Sunrise Movement, the youth-led climate activist group, on Thursday announced its endorsements of Summer Lee in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional district, Nida Allam in North Carolina’s 4th Congressional district and Erica Smith in North Carolina’s 1st Congressional district, further bolstering progressive support behind the three Democratic candidates for the US House of Representatives.
With the endorsements – shared first with CNN – Sunrise promises a combination of phone banking as well as digital and on-the-ground canvassing for its candidates powered by its cohort of digitally savvy young people.
Sunrise’s endorsements come as the trio of candidates continues to receive a wide array support from the progressive left.
All three candidates have been endorsed by the Working Families Party. For her part, Lee, a Pennsylvania state representative, launched her campaign last November with the backing of Justice Democrats, the group that supported New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s first run for Congress and has helped send a new generation of young leftist lawmakers to Capitol Hill.
A leading progressive organizer and democratic socialist, Lee is one of five candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania’s redrawn 12th District in the Pittsburgh area. She is running against Steve Irwin, an attorney who led the US Civil Rights Commission’s Advisory Committee; Jerry Dickinson, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh; Jeffrey Woodard, executive director of the Pennsylvania College Access Program; and William Parker, who formerly ran for mayor of Pittsburgh.
Lee recently secured the support of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and also touts the backing of Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley. She has also been endorsed by Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, the League of Conservation Voters and SEIU Local 668, as well as SEIU 32BJ.
In North Carolina, Allam – the Durham County commissioner who made history in 2020 when she became the first Muslim woman to win elected office in North Carolina – has the backing of progressive Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.
She is running against seven other Democrats in the 4th District primary: Crystal Cavalier, who founded the North Carolina Democratic Party Native American Caucus; state Sen. Valerie Foushe; Matthew Grooms; Stephen Valentine, an Iraq war veteran and former US State Department fellow; Ashley Ward, a climate-health expert who worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Richard Watkins, a scientist and entrepreneur; and Clay Aiken, the ex-“American Idol” star.
Meanwhile, in North Carolina’s 1st District, Smith, the former state senator who ran for US Senate in 2020 and sought the state’s other US Senate seat this cycle before switching races, has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She is competing against a field of three other Democrats: state Sen. Don Davis, Henderson City Councilor Jason Spriggs and Jullian Bishop, a retired US Navy officer.
Sunrise executive director Varshini Prakash told CNN in a statement that in choosing its latest round of candidates the group identified “everyday people who have lived through the same crises we have, and who will represent and serve us.”
“Summer Lee knows what it’s like to organize on the ground, Erica Smith is unapologetically running on a Rural New Deal, Nida has been a strong advocate for young people, and is representing areas hard hit by environmental hazards like coal ash spills. They’ve organized alongside us, fought for us, and earned our trust,” said Prakash.
Ahead of the upcoming midterm elections, Sunrise has already endorsed Democrats Greg Casar, who won his primary in Texas’ 35th Congressional district; Jessica Cisneros, who advanced to a runoff against moderate Rep. Henry Cuellar in Texas’ 28th Congressional district; and former Kentucky state Rep. Charles Booker, who is running for US Senate.
With its second round of 2022 endorsements, Sunrise said it hopes to build on the group’s momentum from earlier this year in Texas. Each of the candidates was previously endorsed by local Sunrise hub chapters, which is one of the points of criteria Sunrise considers in deciding who to endorse nationally, the group told CNN.
“This will continue Sunrise’s streak of working in redder states, and is part of our long-term strategy of using progressive energy to build youth organizing infrastructure in strategic 2024 states,” Ellen Sciales, spokesperson for Sunrise, told CNN. “That means building new organizing infrastructure in a number of these places – we had over 200 unique youth volunteers in Texas and expect to triple that number in volunteers, make hundreds of thousands of dials and will also be canvassing in Pennsylvania.”
Since its founding in 2017, Sunrise has backed a number of progressive primary challengers to Democratic incumbents, including now-Reps. Cori Bush of Missouri and Jamaal Bowman of New York. The group also rallied behind Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, a co-author of the Green New Deal, who emerged as the progressive favorite when Democratic former Rep. Joe Kennedy tried to end his decades in office.