New PACs aim to support Black and brown candidates – NBC Boston


Two new political action committees in Massachusetts highlight a trend in state politics. 1866 Action Fund and Hispanic-Latino Leaders Now have launched with the express purpose of raising money to get Black and brown candidates elected to office respectively.

“There has not been a concerted effort to say: ‘I want to uplift Black candidates for office,'” said Reynolds Graves, founder of 1866 Action Fund. “We want to do it.”

He has focused his organization on down ballot elections like city council and representatives to the Massachusetts State House.

“Your city council and your state rep are filing pieces of legislation and balancing budgets that affect your daily life,” said Graves.  “So that’s why it’s important. But also, when it comes to Blacks in politics, I think writ large, across the country, and especially in this state, you see candidates that when they get started, they start down ballot.”

He points to Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley as a contemporary example – the first Black woman to serve on the Boston City Council, who later ascended to Congress, becoming the first Black woman elected to the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation.

No one who identifies as Hispanic or Latino is on that Congressional Delegation and that’s something Andrew Melendez, a board member of Hispanic-Latino Leaders Now, would like to change. He acknowledges increasingly strong representation at the local level, but he’d like to see even more progress there, as well as greater representation at the executive level too.

“Having 20% of the population in the state, having hundreds of thousands of voters, I think across the next five to 10 years, there will be seats open in the Congress, there will be seats open in the U.S. Senate, and, eight years from now, there will be a position open up for governor,” Melendez said.

He also expects the number of Hispanic-Latino elected officials on Beacon Hill to double by 2040 – sooner if the campaign funding is formidable. “It’s going to happen over the next 20 years, but maybe just with a little extra fuel that could happen in eight,” he said.

1866 Action Fund has set an ambitious $250,000 fundraising goal, with plans to deploy that money ahead of elections over the next 12 months. As of October 15, 2023, no donations have been reported to the Office of Campaign & Political Finance for the 1866 Action Fund. Meantime, Hispanic-Latino Leaders Now have hit the ground running with $100,000 in seed funding from East Longmeadow businessman Cesar Ruiz.  Since the launch of the fund, he has contributed an additional $50,000, according to state records.

Both intend to use the money raised to back candidates that align with the values of their political action committees.  Additionally, if 1866 Action Fund is able to meet its fundraising target, it aspires to create a nonprofit that connects Black young adults with non-elected opportunities in politics.  In the case of Pressley, she worked in the offices of Rep. Joe Kennedy and Sen. John Kerry before she won elected office herself.

“It’s about literally building the bench,” Graves said.  “This is a very concentrated effort to do just that.”

How they started

1866 ACTION FUND: Massachusetts voters elected their first Black members to the state’s legislature on November 6, 1866, just one year after the Civil War ended.  Those representatives were Edward Garrison Walker, a lawyer from Charlestown and Charles Lewis Mitchell, a printer from Beacon Hill.  The political action committee, 1866 Action Fund is named after this event in Massachusetts history.

HISPANIC-LATINO LEADERS NOW: This political action committee got off the ground in a big way thanks to a $100,000 founding personal loan from East Longmeadow businessman Cesar Ruiz. He contributed more later. Ruiz was also the first Latino elected to the Springfield School Committee in 1980.  The organization says that election marks the first time a Latino won any public office in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Political Campaigns HLLN has financially backed (as of 10/15/23)

  • Ricardo Arroyo
  • Victor Davila
  • Jose Delgado
  • Kendra Lara
  • Delmarina Lopez
  • Edward Nunez
  • Orlando Ramos
  • Norman Roldan

Source: Massachusetts Office of Campaign & Political Finance

Political Campaigns 1866 Action Fund has financially backed (as of 10/15/23)

Source: Massachusetts Office of Campaign & Political Finance

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