Why Women's March organizers are turning their attention to Nevada this year

Story highlights

  • The Las Vegas event will serve as a national voter registration and mobilization tour: "#PowerToThePolls
  • Expected speakers include Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, Democratic Rep. John Lewis and more lawmakers and activists

Washington (CNN)The day after President Donald Trump's Inauguration, a sea of people clad in pink hats walked toward the Capitol in Washington DC, setting the stage for a nationwide Women's March movement.

One year later, Women's March organizers are heading West -- to Las Vegas, to be exact -- in hopes of turning the movement's momentum into political action.
"It was very relevant for us to go to Washington, DC, last year to send a message we were all united," Linda Sarsour, a Women's March co-organizer, told CNN. "When 2018 came around, we had to be really strategic about what message we want to come out of this gathering. And in order for us to put forth a strong message that women are going to lead the victories in 2018 electorally, we had to go to a state that was relevant. We chose Nevada."

    #PowerToThePolls

    Nevada was among the few swing states to go Hillary Clinton's direction in 2016. Now, it's poised to play an important role as a battleground state in 2018, as Republican Sen. Dean Heller fights to keep his seat and Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who is term-limited, prepares to exit.
    The state also has a large immigrant population. Several thousand Nevada residents from El Salvador will likely become deportable in September 2019, the Las Vegas Sun reported last week, following the Trump administration's decision to end temporary protected status for citizens of El Salvador. Last year, Las Vegas was also the site of the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, an event that reignited a simmering debate over gun control last year.
    All these factors -- coupled with the large Women's March network in Nevada -- helped influence the decision, Sarsour said.
    The Las Vegas event, which will take place at Sam Boyd Stadium on Jan. 21, will serve as a national voter registration and mobilization tour, which the Women's March has dubbed "#PowerToThePolls."
    Expected speakers include Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards; Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto; Democratic Rep. John Lewis; Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza; Our Revolution President Nina Turner; Rev. William Barber III; actress Marisa Tomei; Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and a handful of other activists, politicians and celebrities.
    "It's a mixture of speakers from very powerful movement leaders across democratic spectrum," Sarsour said. "And then we'll also have the most directly impacted people have that same platform ... undocumented people, people from trans community and victims of the shooting ... we are uniting the party. We have to remind people what's at stake."

    Building on march momentum

    Michelle Moge, 46, from Derry, New Hampshire, was among the hundreds of thousands who joined the Women's March organizers in Washington, DC, last year.
    "It was one of the best experiences of my life," she said of the march. "To be surrounded by so many strong, capable, empowered, energized women (and men) was an experience I will never forget. It inspired me to start really living again, to go down to DC, again for the March for Black Women and Racial Justice and to join Moms Demand Action and my local Democratic group. It's also a big part of the reason I've decided to run for State Rep from my very red town."
    Moge is planning on making the trip to Vegas this year.
    "I believe we need to continue to build on the momentum from last year's marches," she said. "I want to be part of the movement that helps change the world and I think showing up for events like this are a great way to do so."
    She's not alone in feeling energized.
    Merriam-Webster said "feminism" was 2017's word of the year, and searches for the word first spiked following the Women's March. Last fall, the "#MeToo movement took off, as millions of women shared their stories of sexual harassment and assault. Subsequently, TIME named its person of the year the "Silence Breakers," or women who publicly spoke out about their stories of sexual harassment and abuse.
    Perhaps most significantly: Women swept battleground states and districts on election night in November. In Virginia, Democrat Ralph Northam won the governor's race, a feat that relied on support from women voters, according to exit polls. Elsewhere in the state, a handful of first-time female candidates made history in races for the House of Delegates. Kathy Tran is one of the first Asian-American women to win a seat in Virginia. Danica Roem, once she takes office, will be the first openly transgender candidate ever to be elected and serve in a state legislature in the country.
    Milestones like the Women's March have helped channel and focus activism and engagement against Trump.
    "I think the Women's March momentum did two things that were really important," Jennifer Lawless, co-author of the book, "Women on the Run: Gender, Media, and Political Campaigns in a Polarized Era," told CNN in November. "It generated this widespread activism to push back against Donald Trump's agenda. And it made women who ordinarily wouldn't participate in politics, or do much more than vote during a general election, become politically activated. We've seen a heightened level of activism that translated into Democratic victories last night. And ... some of those women who were activated threw their hats in the ring to run."
    Overall, Sarsour said she -- and other organizers -- are "fired up" and "confident" about 2018, especially given the success of last year's inaugural march and the effect it had throughout the course of the year.
    Nevada will serve as the first stop in women's march organizers' multi-state tour in 2018 targeting swing states, including Florida and Michigan. Sarsour said the goal is to "register new voters engage impacted communities, and harness our collective energy to advocate for policies, as well as elect more women and progressive candidates that reflect our values."
    Immediately after Inauguration Day, many women were angry at the election results and they poured into the streets. Organizers hope they can get the same reaction across the country and one year later.