Senior Vice President
I’m a policy guy. I’m passionate about identifying economic and social problems and inequalities and developing creative legislative and regulatory solutions to address them. And I’ve been pretty successful. I’ve helped enact over 60 state, federal and international laws and regulations.
These include the successful passage of the first U.S. civil rights law in over twenty years, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), a federal law protecting Americans from genetic discrimination.
But things have changed on Capitol Hill and in many statehouses since.
It’s become impossible to start a conversation. It’s become impossible to get a hearing. Our elected representatives have become increasingly less accessible, and increasingly less willing to welcome proposals that don’t fall within the confines of an agenda set by their party elites.
My experience is far from solitary. My colleagues in policy based organizations across the country have become frustrated in advancing agendas that address the challenges our country faces.
I came to Open Primaries because I want to engage the partisanship in our legislative bodies and help change the dysfunctional culture that bars progress. I want to get our government healthy again; ripe for innovation, new ideas and new solutions.
I am able to translate all of my work at Open Primaries to my life. As an actor, I now strive to continually question, to make choices that are creatively inspiring to me even if it's not the career advice the casting director would give, to always choose collaboration over a predetermined acting choice. I recently had a director say: "decisions an actor has made can be deadly.
So often we watch actors who have made a decision for their character, rather than a character making those decisions in the moment. Decisions kill discovery." I think that same notion applies to everything but especially politics. We need to support an environment of discovery. If we close ourselves off from new discoveries or conversations we prevent innovation.
This movement has lead me to lead a life where you question, you use your imagination more in problem solving, you communicate more fully, you empathize more freely and you remain optimistic. Optimistic because while there are still some wrong choices, there are so, so many right choices out there that you just don’t know about yet.
Jessie Fields, MD
Board Member and National Spokesperson
When I finished my medical training in the late 1980’s I began practicing medicine in the poor Black community of Lawndale on the Westside of Chicago. There I got to know the social and economic conditions of poverty and how those conditions determine a person’s health. It became acutely clear to me that I had to go outside the clinic and become involved in the political and social development of the community. I searched for ways to give the community a stronger voice to improve housing, economic development, education and health care.
Breaking down the barriers to full democratic participation at the grassroots level, empowering ordinary people and building partnerships and bridges between all people: including people of color and white, rich, middle class and poor, attracted me to the open primaries movement. I am proud to serve on the Board of Open Primaries and help to give all Americans full and equal voting rights in all stages of our elections.
Director of National Outreach
I am a lifelong democracy advocate and independent. Initially involved in party politics (a Young Republican in High School, then a left-leaning Democrat in early college), I came to see the real problem in America: partisanship. It wasn’t that the “wrong” party was in charge, it was that we had a political process that was entirely shaped by what’s best for the political parties, and not the American people.
In the 1990s I fought tirelessly for Campaign Finance Reform, believing as many did then that “getting money out of politics” would solve the problem. Instead everything kept getting worse. I came to see that it was not the amount of money in the system, but who controlled it that was the real issue. And the simple answer there was that the party establishments controlled every aspect of the process: from the money, to who got to vote in the primaries, to gerrymandering nearly every election district so that the elections didn’t matter in the first place. It was during this time that I became an independent.
I founded an organization of independent voters with the help of those who also saw the destructive effects of partisanship. We fought for over a decade to bring the Top Two Nonpartisan Primary to California along with much needed nonpartisan Redistricting Reform. Finally, in 2008 and then again in 2010, we did the impossible: we beat the party establishments and won those reforms. California, once the most dysfunctional state government in the country, has transformed into a government doing the people’s business. Now, in this dire time of need, we must lead this fight to every other state in the country.