Dan Morris Leaves Red Horse to Start ‘Progressive Cities’ Firm

Dan Morris, the communications director for the prominent Democratic consulting firm Red Horse Strategies, is leaving to start “Progressive Cities,” billed as “a new strategy firm designed to help drive the national urban agenda” and sustain the progressive momentum of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Mr. Morris, who has built a reputation as a high-energy flack with an occasionally creative approach to advocacy, told Politicker his firm would have a unique vision.

“The key thing is the branding and the framing: progressive vision, urban strategies for the moment. Cities are very much going to drive the future of the country. Cities are where … the vast majority of people in the country work, pursue their dreams,” he explained in a phone interview yesterday. “There’s really been no strategy firm in New York or anywhere in the country as far as I’m aware that’s founded on this premise. It’s about occupying a niche that others haven’t.”

The shop, he said, would start with just him and look to expand in the future. Clients immediately jumping on board include progressive groups like EffectiveNY, Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change. It will be based in the Sunset Park, the Brooklyn neighborhood Mr. Morris also calls home.

And although his clients and allies have strong ties to Mr. de Blasio and Ms. Mark-Viverito, Mr. Morris directly hinted at broader ambitions.

“I’m not going to get into the details just yet on that but I’ll say this,” he said, maintaining the focus would be on the five boroughs, which he cited as the center of the progressive movement nationally. “There’s some very interesting things happening in Los Angeles in the next two or three years. Very interesting things in Philly.”

“Not to overstate but my phone’s been ringing,” he added.

The release set to go out later today announcing the firm is filled with supportive quotes, including from Mr. Morris’ old firm, Red Horse, and the head of the retail workers’ union, for whom Mr. Morris worked before that.

View the full release below:

New Firm to Help Drive the National Urban Agenda

Progressive Cities: A New Urban Strategy Firm Doing Public Relations, Campaigns, Issue Advocacy and Organizing in NYC, LA and Beyond

***First-of-its-Kind Firm to Help Groups and Leaders Sustain the Progressive Moment of Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Shape the New National Urban Consensus***

New York, NYDan Morris, a veteran Democratic consultant, campaign strategist, labor operative and communications specialist, announced today that he is launching Progressive Cities, a new strategy firm designed to help drive the national urban agenda.

Progressive Cities is the first and only strategy firm in the country to respond to the fact that what happens in New York City under Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will have national implications. The firm will tailor public relations, campaign plans, issue advocacy, and organizing efforts to this specific reality.

Morris will run Progressive Cities as Founder and President, partnering with a variety of organizations and leaders, including several strong supporters of Bill de Blasio for Mayor and Melissa Mark-Viverito for Speaker, to translate the new wave of progressivism in New York City, Los Angeles, and other cities into policy and legislative change. He will also focus on elevating new progressive urban leaders, electoral candidates, and artists.

For the past decade, Morris has been involved in many campaigns and initiatives in New York City and nationally to advance a progressive urban agenda. The firm will build on that track record, and tap into a broad and diverse network of relationships and contacts.

“Mayor de Blasio is right to want to forge a new national urban consensus. Against the backdrop of a broken and divided Washington, cities are expanding the scope of what government does to improve our lives, and to make our economy stronger and fairer. I am excited to work with leaders and groups committed to achieving real progress on the issues that will define the future of our country. I am humbled and honored to have the support of countless friends, allies, and trailblazers who helped create our moment. It’s a moment that many people have been building toward and want to sustain,” said Morris.

“It’s the right move at the right time. When Dan told me his concept for Progressive Cities, I immediately got it. I know Dan will bring a lot of passion, intensity, and intelligence to this new venture. I’m glad to have Dan playing a hands-on role in my communications and media strategy. I looking forward to helping Progressive Cities grow in the months and years ahead. The firm has great stuff planned, and is on the path to long-term success,” said Bill Samuels, the prominent Democratic activist and founder of EffectiveNY, who was a very early supporter of Bill de Blasio for Mayor.

“Dan has been in the trenches with us for years. He approaches media, communications, and political strategy from the standpoint of what our organizers, leaders, and members need to be successful, and that sets him apart in the marketplace. We’re proud to have Progressive Cities play a big role in a new citywide campaign we’ll be rolling out soon. Stay tuned,” said Jonathan Westin, Executive Director of New York Communities for Change (NYCC), a group that was a leading early supporter of Bill de Blasio for Mayor, and Melissa Mark-Viverito for Speaker of the New York City Council.

“Dan played a significant role in my City Council campaign, and he is now a trusted friend with a real pulse on the priority issues at the heart of the new progressive vision for the City Council. The rationale behind Progressive Cities reflects Dan’s commitment to helping the progressive movement partner with New York City government to enact an agenda that will strengthen the most vulnerable communities, and set a higher standard for public policy and legislation,” said Ritchie Torres, the first openly gay person of color from the Bronx elected to the New York City Council, a strong early supporter of Melissa Mark-Viverito for Council Speaker, and the only freshman Council member to be appointed to a Committee Chair and to a position of leadership.

“Dan has been a strong voice in the progressive movement in recent years, and Progressive Cities is an exciting new chapter for him and for leaders, groups, and organizers committed to justice, fairness, and equity. During my City Council campaign, Dan helped me tell my story as an immigrant gay person of color, and he has continued to offer insight as I lay out my priorities. What happens here in New York City government in this new progressive moment will impact what happens in other cities and states,” said Carlos Menchaca, the first Mexican-American and openly gay person of color from Brooklyn elected to the New York City Council, and a strong early supporter of Melissa Mark-Viverito for Council Speaker who was appointed Chair of the Immigration Committee.

“This is a great next step for Dan. He’s developed a powerful vision and brand for Progressive Cities, and the firm has a lot of growth potential. Over the past couple of years, Dan was a real asset to many of our most successful electoral, labor, and advocacy clients. He was a valued member of our senior team, and we wish him nothing but the very best. We plan to collaborate on campaigns in the near future, and maintain a close working relationship,” said Doug Forand, Founding Partner at Red Horse Strategies.

“Dan has been a key player in some of our biggest campaigns in recent years. He is a top-notch media mind and communications strategist, with a keen understanding of how news coverage impacts politics, organizing, and policymaking. His new firm will be very involved in our effort to expand living wage legislation in New York City, and in our other high-priority campaigns. Progressive Cities will raise the bar for what labor unions, progressive groups, and electoral candidates can expect from a strategy firm,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), UFCW, a leading progressive labor union in New York and nationally. 


 About Dan Morris and Progressive Cities — Urban Strategy for Our Moment

Dan Morris is the Founder and President of Progressive Cities, an urban strategy firm for our moment. Dan is a veteran Democratic consultant, campaign strategist, labor operative, communications specialist, and writer with deep expertise in urban policy, electoral politics, media relations, coalition-building, and grassroots movements.

Most recently, Dan was Managing Director of Communications and Public Affairs at Red Horse Strategies, a campaign strategy firm where he helped elect to the New York City Council the first openly gay people of color from the Bronx and Brooklyn, and generated national media attention for campaigns on Sandy rebuildingeducation, and other issues.

Before that, Dan was Director of Communications at the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), UFCW, where he ran a press operation that was instrumental in the passage of living wage legislation, the successful WalmartFreeNYC campaign, the unionization of undocumented car wash workers, the launch of a national coalition of LGBT, civil rights, and labor groups to reform the stop and frisk policy, and the winning of better contracts for workers at the Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s flagship stores that were covered extensively by the retail,fashionmainstream, and LGBT press.

Earlier, Dan was Director of Communications at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, where he helped influence the agendas of elected officials, electoral candidates, advocates, organizers and labor unions, turning the framing and findings of analysis and research into storylines for campaigns and advocacy on paid sick leavegood jobsimmigrant rights, mass transit, and the role of mayors in shaping a national urban agenda.

His 2009 urban policy book, From Disaster to Diversity: What’s Next For New York City’s Economy?, co-edited with noted journalist Jonathan Hicks, offered “bold ideas for New York City,” according to a page 2 news story in The New York Daily News.

Years ago, Dan managed public relations at a tech start-up focused on improving urban education. And he cut his teeth as a publicist and press officer at The New School, where he secured high-impact news coverage of arts, culture, education, and policy initiatives.

Since his 20s, Dan has written widely on urban policy, labor, politics, economics, culture, and books for numerous publications, including New York Daily NewsThe NationSan Francisco ChronicleBookforumAlbany Times-Unionand The Brooklyn Rail.

His has also contributed some poems and essays to City Belt, the web and print precursor to the Jersey City Independent.

In addition, Dan has taught philosophy and literature at Eugene Lang College the New School for Liberal Arts, and been active in New York City’s independent music scene.