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Progressive groups form 'Progress Missouri' to prepare for 2012 elections

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 7, 2011 - Today, a coalition of various progressive groups is launching Progress Missouri, the latest state online affiliate of the national ProgressNow.

The executive director of the state operation is Sean Soendker Nicholson, a web designer who has been the major blogger and operator of Firedupmissouri.com, the Democratic-leaning website founded by former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan, D-Mo., and Democratic consultant Roy Temple.

Nicholson said in an interview that he will continue to be an occasional volunteer blogger on Firedup, but that others also will write or manage the site.

In his new job, Nicholson points to Progress Missouri's description of itself as "a multi-issue progressive advocacy organization that combines cutting edge online organizing and communications with rapid and hard-hitting earned media strategies."

(Click here to read today's release announcing the launch.)

The coalition is still be formed, but Nicholson said it already includes some labor unions, environmental groups and those representing the gay and lesbian community.

Progress Missouri is among more than a dozen such state affiliates with ProgressNow, many of which are in swing states deemed politically crucial to the 2012 elections, nationally and statewide.

However, Nicholson said it would be inaccurate to cast Progress Missouri as an election-focused operation. "Progress Missouri is going to be focused on a lot of issues in 2011, 2012 and beyond," he said. "There will be some intersection with people on the ballot, but electing candidates isn't our primary purpose."

Unlike Firedup, much of Progress Missouri's work will be behind-the-scenes, Nicholson said, as it seeks "to engage citizens from across the state around issues of immediate state or local concern."

"Our goal is to provide a strong, credible voice for solutions to critical challenges facing Missouri's working families and communities," said Nicholson in a statement today, as the web site went live. "We'll also be there to hold politicians accountable when they side with greedy CEOs and their campaign checks over the needs of hard working Missourians."

Progress Missouri will highlight other Missouri progressive blog sites, he said, as well as collect and provide information to news outlets and progressive groups on various issues.

Today's launch centers on the defense of Medicare, the federal program that provides health insurance for the those 65 and over.

Progress Missouri also will lobby the legislature to drop proposals deemed anti-worker, said Nicholson, such as last session's unsuccessful efforts to ban closed-union shops and automatic deduction of union dues.

A key focus of Progress Missouri appears to be coordinating and communicating a common progressive message, which now has been seen as a common Democratic weakness.

Republicans and their allied groups have long been seen as better, as a rule, in sticking to a common message and amplifying it. That approach already is being credited with helping the GOP counter public resistance to budget-cutting proposals, most notably the Republican call for transforming Medicare into a voucher-style program.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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