In Wisconsin, Elmikashfi’s main opponent, Kelda Roys, had strong name recognition after multiple campaigns for federal and statewide office. Elmikashfi, meanwhile, was a college senior at the time who had to build relationships with voters from scratch. “There was this idea that I was a joke to a lot of people,” Elmikashfi says, claiming the media largely ignored her campaign. “There was a respectability politics where I only made the news if I said something that was construed as negative because I was standing up for Black lives.” Still, Elmikashfi’s first-time campaign managed to garner the support of teachers’ unions, Planned Parenthood, and Omar, eventually earning 13,220 votes to 19,801 for Roys.
What did election night look like? What came next?
Losing an election isn’t easy, and different candidates have different ways of bouncing back. For López, it was cooking and biking to reconnect with her community and neighborhood. Siegel tells Teen Vogue that his days after the election entailed “spend[ing] a lot of time at home, licking my wounds, and playing with my kids — playing Legos, getting outside, working in the garden, going to the pool — things like that.” Elmikashfi says jokingly, “I think I took a week to just sleep because I was so exhausted.”
That said, the work goes on, and all three candidates, after taking time to rest, have jumped back into public service, pursuing alternative paths to continue serving the communities they ran to represent. Siegel, along with another former candidate, Julie Oliver, founded Ground Game Texas (GGTX), an advocacy organization dedicated to winning progressive victories in Republican-controlled Texas. GGTX is predicated on the mantra of “workers, wages, and weed,” themes Siegel argues could win popular support in districts like his.
In cities across Texas, GGTX is currently organizing local ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana, raise the minimum wage, and implement Green New Deals at the local level. “These are extremely popular issues that are more popular than the Democratic Party,” Siegel says. “If Democrats leaned into them and made it so you cannot think of those issues without thinking of Democrats — to me, that’s the path to victory.”
Elmikashfi did end up working in the Wisconsin legislature, just not how she’d originally imagined. She now serves as chief of staff to Representative Francesca Hong, with whom she campaigned in 2020 on a joint slate. In this capacity, Elmikashfi is working to help implement the same progressive policies she ran on in 2020, drafting policies for economic and climate justice.
Elmikashfi tells Teen Vogue that she continues to face the same kind of judgment and bias she says she experienced during her campaign: “There were legislators that took bets on how long we’d work together, because they didn’t think that we would be professional…. We have to work three times harder to be respected, no matter what we accomplish.” Elmikashfi has also continued to be what she calls a “megaphone” for her community, joining local newspaper Isthmus as a columnist.