2021 Endorsements

James Aguilar

Ran for: California State Assembly (District 18)

James Aguilar ran for the California State Assembly in District 18. In a special election on June 29, 2021, he earned 2% of the vote finishing sixth in a field of eight candidates. James is a student activist who, while running for office, is pursuing a BA in political science to become the first in his family to earn a 4-year college degree. When finishing high school he ran for and won a seat on the San Leandro School Board becoming the youngest and third openly Gay person to serve on the board. James is unapologetic about his ambition and youth. He says, “We have to think about the future and invest in serious and bold initiatives to address California’s racial, environmental, and social issues.” His policy priorities include passing California’s Green New Deal, enacting a statewide single-payer healthcare system, increasing the minimum wage and expanding workplace protections, implementing a public financing option for state and local elections, converting private utilities into publicly-owned services, and making California’s public four-year colleges and universities tuition-free. James is an atheist.

Mark Downey

Running for: Virginia House of Delegates (District 96)

Mark Downey is running for the Virginia House of Delegates in District 96. He initially pursued a career in chemical engineering, but his interests quickly turned to medicine and he has celebrated his 20th year in practice as a pediatrician. Dr. Downey will use the same code of ethics he uses in medicine as an elected official. He will listen to the problems of his constituents and research issues of concern, propose common sense and deliberative evidence-based solutions, and be honest and transparent with regard to his decisions. He ran for this seat in 2019 and earned 46% of the vote in this politically shifting district. Downey’s policy priorities include addressing economic inequality, investing in quality public education including early childhood education, increasing healthcare access, enacting common sense gun safety laws, and fighting climate change. Downey was raised in a Christian household and attended a Lutheran church, but he does not currently identify with any specific denomination.

Karl Jaeger

Ran for: Wisconsin State Assembly (District 89)

Karl Jaeger ran for the Wisconsin State Assembly in District 89 in a special election on April 6, 2021 earning 37% of the vote. He is a long-time resident of Northeast Wisconsin and is an elected Supervisor on the Marinette County Board. Jaeger is passionate about improving his district and Wisconsin by changing the current legislature from the inside out. With this election he will end the legacy of elected officials in this district who put “big-money corporate special interests before the interests of everyday Wisconsinites” and serve as a representative who puts people first. For example, his district is the site of one of the Country’s largest groundwater PFAS contamination plumes, and the Wisconsin legislature has failed to act to protect the health and drinking water of his community. Jaeger will fight so that all Wisconsin communities “have a clean environment, affordable healthcare, great schools, and good jobs.” Jaeger is non-religious.

Andrew Kennedy

Running for: Cincinnati City Council (OH)

Andrew Kennedy is running for the Cincinnati (OH) City Council. The election will be on November 2, 2021. Andrew is a first-time candidate and is eager to use his journalism and marketing background to run an effective campaign and his communication skills to represent the interests of his constituents. He says, “I certainly don’t know all the answers; however, I do know that treating people with respect on a daily basis, listening, learning, building trust, and empowering others to achieve success are the most important things I can do as a servant of the people of Cincinnati.” Andrew is passionate about his family, community, and local sports. His wife is a social worker and his young daughters raise rabbits. Andrew was raised a Lutheran, but now identifies as a freethinker and secular humanist.

Audra Killingsworth

Running for: Apex Town Council (NC)

Audra Killingsworth is running for re-election to the Apex Town Council in the November 2 general election. Apex is a fast-growing municipality just a few miles southwest of Raleigh, North Carolina. Her first-term on the Council revolved around three policy priorities: healthy community, healthy economy, and healthy environment. She says, “I work hard to lead with compassion rooted in data driven policy.” Audra is a secular humanist and is a member of the American Humanist Association and the Triangle Freethought Society.

Jesse Laymon

Ran for: New York City Council (District 26)

Jesse Laymon ran for the New York City Council in District 26. In the primary election on June 22, 2021, he earned a little over 2% of the vote (first round) finishing thirteenth in a field of fifteen candidates. Jesse has built an impressive career as a progressive organizer and activist. He has worked for equitable employment programs, organized campaigns to save after school programs, advocated for a state millionaires tax, fought to close fossil fuel power plants, and built multi-racial and cross-class alliances to close the jails on Rikers Island, end cash bail, and defund the NYPD. As a member of the City Council, Jesse will work for a sustainable New York by addressing climate change, helping small businesses rehire and grow, building affordable housing, fully funding public education, improving public transit, and building a robust and restorative social safety net. As for religious identity, Jesse says, “I avoid identifying my system of belief in a way that centers on what I do not believe, but rather I choose to identify with what I do believe in: democracy, civil rights, progressivism, urbanism, and science.”

Mark Levine

Ran for: Lt. Governor of Virginia

Mark Levine ran for the Lt. Governor of Virginia finishing third in a field of seven candidates earning 11% of the vote in the June 8 Democratic primary. Levine is a strong supporter of church state separation. When working for Congressman Barney Frank in 2002, Levine was instrumental in killing President George W. Bush’s Faith-based Initiative legislation (HR 7) in the Senate. The legislation had passed in the House, and Bush used Executive Orders to implement portions of this failed legislation. Levine is currently a three-term member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He is a strong advocate for protecting reproductive rights, ending the war on drugs and legalizing marijuana, addressing climate change, enacting common sense gun violence prevention, promoting LGBTQ equality, and protecting survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, and child abuse. Levine is Jewish.

Jalen McKee-Rodriguez

Won: San Antonio (TX) City Council (District 2)

Jalen McKee-Rodriguez won the San Antonio City Council seat in District 2 with 63% of the vote in the June 5 runoff. In the May 1 election Jalen came in first (26% of the vote) of the twelve candidates on the ballot. Jalen is an educator in the public schools and everyday he sees the issues that confront students and their families. He says, “As a teacher I prepare my students for the world. As an elected official I want to prepare the world for my students.” Jalen will enhance public participation in local government by being responsive and facilitating the involvement of constituents, neighborhood associations, and community partners. He will protect San Antonio neighborhoods by expanding public education and recreation programs, supporting local small businesses and community food gardens, slowing and preventing gentrification, establishing a zoning process that transfers power from developers to residents, and implementing crime prevention and restorative justice initiatives. He has been endorsed by the Victory Fund, Run for Something, and the Texas Organizing Project. Jalen grew up in a non-religious household and identifies as agnostic.

Desiree Ontiveros

Ran for: U.S. House of Representatives (Louisiana 2)

Desiree Ontiveros ran for U.S. Congress in Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District in a special election on March 20, 2021. She finished 7th of 14 candidates in this crowded contest. She is a small business owner and community leader advocating for equitable economic recovery and opportunity, reforming the political system, and improving public education. Ontiveros was raised Catholic and now identifies as spiritual. She is running for Congress because “We can do better than the status quo. We need to rethink and reform. We need to repave the path to the American Dream.” Desiree believes economic opportunity and social justice reform have stagnated because it doesn’t directly impact our current leaders. “These days, it’s not enough to just be a Democrat. We need leaders who will actually fight like their livelihoods depend on it, because OUR livelihoods depend on it. This district has never been represented by a woman of color. This is our chance to enact change and make history.”

Kara Pitek

Ran for: Virginia House of Delegates (District 31)

Kara Pitek ran for the Virginia House of Delegates in District 31 finishing fourth in a field of four candidates earning 5% of the vote in the June 8 Democratic primary. Kara has been employed for more than a decade as a procurement specialist. Working with federal, state, and local governments, she has learned how to “cut the red tape” to help governments and agencies fulfill their goals effectively and efficiently. Kara also has a long history of striving for social justice through action. Kara currently serves as a board member on the Prince William Housing Board, community outreach director for NOVA Family First, and treasurer for Casa BruMar Foundation. Her policy goals include reforming the criminal justice system, requiring paid sick and family leave, increasing broadband access, creating affordable housing, improving public education, providing better mental health services, and expanding cost-effective public transportation. Pitek is culturally Jewish.

Katie Sponsler

Running for: Virginia House of Delegates (District 66)

Katie Sponsler is running for the Virginia House of Delegates in District 66. Sponsler won the Democratic primary election on June 8, 2021 with 60% of the vote. As an U.S. Air Force veteran and Park Ranger, Sponsler has a long history and deep commitment to public service. She ran for this seat in 2017 and continued her campaign for change by working with interest groups and lobbying elected officials to advocate for veteran services, healthcare, racial justice, gun violence prevention, police reform, public education, labor rights, and the environment. Sponslor is running for office so she can advance these policies on the floor of the House of Delegates. She says that since she is such a frequent presence in the state capital that, “I may as well have an office.” Sponsler was raised Roman Catholic and is now an agnostic.

Andrew Zwicker

Running for: New Jersey State Senate (District 16)

Andrew Zwicker is a scientist, legislator, and atheist, who is running for the New Jersey State Senate in District 16. Currently a member of the General Assembly, Zwicker is the far too rare scientist-legislator. He is a physicist and Head of Communication & Public Outreach at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. His victory in 2015 was the biggest upset in New Jersey when he won by less than 100 votes. His re-election wins in 2017 and 2019 were by much more comfortable margins. This year Zwicker is running for a state Senate seat held by a four-term Republican, who is not seeking re-election. As a scientist, Zwicker promotes public policy using evidence-based decision making, not ideology, and is focused on rebuilding the state’s infrastructure and economy, protecting the environment, and protecting our democracy.