Days after the campaign to recall Aaron Persky successfully unseated the Santa Clara County judge this summer, the group of women who led the recall decided what they would tackle next: politicians across the country who have not stood firmly against violence against women.
They decided to form a political action committee to target local and state elected officials and candidates who have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct or have expressed views contrary to women's rights. (They recalled Persky for what they saw as an unjust and lenient sentence for former Stanford University student Brock Turner, who was convicted of sexual assault.) They wanted to harness the energy of the recall campaign, which chair Michele Dauber said motivated voters — especially young women, people of color and low-income voters — to have a nationwide impact.
"The point of the PAC is to make violence against women a voting issue," said Dauber, a Stanford University law professor and now chair of the Enough is Enough Voter Project. "We need to find a way to get information at an early stage to voters, to make sure voters are fully informed and give them an opportunity to hold candidates accountable for their views on sexual violence."
The political action committee was inspired in part by research on the political implications of the #MeToo movement, Dauber said. Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, found millennial women are likely to vote against candidates who have been accused of sexual misconduct or do not take sexual violence seriously.
The committee's launch coincides with a riveting example playing out on the national stage, as Judge Brett Kavanuagh's Supreme Court nomination hangs in the balance after Palo Alto professor Christine Blasey Ford testified that he sexually assaulted her in high school.
The political action committee's focus will remain on hyperlocal and state legislative races, Dauber said, conducting research, providing public information and fundraising against politicians who have a "poor track record" on sexual violence.
The committee is focusing on five candidates for 2018, all Republicans, including Steve Von Loor, a North Carolina Republican Congressional nominee who has been accused of domestic violence; Minnesota Congressman Jason Lewis, who is running for re-election and has made demeaning statements about women; and David Byrd, a Republican incumbent state representative in Tennessee who has been accused of sexually abusing his former high school basketball players.
The committee is eyeing Democrats for the next primary, Dauber said.
She said they're being selective in which candidates to highlight, choosing races in which there is a better option for voters — a candidate who has a record of respecting women's rights. For candidates who have been accused of sexual misconduct, they're also taking into account the credibility of the allegations, requiring that they have been vetted by an independent body, whether it be the courts or a "very credible piece of investigative journalism," Dauber said.
The Enough is Enough project website invites voters to report local candidates and elected officials by sending links and documents for the committee to review. The committee will not be conducting its own investigations into allegations, Dauber said.
The committee hopes to raise a minimum of $250,000 by the Nov. 6 election.
"Women are 51 percent of registered voters in this country," Dauber said. "We really do not have to accept a institution in which this kind of harm is not taken seriously."
The women who organized the judicial recall with Dauber are now leading the Enough is Enough Voter Project. The group is also working with Women's March Sister Network, Feminist Majority, Orchard City Indivisible and Joseph Trippi, a Democratic political strategist who was chief media strategist for the candidate who beat out Roy Moore, accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct, in an Alabama Senate race last year.