Update: Brand New Congress has provided us with more information regarding how they will proceed with the candidates in the future. They say, “We will have pages set up with bios for the candidates as we release their names. We expect that to begin within a month or less depending on how quickly we can get through all these names!”
(Original article below)
Brand New Congress (BNC) formed during the Democratic Primary as a grassroots concept to replace our failing Congress with a New Congress. Their goal was a long-term, ambitious plan to support and run over 400 candidates for Congress across our country in 2018. So far, their work has mostly involved recruiting people to nominate candidates along with solidifying the BNC platform that said candidates will back. The candidates they want are local leaders who are respected, trusted and known in their communities. Teachers, nurses, and others are desired, rather than the usual political cadre.
The first (and so far only) BNC meeting I went to left me with the impression that they had a good idea but were unorganized. Almost the entire meeting was spent with people arguing about whether or not to run candidates within the Democratic Party. But while the attendees were unclear, the organizers were not. They would run appropriate candidates in any party, whether it be Green, Republican, or Democrat.
I left my contact information with the organizers, along with my skills, but so far I have not heard back. Still, I kept my eyes on my email, curious to see who the candidates would eventually be. Now, months later, we have the first five nominees that model what Brand New Congress is after. As of this writing, BNC has received well over 9000 nominations.
— Brand New Congress (@BrandNew535) January 27, 2017
Chardo Richardson doesn’t know which district he is running for in Florida yet, but he is planning on making a run at a congressional seat. On the issues, Richardson believes marijuana shouldn’t be criminalized, supports giving felons back the right to vote, wants to reverse Citizens United, doesn’t agree with the death penalty, and is a strong opponent of gerrymandering. He describes himself as a “fighter my whole life” who grew up in Mississippi facing racism, volunteered with underprivileged kids from age 14, graduated high school, and went into the military. Chardo spent 12 years in the Air Force and five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. After leaving the military, he became more aware of the situations Americans face and it broke his heart so he decided to take action and went to law school. He now works with the ACLU in Central Florida.
Chardo describes his relationship with BNC as great. When asked how he will be successful without selling out, he replied, “I will be successful without selling out. I don’t sell out; I’ve never sold out, and I won’t sell out. I am committed to the people of America — always have been and always will be.”
— Brand New Congress (@BrandNew535) January 30, 2017
Chardo was BNC’s first announced nominee and, when he was announced, they had him do a Livestream Q&A session via Facebook, which you can see below:
Danny Ellyson, BNC Republican nominee in deep red GA-8, is a disabled military vet w/ 16 years of service to the country + the Peach State. pic.twitter.com/G2PlERYrpR
— Brand New Congress (@BrandNew535) February 21, 2017
There isn’t a lot of public information out there about Danny Ellyson, so we’ll let BNC tell you about him instead:
There’s no one better prepared or more qualified than Danny Ellyson to take back Georgia and serve its people; he’s been serving all of us since first joining the Army National Guard at 17. His career included eight years of forging strong ties in eleven central Georgia counties as a recruiting station commander at Robins Air Force Base and culminated in his retirement, after sixteen years of dedication, with an honorable discharge as a disabled veteran. His love for his country runs deep, and now Danny’s ready to represent the Peach State’s crucial 8th district, bringing with him the support of his community, BNC’s agenda, and his own commitment to being the change we seek. We thank him for his service – then and now.
According to Danny Ellyson’s LinkedIn page, he received a Bachelor of Art’s degree in Homeland Security from Thomas Edison State University in New Jersey and he currently works as Operations Sergeant/HQ PLT SGT for the 179th Military Police Company in Fort Stewart, Georgia. But, according to his Facebook page, he is now Owner of Daddy’s Lawn Care Service LLC, a veteran-owned landscaping business.
According to the tweet above from BNC, Danny is running as a Republican for Georgia Congressional District 8, but according to the Green Papers and USElections.com, he is listed as a Democratic candidate in that district.
— Justice Democrats (@justicedems) February 21, 2017
The email from BNC introduces Demond Drummer with this curious line: “Demond Drummer has already helped give Illinois back to its people – literally – and now he’s getting ready to help give Congress back to all of us.” The statement is in reference to his app, LargeLots.org, with which users can buy empty lots in Chicago from the city for just $1.
But Large Lots is just one of Demond’s many tech ventures. He was Managing Director of the Smart Chicago Challenge, “a civic organization devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology.” Previous to that he was Tech Organizer at Teamwork Englewood and created Englewood Codes, a summer program teaching youth how to build websites.
Most recently he founded CoderSpace, which “creates engaging learning experiences to inspire a new generation of leaders and innovators. At CoderSpace, youth ages 14-17 learn to code, collaborate on local client projects and develop leadership skills for a digital world.”
Outside of the tech industry, Demond has also volunteered with Obama for America and been a coordinator with the YMCA of Chicago. As BNC sums it up, “Demond’s dual passions for coding and community – focused especially on young people – started early and have been put to increasingly powerful use.”
Michael Franklin (TN-4)
-Missionary in Honduras
-HS Spanish teacher
-VP of Franklin County Education Association
-BNC Republican nominee pic.twitter.com/efL2fkQMKs
— Brand New Congress (@BrandNew535) February 22, 2017
Michael Franklin is also running as a Republican and while he has a page on crowdpac.com, it doesn’t currently have much information on it. Michael has devoted his life to the service of others, as a Missionary in Honduras, a high school Spanish teacher at Franklin County High School, and the Vice-President of the Franklin County Education Association. His educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Millsaps College in Mississippi and a Master of Arts degree in Women’s Studies from Texas Woman’s University in Texas.
In Honduras, Michael has served as part of the Alabama Honduran Medical/Educational Network (AHMEN) Servants in Faith and Technology (SIFAT) Initiative, which “is a Christian ministry that partners with volunteers and organizations to share the love of Christ in Honduras through medical relief and educational development.”
BNC concludes their email summary about Michael with this quote:
Empowered by his strong Christian faith, his equally strong belief in single-payer healthcare and renewables AND his fiance (congratulations!), we don’t think there’s a more honest, hard-working, and credible threat to the existing Republican incumbent out there.
— Justice Democrats (@justicedems) February 22, 2017
According to the BNC email, Ronjonette Harrison has earned a Masters in social work and pursued a Ph.D. as well. She has devoted fifteen years to clinical social work in the foster care, welfare, and detention facility systems. She has also volunteered with the Big Brother Big Sister program in Buffalo and is a foster parent herself.
According to her LinkedIn page, Ronjonette is an “Experienced Mental Health Clinician, Administrator, and Consultant. Expert in Criminal Justice and Child Welfare Matters.” She has also worked to help the youth avoid incarceration and advocated to “Raise the Age” of criminal responsibility in New York, which is currently 16.
Ronjonette has also worked as executive director of HEART (Helping Empower At-Risk Teens). She is quoted as having said, “I consider myself an advocate, a voice for individuals and families grappling with abuse, victimization, and marginalization.”
BNC agrees, saying in their email that Ronjonette “is a true advocate for children and with her on our side, America’s children will indeed have their voice heard in government.”
These nominees represent multiple walks of life, from veterans to teachers to coders, and as a result, they better represent the American people. This is what BNC had in mind when it set out to find its candidates.
That said, as it currently stands, most of the information on these nominees is only publicized in emails from Brand New Congress. You can’t find out more about them on the Brand New Congress website. They don’t have campaign sites as they are not actual candidates, yet. However, since they are the first nominees rolled out in BNC emails I imagine these nominees are at the top of the list. I’m hoping they make their candidates and their information more accessible soon.
I believe that BNC needs, if they are going to be successful, surrogates for their cause that are actual candidates making the case for themselves and their collective platform. This is especially crucial given these candidates have no political base and must build everything from the ground up due to their infancy in the political domain.
If there is someone awesome you want to nominate for Brand New Congress there is still time.
Correction: An earlier version of this article states that Brand New Congress had “received well over 1900 nominations.” This number was incorrect. The correct number was over 9000 nominations and we have updated the article accordingly.