Big Changes Coming at Democracy for America (DFA)

Jim Dean steps into DFA advisory role

Today, some sad & happy news from the progressive org that in a roundabout way – not so roundabout, actually – is the reason Blue Jersey exists. Jim Dean, longtime Chair of Democracy for America, is stepping into an advisory role as new leaders are emerging. Yvette Simpson, above, is coming in as DFA’s new director.

Blue Jersey launched in September 2005 by our friend Juan Melli, as Matt Stoller, another friend, was running the first governer’s race blog in the country for Jon Corzine, and just after Howard Dean’s inspirational and game-changing 2004 presidential campaign, with the country’s first voter-driven national campaign blog. Juan & I wrote for both. DFA grew out of Howard Dean’s campaign, and it’s been run by Howard’s brother Jim for more than 10 years.

Juan was the leader of Democracy for America’s Mercer group, and I was the leader of Hunterdon’s. Jeff Gardner was Passaic’s. Another NJ DFA leader had to write anonymously because of his job. We were the key players in Juan’s writing experiment, to cover New Jersey from a progressive point of view. Blue Jersey wouldn’t have been the same without DFA. Jeff & I came to run DFA-NJ, and in Democracy for America’s early days we were both called in as advisory leaders to help set DFA’s national path.

Charlie Chamberlain, DFA’s new Chair

With Jim Dean stepping down as Chair, Cincinnati City Council member and history-making 2017 mayoral candidate Yvette Simpson, 40, is its next Chief Executive, effective January 1. With her 2011 victory, Cincinnati had its first-ever African-American council majority. And last year she became the first Black woman in Cincinnati’s 200-year history to win a Mayoral primary. A lawyer, Simpson has been serving as DFA’s Federal Electoral Manager. Charlie Chamberlain, who like me started as a local DFA leader (Miami DFA) has been DFA’s Executive Director. He’ll be stepping into Jim Dean’s Chair role. I just got off the phone with Jim, one of my best friends in politics. Told him I’m wanting to meet Yvette.

Progressive Black woman leaders will now run both DFA and Our Revolution. Both orgs have Burlington, Vermont ties (DFA from Howard Dean’s campaign, OR from Bernie’s). Yvette at DFA, and Nina Turner at OR.

We met Jim Dean at a Summit for DFA organizers we ran at Rutgers. In he walks, this man with his brother’s voice, and introduces himself as a younger, shorter and bulkier version of Howard. We liked him on sight. He is my walking, talking compendium of detail on national races, and we talk often. Charlie Chamberlain, DFA’s incoming chair, was DFA-NJ’s (friendly but fierce) competitor early on as both our groups vied for which could add the most new members and get one of DFA’s amazing campaign trainings – free for every attendee. DFA-NJ won, of course (we always did). I love the guy. Over the years both Charlie and Jim have been in Jersey many times – for trainings (including our biggest, in Newark, with more than 300 NJ & NY candidates & activists) and endorsing NJ candidates.

Find us all on Twitter: @ysimpsonpower    @bluejersey     @DFAaction    @TheJimDean

After an election year defined by historic firsts and the profound impact women of color played in delivering them, I couldn’t be more excited about Democracy for America’s future with Yvette Simpson as its new Chief Executive. Having the opportunity to work closely with the grassroots to help push our country in a more progressive direction has truly been an honor and one of the greatest thrills of my life, but I also know that we won’t be able to achieve the kind of change our country needs if we don’t let a new generation of bold, visionary progressive leaders, like Yvette, lead the way. With Yvette as its Chief Executive and Charles as Chair, I am certain that DFA will not only continue fighting to deliver inclusive, populist political change up and down the ballot, but also that the folks DFA will be working with to lead those battles will be the progressive people of color, women, and young Americans who make up the New American Majority. — Jim Dean, Chair, Democracy for America.

DFA’s Yvette, with Jahana Hayes (CT’s first Black congresswoman), Rashida Tlaib (MI) and Ilhan Omar (MN), the first two Muslim women in Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Ayanna Pressley, Massachusetts’ first Black woman in Congress

“I am incredibly excited to take the helm of an organization that has been supporting candidates at every level for nearly 15 years, and that is poised to do even more in the future to advance progressive, diverse leaders and issues across the country. “We know that the future is female and that our country is becoming more diverse. The leadership of our country, from City Hall to the White House, needs to reflect the life experience and strategic vision of these changing demographics. Representation matters, particularly within political and movement organizations. “Through Jim Dean’s leadership, Democracy for America has built a powerful track- record of identifying and training strong grassroots leaders early and using people-power and partnerships to get those candidates over the finish line. I’ve seen the impact of that support, both as a candidate and while recently working directly with federal candidates on DFA’s behalf, and it’s a reputation we will be building on in 2019, 2020, and beyond.”
— Yvette Simpson, incoming Chief Executive, Democracy for America.

DFA adds this bio of Yvette, who I can’t wait to meet – Yvette Simpson is a lawyer, MBA, and former Cincinnati City Council President Pro Tempore. She is the Founder & CEO of Yvette Simpson, LLC. In that capacity, Yvette served as the Federal Electoral Manager for Democracy for America (DFA) during the second half of 2018 and, in January 2019, will become the grassroots progressive organization’s Chief Executive. She will be the first woman to serve as a Chief Executive at DFA and the first woman of color to play an executive leadership role at the organization.

Yvette grew up in public housing in Cincinnati, and was raised by her grandmother. She was the first in her family to graduate college, earning her BA in Political Science and her BS in Communications from Miami University (OH) in 2000. She earned her JD from the University of Cincinnati in 2004, and her MBA from Xavier University.

Yvette’s passion for service started in 2008 when she served as a member of the Ohio Voter Protection Team as a Legal Observer. She later served on the Steering Committee for the Women’s Fund, which researched barriers to women in public service. Since that time, she has volunteered and supported local and state campaigns, serving as the Vice Chair of the State Central Committee for the Ohio Democratic Party.

Yvette ran for Cincinnati City Council in 2011 and was elected and re-elected in 2013 for a four-year term. She served as President Pro Tem from 2013-2017. In 2017 she ran for Cincinnati Mayor, winning her primary by 11 points. She made history, as the first Black woman in Cincinnati’s 200-year history to win a Mayoral primary. While she ultimately didn’t win the general election, she won in 15 of 26 wards. During her years of service, Yvette worked on many economic and social issues, and was a strong advocate for people of color, the poor, women, and children.

Yvette is very active in her community, having served on several boards and committees, including the YWCA, Urban League, Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, and the UC Law Legal Access Program, among others. She was named a Forty under 40 by The Cincinnati Business Courier, was named YWCA Career Woman of Achievement in 2014, and currently serves on the She the People Summit Steering Committee.

Yvette brings her experience, passion, advocacy, and commitment to changing the world to her role at DFA, whose mission is to advance the voices and power of progressives and the New American Majority in our democracy.

New Jersey welcomes you, Yvette. Pumped! 

Comment (1)

  1. Bertin Lefkovic

    It would be wonderful if Nina and Yvette could get their respective organizations to join together with MoveOn, PCCC, PDA, and other progressive organizations to form a progressive alternative to the DNC within the Democratic Party. Maybe we could provide a model for them to follow here in NJ.


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