The Signal recently caught up with Royce Brooks, the executive director of Annie’s List, an organization that recruits, trains and helps elect progressive women to office.
Brooks spoke about the 2022 midterms, women in Texas, as well as the ongoing work at Annie’s List. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is your outlook for Texas elections in 2022?
Well, the extreme legislation that has come out of the Abbott administration and the Republican-led Texas Leg is already galvanizing people. Republicans have overstepped. Most Texans are not in favor of the kinds of extreme measures, from a ban on abortion to the strictest voter suppression legislation in the country that Republicans are forcing on us.
People are paying attention.
Do you think it’s enough to bring people out during a midterm?
I think people will come out for this midterm. We’ve got a variety of factors that will drive the size of the electorate, from the fact that all our statewide offices and every legislative seat will be on the ballot, to the historically reprehensible nature of this legislation.
Republicans are falling all over themselves to be more extreme than each other. They are taking it out on the women of Texas with a lot of these policies, and of course, most Texas voters are women — most Texans are women. Women are paying attention to this stuff because we have to.
It’s no secret anymore that Beto O’Rourke is close to announcing a run for governor. What are your thoughts?
Beto has a strong following around the state and if he announces a run I’m sure that will excite a lot of people.
Did any women approach y’all to throw their ring in the hat [for governor]?
We’re seeing strong interest from women for offices up and down the ballot. I think that’s absolutely a result of women being so specifically impacted by these extreme Republican policies. I expect a Democratic slate that looks like Texas, in fact, we need a slate that looks like Texas with our growing population, so much back growth centered in communities of color, and with the importance that women will play in the race.
Can y’all talk to me about your candidate training programs and what’s in store for midterms?
For the past year and a half, there’s been a lot less opportunity to connect with each other than we’re used to because of the pandemic. One of the things that we’re doing this year and next year is bringing our trainings and resources into the communities across Texas.
We’ve already been to El Paso, we have been to Dallas, we have a servable calendar of trainings that we’ll be bringing all around the state, like the Valley. We’re excited to sort of once again be together with women who need the resources and who are excited about making a difference and who want to meet like-minded women.
You mentioned the pandemic, what’s changed in strategy or operations from 2020 to 2022?
One of the things that turned out to be an advantage of no longer being able to be in person as much was the expansion of our virtual engagement opportunities. And that was everything from bringing a lot of trainings online to starting a virtual conversation series where we were able to bring leaders from all over the country to the Annie’s List family.
We chatted with leaders like Reverend William Barber, Latosha Brown, Valerie Jarrett, we had just a really exciting slate of folks. And we also, by being virtual, were able to offer our resources to people who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to come to an Annie’s List training or event in person.
As we move forward we’re going to be paying attention to not losing the advantage of that. Even as we get back out to communities face to face, we’ll be maintaining a lot of the virtual engagement that we established during the pandemic. It just allows us to reach more people and that’s what we’re always looking to do.
There’s a lot of progressive candidates up and down the ballot that are lining up to challenge conservative Democratic opponents. Congressman Henry Cuellar whose being challenged by Jessica Cisneros comes to mind. State Rep. Harold Dutton, who revived an anti-trans youth sports bill in the statehouse, also comes to mind. Will Annie’s List be helping spill any blood in that regard?
*Laughs* Annie’s List supports women running for office who will fight for our values.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I don’t think so, I hope that people take the point that most Texas voters are women, and most Texans are women. I feel as if lots of people forget that’s the case.
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org