LaToia Jones, a well-known political organizer, co-founder of Black and Engaged, and one of 2012’s “Top 40 Under 40 in the Loop 21” is running for Democratic National Committee (DNC) Vice Chair, and she knows exactly how to help you get involved and make a difference. I got the incredible opportunity to talk to this Georgia-raised change maker, and here’s what she has to say.
The Tempest: Tell us a little about yourself and your journey to DNC Vice Chair Candidacy – what steps did you take to get here?
LaToia Jones: I kind of fell into politics in college because I wanted to have a voice and I continued to stay involved from being a staffer as CDA [College Democrats of America] director, then I went to work for the congressional black caucus foundation. I’ve stayed in politics, because I felt like knowing and having somebody with my outlook on life at the DNC would also help make them better as well.
Women of color, particularly Black women, represent a very strong voting bloc for the Democratic party. How do you propose to make sure their voices are being heard?
My grandmother used to say “if you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re on the menu.” It’s about getting more women of color at the table, and not just women of color, but more diverse viewpoints within. Oftentimes women of color are lumped into the same type of woman, and that’s just not the case. It’s about looking at the community and seeing what voices we’re missing and giving them opportunities, training them and opening doors for them.
Part of my job is giving those who want to get involved the tools to be in positions of leadership. So, I feel like if [I were to win], that would open the door for so many other people. I don’t plan on running for multiple terms. Ideally, I’ll serve for four years, get more people involved and make sure that there’s somebody behind me who will come in there and take my place through the pipeline.
Can you tell us more about one of the cornerstones of your campaign – Pipeline 2050?
[Editor’s Note: Pipeline 2050 is a plan that focuses on getting candidates in local government and training them to fill higher positions, in a strategic attempt to put Democratic candidates in advantageous positions.]
What I’m proposing is a three-pronged platform: recruit, engage, and train.
I always say we shouldn’t have people who are sitting in the same congressional seats for 20 or 30 years. Those should not be career paths, they should be stepping stones to help the community and you move to the next level. That is something that a lot of Democrats don’t agree with and I am aware of that. But if you have people in seats for that long, sometimes they don’t connect to the community as much when they first started.
A lot of times [these candidates] are there because they don’t feel like there’s anybody behind them who is going to take up the mantle of the cause, So, if we start doing the pipeline, they can see that there are great young people, great middle aged people who are coming through and give them skills to move up the pipeline.
What are your plans to increase Democratic voter participation, especially during midterm elections in 2018?
It’s all about those local voices. You need strong representatives who will go out there and talk to people about local issues and really show them how voting affects their everyday life. For example, if you have an infrastructure bill, you need to show people its significance. Like, if that bill doesn’t get passed, then the bridges they take to work aren’t going to repaired, and that’s going to affect rush hour. But if they use their vote and get the bill passed, that’ll open up 20,000 more jobs in the state.
Community members need to realize, “if I vote for this Congressperson, I’ll have a say in what happens, and I can talk to them directly and make sure my needs are being met.” That’s the goal here.
Do you have any advice for our readers that are interested in working for the Democratic party? What academic, professional, and volunteer steps would you suggest they take?
People don’t realize that it’s very simple to get involved in the Democratic Party. You have a local party, a state party, and a county party. If they want to get involved, the first thing I would tell them to do is this: call their state party and find out when their local county Democratic party meets and start going. And bring some friends.
The reality is that if you’re there, they have to listen to your voice. You bring a different perspective. And there’s no shame in thinking bigger. You can run for those local county seats and those local chair seats. You can also help change the rules and change bylaws in some of these counties. You can make it so that it’s more accessible to young people, and more accessible to women.
If you’re interested in LaToia Jones and her campaign, you can learn more about her platform and contact her at latoiajonesfordnc.com.
This interview has been edited lightly for length and clarity.