While the main faction of the women’s march spent the week fending off criticism after one of its founders praised a homophobic, anti-Semitic octogenarian, one of its offshoots celebrated its first victories of the midterm primary election cycle.
March On, a group founded by a set of organizers who left the larger Women’s March group to focus more on electoral politics, endorsed three national candidates in Texas’ primaries on Tuesday.
All three women—Gina Ortiz Jones, Lillian Salerno and Lizzie Fletcher—made it to a runoff.
All 56 candidates the group endorsed in local races all advanced to run offs or the general election.
It’s a small step, but March On’s leaders say it’s a big step toward channeling the energy from last year’s march in Washington into electoral victories in this year’s midterm elections.
“In general, it’s pretty phenomenal to see how the legacy of the women’s march movement is playing out in elections—that it’s actually impacting elections, ” said Vanessa Wruble, the executive director of March On.
“That’s exactly what March On… came in to do.
“When we came together as March On, we decided that the only thing we can do right now is to impact midterms I think that we are feeling pretty good,” she said.
Melissa Fiero, the head of March On Texas, said the local movement grew out of the Austin-based march. Now, she uses the state group’s more than 17,000-member Facebook page and other social media accounts to help get out the word for their endorsed candidates and encourage followers to get to the polls.
“We actually endorsed 56 women in the state of Texas and every single one of them either made the primary run-off or is the nominee, so we’re really proud of that,” she said, noting that the local endorsements ranged from state representative up to governor.
Fiero said the leaders of March On Texas are meeting over the weekend to plan how to keep their members engaged to make sure their candidates get across the finish line in the run-off on May 22.
Andi Pringle, head of Fight Back PAC, March On’s fundraising arm, said there will be more candidate endorsements in the near future, but how many largely depends on the wishes state-based affiliates.
“Some of the affiliates are really active and want endorsements, some just want to do a lot more  c3 work,” she said. “We are a grassroots organization, we are national because the sister marches wanted a more national presence.”
Other endorsements have been also issued-based. Pringle said March On recently polled their members after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida and found that gun reform was chief among their concerns.
As a result they have designated 12 current Republican members of Congress as the “Blood Money Dozen” as a result of the money they’ve accepted from the National Rifle Association.
The group is laser focused on turn-out—particularly among progressive women, young people and black voters—with affiliated large and small planning marches, meet-ups and even a dance party or two on Election Day as groups head to the polls together to vote.
“We know if everyone votes, we win every single race, that’s really important to keep in mind,” Wruble said.
March On organizers, like Wruble, have repeatedly stressed they are not a rival organization to the larger Women's March Inc. effort , but an electoral politics-focused compliment.
Still, their progress comes the affiliated but more well-known group, Women’s March Inc., has spent the better part of two weeks on the defensive following revelations that one of it’s founders, Tamika Mallory, attended a an event where Louis Farrakhan, the leader of Nation of Islam, spouted hateful, outrageous rhetoric about Jews, gays and transgender people.
Mallory had previously posted a photo of herself on Instagram with Farrakhan and the caption: “Thank god this man is alive and doing well. He is definitely GOAT” (greatest of all time).”
Nine days after the story first broke, and after a series of defensive tweets from Mallory and two of its other leaders, Women’s March Inc. released a polite statement distancing itself from Farrakhan hate speech.
“Minister Farrakhan’s statements about Jewish, queer, and trans people are not aligned with the Women’s March Unity Principle,” the statement said.
“Our external silence has been because we are holding these conversations and are trying to intentionally break the cycles that pit our communities against each other,” it continued. “We have work to do, as individuals, as an organization, as a movement, and as a nation.”
And on Thursday, Mallory posted an essay on TVOne, explaining her presence at the Saviour’s Day event where Farrakhan was featured and seemed to acknowledge the pain her presence there had caused.
“I have heard the pain and concerns of my LGBTQAI siblings, my Jewish friends and Black women,” she wrote. “I affirm the validity of those feelings, and as I continue to grow and learn as both an activist and as a woman, I will continue to grapple with the complicated nature of working across ideological lines and the question of how to do so without causing harm to vulnerable people.”
A spokeswoman for the Women’s March Inc., did not return requests for comment. The scandal comes at a critical time for the march, which had planned to have a major role in the 2018 midterms.
At an anniversary rally in Las Vegas—called Power to the Polls—the Women’s March organizers repeatedly shamed white women for not showing up to vote for Democrats in 2016 and in the special elections on 2017—but also registered people to vote, as organizers announced coming rallies in key swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania as well as Texas.
No updated schedule has been released.