Several of Missouri’s Democratic candidates formed a new coalition known as “To Empower All Missourians” (TEAM) focused on supporting campaigns and causes in rural communities.
The group was founded by four Democrats running for various offices: Missouri attorney general candidate Elad Gross and U.S. congressional candidates Lindsey Simmons, Dennis Oglesby, and Kathy Ellis. The group consists of 23 members, including candidates for the Missouri House of Representatives.
TEAM launched a Facebook group Tuesday, which will help coordinate town halls, host events, and allow for increased interaction between candidates and constituents. TEAM will also share volunteer call banks and fundraising events, among other campaign resources.
The group is about representing Missourians in the government, according to Gross.
“We’ve been talking about it for around a year,” Gross told The Missouri Times. “We believe that voices should not be ignored, but we saw over and over again that they were. I’ve been working with candidates from all over the state and have worked with Kathy Ellis a lot. We talked for quite some time, over a year, about how best to get our message out to folks.”
He also said the group hopes to make TEAM a sustainable platform for rural Democrats beyond this election cycle.
Ellis said the group was founded based on the lack of support for rural candidates compared to their counterparts in cities.
“We’re running tough races in areas without much funding, infrastructure, or investment, and it creates a level of challenge that urban and suburban candidates are unfamiliar with,” Ellis said in an email to The Missouri Times. “Many of the current programs to support candidates rely on a method of trickling down support to our rural communities. Recruiting, supporting, and training candidates has always been my priority, and my team and I are excited to launch this innovative, first of its kind collaborative.”
“As we have learned with the current pandemic, elections frequently have to change direction in a moment’s notice,” Oglesby told The Missouri Times in an email. “Especially in this cycle, canvassing is not possible, which means that social media, phone, and mail contact have become even more prevalent.”
Oglesby also said he expects these trends to continue to grow, and that TEAM is a way to better connect with constituents.
“Future candidates will have a network of experienced prior candidates and elected officials who can provide information and support. At the same time, we provide an avenue for our residents’ voices to be heard,” he said.
TEAM’s website identifies its joint platform, with members expressing support for the expansion of health care programs, education, agriculture workers’ rights, and gender parity.
Simmons expressed the need to be a voice for rural Missourians and to represent these areas in a statement, saying: “It seems to me that in the State of Missouri we are long overdue for a concerted, deliberate focus on the lives of rural Missourians; on economic investment in towns people tend to just drive past; on opportunities for every child, regardless of their zip code; on letting some of the hardest working and most easily forgotten people in our state know that a new day has come. That you matter.”
Ellis said that the group has continued to see additional outreach since Tuesday’s launch as more candidates have expressed interest and new supporters have joined TEAM’s volunteer group.
“This is how we flip Missouri,” she said.
Candidates and volunteers can learn more about TEAM at missouriteam.weebly.com.