The South's Rising Progressive Stars

They will most likely become national figures in the next few years.
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Despite the recent conflicts in Charlottesville, Virginia and other cities, there is a progressive movement in the South whose grassroots efforts are steadily making a difference. The region has long been home to venerable institutions such as Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center and Atlanta-based Anti-Defamation League. But there are exciting new upstarts as well. Here is a look at five up-and-coming progressive stars who will most likely become national figures in the next few years.


Michael Hansen is the executive director of Gasp, a Birmingham not-for-profit organization dedicated to clean air. Gasp tracks pollution and engages in climate change and clean energy initiatives. In his recent run for U.S. Senate, Hansen told Alabama Political Reporter:

As an unapologetic progressive, I’m talking about pocketbook issues that cross party lines. Healthcare, wages, and the environment resonate with real voters...

Hansen did not win the Democratic primary for one of Alabama’s Senate seats, but he did succeed in bringing progressive issues to the fore of that election.


Jon Ossoff achieved national fame in the recent election for U.S. House in Georgia’s 6th District. Although he lost the contested election, Ossoff brought awareness of his district’s issues to Democrats across the nation, raising a very large amount. Analysts from different organizations researched Ossoff’s loss and agreed on one reason: Georgia is still a conservative state. The young politician and former documentary filmmaker has gained valuable experience and will continue to advance progressive causes including civil rights and civil liberties.


Lucy Stein is advocacy director for Progress Texas, a 501(c)(4) organization advocating for progressive ideals and policies. The Austin-based group monitors the political landscape and opposes policies and behaviors which it views as backward. Progress Texas increases civic engagement state-wide and is a state-run affiliate of the ProgressNow national network.

Stein focuses on income inequality, abortion access, and LGBTQ equality. Before joining Progress Texas, the Texas native worked with a D.C.-based good government group, in the U.S. Senate, and as press secretary for a congressional campaign. Lucy Stein holds an undergraduate and law degree from UT-Austin.


State Representative Deb Butler is serving her first term and represents North Carolina’s District 18, which includes Brunswick and New Hanover. Representative Butler opposed the controversial HB2 bathroom bill and is using her legal background to try and repeal it. Butler supports raising the minimum wage, ending gerrymandering, and other progressive causes.


Kyle Criminger is co-chair of South Carolina Progressive Network, which leads in grassroots organizing, Medicare expansion advocacy, and other statewide movements. Crimminger is also the network’s membership liaison and spreads the organization’s mission. He is a graduate of The Modjeska Simkins School for Human Rights and is a key part of the network’s Democracy 101, Racial Justice, and New Legacy Projects.

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