12th Annual Leaders Conference
Washington, D.C. | Nov. 30 – Dec. 2
State and local leaders continue to be at the forefront of addressing urgent issues, such as climate change, the future of education and work, access to reproductive health care, and the shortage of affordable housing. Over two-and-a-half days of keynote speakers, interactive panels, and breakout discussions, we shared best practices for tackling these challenges and more, and we hosted a session of the Forum’s Democracy Working Group dealing with the serious threats to our democracy. Discussions also focused specifically on ongoing opportunities for state and local officials to implement solutions by making the most of funding from the American Rescue Plan, Inflation Reduction Act, and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
See below for livestream, agenda, and other event information!
We kicked off our conference with a fireside chat between NewDEAL CEO Debbie Cox Bultan and U.S. Secretary of Transportation & NewDEAL alum Pete Buttigieg. Secretary Buttigieg provided his insight on a variety of topics, including the recent threat of a rail strike, balancing family life and public service, and the keys to effective implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the states. He finished his remarks by reminding Leaders of the significance of their roles and of civic engagement at the state and local levels; “if there was ever a season for public service, we’re in it.”
NDN and New Policy Institute President, Simon Rosenberg, drew the ballroom’s attention to the results and impacts of the 2022 Midterm Elections. Highlighting the failure of the purported “Red Wave” to come to fruition, Simon stated that Democrats can continue to make substantial gains in battleground states by investing in kinds of grassroots efforts that proved successful this year. Yet, Simon reminded the audience that “we have to be far more intentional in winning the information war” going forward. We can do this by better defining our agenda, and celebrating the wins of the Biden Administration and of Democrats everywhere.
Also in our Democratic Strategy Session, Third Way’s Senior Vice President of Social Policy, Education & Politics Lanae Erickson offered a critical analysis of what worked and what didn’t work for Democrats in the midterms. “Democrats won where we were seen as the mainstream alternative to Republican extremism,” Lanae stated. She shared data showing the benefits of mainstream Democrats winning primaries nationwide as these candidates outperformed general election expectations by wide margins.
On our Reports from the States panel, moderated by Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter, NewDEAL Leaders North Carolina Senator Sydney Batch, Minnesota Senator Melisa López Franzen, and Pittsburgh Councilmember Erika Strassburger shared the keys to the midterm results in their states, as Democrats flipped legislative chambers in Minnesota and Pennsylvania while avoiding a Republican supermajority in North Carolina. “It was a historic effort: the boots on the ground, the fundraising, the discipline, [and] the messaging, as well,” López Franzen said of efforts in Minnesota to earn a trifecta, with control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office.
U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (OH-13) talked to Third Way’s Matt Bennett about the lessons learned from his bid for U.S. Senate this November. While Representative Ryan did not win the race, he outperformed expectations in a district dominated by Rust Belt voters, crediting his strong campaign to his willingness to meet voters where they are. “If they don’t think you care, and then you don’t show up, then you are just affirming their view that you don’t care,” he said, urging his fellow elected officials to move out of their comfort zone in order to reach out to voters in red areas.
Senior Advisor to the President of the United States, Mitch Landrieu, addressed the ongoing implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the key roles that state and local officials play in determining the funding’s success. He emphasized the promise of a better America that the BIL and other laws hold – an America rooted in equity, an America that uplifts its working class, an America built with climate change in mind, and an America that prioritizes American manufacturing.
All4Ed’s Vice President of Communications & Marketing Enrique Chaurand moderated a case study conversation on education resource equity with Maryland’s Comptroller-elect Brooke Lierman and Senate President Bill Ferguson, showcasing the landmark Blueprint for Maryland’s Future that they helped pass through the legislature to give schools the targeted resources required to serve all Maryland children. “Things were really not going well for a state that’s always prided ourselves on our public education… and it was especially [so] in some of our lower income areas,” Comptroller-elect Lierman said of the impetus behind Maryland’s move to codify education equity.
Veteran political journalist and former Obama Administration communications official Linda Douglass led a discussion on the crucial role of high-quality local media in supporting our democracy, facilitating a panel of experts — Amy Mitchell, the former Director of Journalism Research at Pew; Steve Waldman, President and Co-Founder of Report for America; and Reid Wilson, a longtime political journalist and founder of Pluribus News, a first-of-its-kind outlet reporting on state policy and politics.
The Democracy Fund’s Joe Goldman led a discussion featuring NewDEAL Leaders Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Arizona Secretary of State-elect Adrian Fontes. The trio reflected on the midterms, particularly the continued election denial of extremists and the threats on state and local election officials. Secretary of State Fontes, who served as the Maricopa County Recorder during the 2020 Presidential election, assured the ballroom that “the system isn’t broken – some of the people trying to bust the system are,” as he and Benson detailed their efforts to strengthen the system against attacks.
Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read led a discussion on effectively utilizing federal funding at the state and local level. Joining him were Maycomb Capital’s Andi Phillips, the Ford Foundation Senior Fellow and former HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, and NewDEAL Leader & Kansas City, MO, Mayor Quinton Lucas. Donovan spoke to the significance of these investments when he asserted that “we have the single best opportunity of our lifetimes to take federal investment and put it to work in our communities.”
The NewDEAL was incredibly fortunate to finish our conference with a discussion between An Honorable Profession co-host Ryan Coonerty and the nation’s first Second Gentleman, Douglas Emhoff. Ryan and the Second Gentleman covered a variety of topics, including what Mr. Emhoff now thinks of HBO’s VEEP and how the feedback he gets from state and local officials during his travels helps the Biden Administration. The most powerful comments were the Second Gentleman’s remarks on the recent rise of antisemitism. “This matters, this is important. We have to all step up and speak out about this as leaders in [our] communities,” he urged.
With an introduction from Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor, Lincoln, NE
By NewDEAL CEO Debbie Cox Bultan
with Simon Rosenberg
With Lanae Erickson
Moderated by Amy Walter, Cook Political Report
With an introduction by NewDEALer Zach Klein, City Attorney, Columbus, OH
With an introduction by Michael Hancock, Mayor, Denver, CO
With Brooke Lierman, Maryland Comptroller-elect, and Bill Ferguson, Maryland Senate President. Moderate by Enrique Chaurand, All4Ed
Introduction by Ben Allen. Moderated by NewDEALer Ben Allen, State Senator, CA, featuring Amy Mitchell, Pew Research Center, Steven Waldman, Report for America, and Reid Wilson, Pluribus News
Moderated by the Democracy Fund’s Joe Goldman. Featuring NewDEALers Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Michigan Secretary of State-elect Adrian Fontes
Moderated by NewDEALer & Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read. Featuring Andi Phillips, Maycomb Capital, Shaun Donovan, the Ford Foundation, and NewDEALer Quinton Lucas, Mayor, Kansas City, MO
Moderated by Ryan Coonerty, Santa Cruz County Supervisor
As communities continue to grapple with the pandemic’s dual impacts on learning loss and the changing nature of work, policymakers and leaders in the education system have opportunities to make decisions that help students not only catch up but also do so in a way that prepares them for post-secondary education and a career. In this context, our partners at All4Ed, a national organization committed to educational equity, will preview new college and career readiness data for students across the country. Joined by Georgia Senate Democratic Leader Elena Parent, co-chair of the NewDEAL Forum Education Policy Group, as well as Connecticut Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff and Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, they will lead a discussion about ways to evaluate student progress and improve outcomes.
From virtual currencies to the changing social media landscape to autonomous vehicles on public roads, the acceleration of technological innovations is happening faster than ever. Advancing technology comes with the potential to expand economic growth and prosperity in communities across the country, but also raises new questions and challenges for policymakers to protect users. This session will consider the known and unknown challenges posed by emerging technologies, including how policymakers can strike a balance between regulations to mitigate risks and protect privacy while also encouraging innovation. The discussion will be led by NewDEALers, including Colorado Senator Jeff Bridges and Atlanta, Georgia City Councilmember Amir Farokhi, and Jamie Pascal, Director of Civic Innovation Policy at the Chamber of Progress.
The pandemic caused major concerns about housing stability at a time when affordable housing shortages already existed throughout the country, making housing one of the top investments made by states and localities with discretionary funds from the American Rescue Plan. Two-and-a-half years later, this session will explore what happened as a result, addressing the current extent of the country’s affordability challenges while also reviewing the impact of the most recent economic trends on the housing market, including inflation, and effective policy solutions at a time of rising rents and interest rates. The discussion will be led by San Diego Councilmember Raul Campillo along with two officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research Solomon Greene and Deputy Chief of Staff Victoria Brown. Solomon and Victoria will speak specifically about HUD resources, policies, and programs that can help meet NewDEAL Leaders’ needs and ways to strengthen the federal-state-local partnership.
The Biden Administration has approved historic investments to combat climate change, including available funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act to build community resilience and develop new technologies to combat harmful emissions. This session will focus on the latest technological developments in carbon removal, providing an overview of the technology and evaluating its potential to help the country reach net zero emissions. Breakout leaders will highlight examples of projects around the country and discuss the expected level of investment and policy work needed to scale these efforts, including the opportunities to use new federal funds. The discussion will be led by Rudra Kapila, Senior Policy Advisor on Carbon Management at Third Way; Frances Wang, Carbon Dioxide Removal Program Manager at ClimateWorks Foundation; and North Dakota House Minority Leader Josh Boschee.
During the height of the pandemic, state and local leaders were on the front lines to ensure their communities received the assistance and resources they required, with so many rising to the occasion through persistence and innovation. This discussion will focus on what lessons policymakers at all levels can take away from the COVID-19 response with an eye toward future preparedness. New Castle County, Delaware Executive Matt Meyer, Arielle D’Souza, Institute for Progress, and Gigi Gronvall, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, will lead a discussion on solutions to better prepare and harden communities to effectively respond to future public health emergencies.
The digital divide has persisted since the creation of the internet, and the pandemic has exacerbated it, highlighting broadband access as essential for participation in 21st-century society. With the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) setting forth historic funding to close the digital divide, states and localities have an unprecedented opportunity to overcome barriers to access. That means not only building hard infrastructure but also addressing affordability and digital literacy. Join experts from EducationSuperHighway, a leading national non-profit pursuing innovative solutions to close the digital divide, as well as NewDEALers at the forefront of state and local broadband policy, including former Florida Senator Loranne Ausley and Vermont Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray. They will lead a discussion about how to take full advantage of the infrastructure law, including its Affordable Connectivity Program.