and when Post would visit her in person, she’d sit on a bench with her in the grocery store and help plan her campaign. “She’d work the night shift, sleep until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and then wake up and knock on doors to meet voters, or fundraise.” Talk about determination. That female candidate that Post managed went on to get elected and serve several times in the Missouri State House. Post went on to move to Colorado, become a Regional Field Director in Boulder, then to Minnesota, where she became the field director on Al Franken’s first campaign for Senate, which he won by just 312 votes.
Today, she is optimistically enacting her DLCC strategy to flip eight to ten state legislative chambers from red to blue in the November 2020 election. Since 2016, the Democrats have flipped more than 430 legislative seats from red to blue, and were successful in reclaiming the majority in 10 legislative chambers. “We only have to win four seats to flip the state legislature from red to blue in Michigan and in Texas we realized we only need to flip nine seats for the Texas state house to go from red to blue,” she says excitedly.
To be successful in achieving these “flips” as well as hold onto seats the Democrats already have won, Post’s job is “to make sure there are terrific candidates running in all those districts, and to make sure that those candidates are running great campaigns, and the campaigns are well funded.” Post elaborates that the DLCC’s role is to support the candidates and their campaigns- helping them set up campaign websites, and get campaign plans in place. She also points out that recruiting candidates who are known and popular in their own communities, can flip a solid red district to blue. “If you find the right candidate with a compelling bio, it can be winnable.”
Now married to husband Andy La Vigne, who is the Political Director for The International Association of Fire Fighters and working in Washington DC, Jessica encourages young women to consider a career like hers. “You don’t have to have a college degree in political science, it’s much more about the experience you can get on campaigns.” She recommends women look for opportunities to be field organizers in states as a start, and says there are job postings on the DLCC website all the time. “I encourage folks to take a job on a campaign, see if they like the work and know that if they work their way up, and work hard, there’s great opportunities for women to advance their careers,” she enthuses.
While many Democrats are biting their nails about whether their eventual Presidential Nominee can defeat Donald Trump, Post is encouraged by the progress the party has made in the past three and a half years. “A lot of people woke up after 2016 and they were looking for ways to fight back”, she says. “I knew I was going to work every day, doing everything I could to build a wall of resistance against Donald Trump in the states. And we were successful doing that in ‘18. We flipped so many state legislative chambers. It was hard work. I moved all around the country. I worked crazy hours. I still work crazy hours, but the work is so rewarding.”
Jessica takes satisfaction in seeing that gaining Democratic control in a state legislature like Colorado’s results in gun safety laws getting passed. “It just fills the tank back up. You see progress happening in states when nothing is happening in Washington.”
So how can women make a contribution to helping change laws that affect them in their own states, even if they themselves don’t want to run for office? You can volunteer for a candidate who inspires you- making phone calls for them, knocking on doors to meet voters, or hosting fundraisers. You can even drop off a dinner for them, babysit their kids while they campaign, and even retweet their tweets, she suggests. “Or you may have skills a candidate needs, if you can help them with graphics for their websites or write press releases for them. These are all great ways to get engaged and that we need.”
And, Post also urges women who are fired up about trying to make positive changes to their communities, to seriously contemplate running for office. You don’t need a long, extensive resume or advanced degree, she wants women to know. If you have contributed in some way to your local area “like a woman I once recruited who had organized her community to keep a nature center open, and you’re willing to work hard, you should run” .
“We have a saying that, ‘men look in the mirror and see a Congressman’”, says Jessica. Women have to be asked nine times to run for office. “In other words, don’t be afraid to run for office, if you want to.” To check out more info on the DLCC or to make a contribution, go to their website: https://www.dlcc.org/
And if you need to register to vote for the 2020 election, you can do it in the Rock The Vote module below.