|Gloria Reyes (c), a member of the MMSD School Board, along with Oscar
Mireles (l-r), Salvador Carranza and Juan José López has formed
Adelante to support candidates of color seeking elective office.
Adelante Political Action Group
Equity in Representation
By Jonathan Gramling
When Gloria Reyes, a Madison deputy mayor, ran for the Madison Metropolitan School
District board in Spring 2018, it was relatively unknown territory for a Latino candidate. The
terms of Santiago Rosas on the Madison city council and Juan José López on the Madison
school board had ended over a decade ago and lots had happened since then. Michael
Flores ran successfully for the school board partially because he was a union member and
had a natural constituency. In some ways, Reyes stood as an individual.
“With Gloria, we were basically learning as we went, what to do and what not to do and
how to do it,” said Salvador Carranza. “We really had to put a lot of effort and our own
personal finances into the campaign to be able to support Gloria because we believed in
Gloria. One of the first things that happened was I went and asked Gloria if she would be
willing to run. We thought that was extremely essential to have someone like Gloria on the
school board. That’s why I asked her to run. It was a leap of faith for Gloria. And she asked
how she could be supported. I said that we had a group of people who could support her.
But to tell you the truth, I didn’t know how difficult it would be. I thought, ‘Oh yes, we can do
this and that.’ We really didn’t know how to run campaigns.”
The school board race was Reyes’ first campaign and she knew little on how to run a
campaign. Due to the perfect alignment of several factors — and her own leadership
qualities — Reyes scored an improbable victory and now sits on the Madison school
board. Reyes’ election had a big impact on the Latino community.
“I think Gloria’s victory was very inspiring, not only for herself and the people around her,” said Oscar Mireles. “I think it energized a lot of other people. And the
reason why there is a big conglomerate of candidates is because of Gloria. She was able to demonstrate that if you are a great candidate and you have principles
and experience, you can take on an incumbent with endorsements and still come out victorious. Her victory crossed a lot of cultural barriers with her experience
with the police and city government. That brought a lot of people together, including Latino and African Americans. Her victory awoke a lot of people who were kind of
thinking, ‘I’m interested, but I am going to stay out of the arena.’ If Gloria hadn’t won, it would be a leap of faith to run.”
Reyes realized that perfect alignment would not always present and wanted to save candidates of color the time and effort of learning about campaigns on the run.
“We encountered many barriers throughout the campaign process such as how to use a VAN data base,” Reyes said. “Who are the campaign managers out there? It
was a whole different system that we are not necessarily exposed to based on our relationships with other people. And so, because of those barriers that we saw
over and over again during that campaign, we came together at the end and debriefed about our experience throughout the campaign. And we felt that we wanted to
come together and do something to help support candidates of color and alleviate a lot of those barriers for them.”
Out of that meeting grew Adelante, Forward in Spanish, a new political action group that will support candidates of color in Madison area political campaigns.
“I think the community has been talking about doing this for the last 20 years,” López observed. “Gloria has made it a reality. I know Salvador, Oscar and others in
the community have always talked about doing a political action group to work with Latinos in particular. Gloria experienced firsthand what happens. And her
leadership and her vision are what brought it into a reality. And I don’t want to exclude anyone. There are several others who have thought about doing this. Gloria
decided to take it on. And now we are here to identify potential Latinos to run for office, support some of the ones who are out there and are not connected and build a
coalition with the Black community elected officials as well so that we can support each other versus having to depend on a political party or another group as well.
We want to raise the money. We want to raise awareness. And we want to support Latino candidates like Gloria if she seeks re-election or a higher office. We want to
have the structure in place, the money in place and the people trained in place to help her run a mayoral race or to help Julia Arata-Fratta run a state assembly race.
That’s what we want to do.”
As they began to organize themselves at the beginning of the spring election campaign, Adelante held a candidates training for candidates of color and people hoping
to work on campaigns.
“We did a training just recently where it ran through what to expect when you are running for office; what you should be doing from knocking on doors to where to get
your literature,” Reyes said. “It talked about your kitchen cabinet and who should be on there. It talked about how to get the VAN data base and what to expect from it.
It talked about filing your papers and how many signatures you should have. We talked about all of the details that would have helped me so much in my campaign. It
talked about logistics and the system of running a campaign. We had 12 people attend. We had some candidates of color there, but we had Latino and African
American individuals there who wanted to learn maybe for a future political office run or wanting to serve on a kitchen cabinet, wanted to learn the process of
supporting a candidate of color. We also did a training on the VAN, Voter Activation Network, data base, which is a voter data base. People had their computers and
went through how to work the system. It was very helpful.”
Adelante plans to offer a full range of support.
“We will support candidates in a number of ways, Reyes emphasized. “We are seeking donations to Adelante to invest in our candidates of color and their
campaigns. We would support candidates financially. But the most important thing is really the people support and the feeling of having knowledgeable people who
understand the process around them during their campaign drive. We will be our own capacity with Adelante in building that, by offering the trainings. It would be
financial support. It would be the endorsement. And it will be the trainings and also the resource of a staff person who will assist candidates. It will be logistical
things. She’s been through this. She has the experience, from doing the campaign literature to the fundraising to the planning.”
In terms of endorsements, Adelante has endorsed six local candidates.
“We have endorsed Christin Albouras, Julia Arata-Fratta, Ali Muldrow, Ananda Mirilli, Kaleem Caire and Shiva Bidar,” Reyes said. “We had some candidates who
came to the training and that may be all of the support that we can give them. But we will have a fundraiser for all of the candidates who are running for office.”
Although the group has a Spanish name and is composed of Latinos who have worked in some capacity in the political process, Reyes emphasized that the group
wants to have a big tent.
“Our emphasis is candidates of color,” Reyes said. “We want to support our African American community in this process, so we support Ali Muldrow and Kaleem
Caire. We want to build the capacity within our African American community on how to run a campaign as well. We want to bring them on board. We do have a couple
of people who are interested in becoming part of the board because we do want a wider representation on the board. We’ll be seeking individuals from the African
American community to be a part of Adelante.”
Carranza emphasized that they will be only supporting solid candidates who have a proven track record in supporting issues important to communities of color.
“The bottom line for Adelante is to support candidates who have demonstrated — not just say — engagement with our community, have made decisions about
helping our community, kids and families,” Carranza said. “We have criteria for why we are going to endorse candidates. With those criteria, it is candidates who
have demonstrated a commitment to our communities who will be supported.”
The formation of Adelante, while a dream for years, has happened rapidly. Its leaders felt that this election was a watershed moment for the participation of people of
color in local races.
“Adelante is here now because now is the time to do something,” Mireles emphasized. “We can’t wait for another election cycle. We have to jump on it now. It’s
working. I met this young African American candidate and I want to support him. But if it weren’t for Adelante, I would have never met him. I would have found out too
late. And we wouldn’t have been in the position to kind of help him. We’re doing the right thing at the right time.”
Adelante! The time is now.
For more information about Adelante, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit them on Facebook at Adelante Madison.