Black History Month - NDTC Candidate Spotlight | National Democratic Training Committee

The journey to equality and sufficient representation in American politics for many communities has been – and continues to be – a long and arduous battle. 

During this year’s Black History Month, we want to feature some of the African Americans who have fought for equal representation in their communities 

These trailblazers pave the way for this generation’s leaders to continue the fight and achieve even higher levels of success and opportunity.

Today we are incredibly excited to spotlight three incredible candidates.


Robin Stephens

Isiah James

Julian Taylor

Intended 2020 Candidate for District Court Judge

Candidate for Congress

Candidate for County Commissioner

Ann Arbor, Michigan

9th District of New York

Beaver County, Pennsylvania


Tell Us About Yourself
  • Robin: “I am born and raised in a small town in Michigan and moved to Ann Arbor in the late 80’s for job opportunities.  After a divorce I found myself a single parent in need of education to support my family.  I took my first college course at 30.  I earned associate degrees in Criminal Justice and Liberal Arts from Washtenaw Community College.  A  Bachelor’s in Communications and a Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan.  My Juris Doctorate was earned at the University of Toledo College of Law, part-time at night while working full-time and raising kids. I have spent the past 20 plus years giving back to my community, advising students at the University of Michigan and proudly serving as a Washtenaw County Public Defender..”
  • Isiah: “I am running for Congress in the 9th Congressional District in New York in order to bring the struggles of working-class central Brooklynites to the halls of the Capitol in Washington D.C. As a husband, a disabled veteran, a grass-roots community organizer, a social justice advocate, a mentor and the proud son of an immigrant family, I have spent my entire adult life in the service of others, fighting on behalf of those that have had their voices drowned out by the rich and the powerful.”
  • Julian: “My name is Julian R. Taylor and I’m running for on of three Commissioner seats Beaver County, Pennsylvania. I grew up in Rochester, Beaver County and now reside across the Ohio River from there in Monaca. I graduated from Penn State Beaver Campus where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice and won three PSUAC championships as the caption of the men’s basketball team. Then, I enlisted in the United State Navy where I served honorably for five and a half years including in the Persian Gulf where my ship was awarded the high honor, the Spokane Trophy. While currently enrolled at Robert Morris University in the master’s of Organizational Leadership Program, I am working at Hussey Copper as the Interim Waste Treatment Manager in Leetsdale, PA. I am a father of a son and daughter and a lifelong member of Second Baptist Church in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.”
Who Are Your Political Role Models?
  • Robin: “All women of color who strive to do better every day are my role models.”
  • Isiah: “Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower, Shirley Chisholm, Barack Obama, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Nelson Mandela”
  • Julian: “Barack. Hussein. Obama. I came of political age in 2008. The community spirit and togetherness he filled us with will forever be a part of me. Hope and change, anyone?”
What Issues Are Most Important to You?
  • Robin: “The most important “issues” for me are the people who find themselves involved in the Criminal Justice system, both the harmed and the person accused of causing the harm.  I have been a Criminal Defense attorney for over 20 years and I know how involvement in the Criminal Justice system can change a person’s life. My goal will be for those who come before me to be better and not bitter.”
  • Isiah: “Affordable Housing, Healthcare as a Human Right, Tax Reform, LGBTQIA+ Equality, Campaign Finance Reform, Voting Rights, Immigration Reform, Disabled/Differently Abled Rights, Gun Control, Criminal Justice Reform, A Federal Living Wage, Women’s Rights, Tuition Free College, Affordable Child Care, Combating Climate Change, Rebuilding our Nation’s Crumbling Infrastructure, Caring For Our Veterans, Wall Street Reform, and Caring For Our Seniors
  • Julian: “Over thirteen-thousand veterans call Beaver County home, including me. I’m seeking this office to ensure those that live in my county are able to have sufficient access to the services they need to live comfortable lives. Ensuring greater funding for veteran affair programs is truly the least we can do to support those who sacrifice so much for our safety and freedom.”
What Inspired You to Run for Office?
  • Robin: “The lack of diversity in our Judiciary has inspired me to run. Understanding the impact the Justice system has on communities of Color, I feel an obligation to do what I can to address that impact in positive ways”
  • Isiah: “My wife. She’s my constant source of inspiration. She has dealt with some pretty serious medical issues over the past few years and knowing that there are millions in this country that are still denied healthcare really put into perspective for me that our system is broken. From top to bottom there are fundamental structural changes that need to be made in order to ensure that America works for the many, not just a few”
  • Julian: “A significant lack of leadership and corruption has inspired me to run for office. Recently, a large industry has begun to build in our community but without addressing my neighbors’ concerns. Most of the negotiation was and is done behind closed doors. Also, the discrepancies in our county budget are alarming. I want to bring back leadership with integrity, transparency, accessibility. Just as I served nobly in the Persian Gulf and too will nobly serve my county as Commissioner.”
What Changes Do You Hope To Make in Your Community?
  • Robin: “I hope to make positive changes in my community by honoring the struggles of my ancestors by living my life with integrity, honesty and respect for my community.  I will be a positive role model, in a position to effectuate change, that people of color rarely see in our Justice system.  I hope to bring programs and initiatives that will bring the courts more in line with the needs of the community.  All with a focus of accountability and restorative justice.”
  • Isiah: “I hope the change I can leave behind if I’m elected to serve can be a change not just for now, but a lasting one. A change for future generations of kids that look just like me and come from similar upbringings as me. A change for the better. A change that is positive and one that encapsulates a spirit of community and inclusiveness; a change that will ring true to the hopes and aspirations of those whom I had served.”
  • Julian: “I will give a voice to those who have been long underrepresented in our government: single mothers like mine, suburban communities of color, rural low-income communities, to name a few. I will represent their needs and concerns in development endeavors and promote union-led projects. I will defend equity to ensure county workers have fair wages and benefits and uphold their rights as voters. We all seek the same thing to live healthy, comfortable lives and to access the services we need.”
What Does It Mean to You To Be Able to Serve in Office as a Member of the African American Community?
  • Robin: “It means honoring the spirit of the struggle of my Ancestors to run for Judge.  I understand the sacrifices that have been made to bring the African American voice to the tables that have the most negative effect on our community as a whole.”
  • Isiah: “Everything.  I am the son of a Jamaican day-laborer, who only received a 5th-grade education before he came to America to pick apples. Because of my parent’s hard work and sacrifices, their baby boy is now a candidate for the United States House of Representatives, I mean can you believe it? In this country, the Story of African-Americans hasn’t always been one that the majority of the country was willing to read. Our story is full of anguish and despair, it’s full of bloodshed and heartache; knowing this most choose not to even pick up the book that is our history. I feel sorry for them. Because, while our story is filled with those things it is also a story of hope and determination, a story of unbelievable grit and perseverance and determination. It is a story of contribution and dedication; a story of heroines and patriots. It is a story of never giving up in the face of unspeakable odds; It is truly the story of America!
  • Julian: “To have the opportunity to serve my African American community makes me proud. The communities in which I grew up have allowed me to thrive. Every member has made it possible for me to succeed. Now, I can show them the outstanding leader that I have become and support them in return. My community stands behind me and I, them.”
What Advice Do You Have for Other Members of the African American Community Considering a Run For Office?
  • Robin: “My advice to other African Americans who are considering running for office is to do it in honor of the struggle and to definitely use the training offered by NDTC.  It is invaluable.”
  • Isiah: “DO IT! The timing will never be “just right”, your situation will never be “perfect”, yet the issues you truly care about and the problems facing you and your community are still there. I know it may seem hard, and the odds may seem long, the challenge too great, and the journey long but things only seem impossible to those who aren’t willing to put in the hard work to affect change.”
  • Julian: “I will pass on advice I received from a recently elected African American legislator: ignore those who doubt you and embrace those who believe in you and your message. It is of no use to waste energy feeling angry or ignored; it is far better to surround yourself with a supportive team and move forward together with them. What she meant is ‘ignore your haters, embrace your supporters.’”
How Has NDTC Helped You?
  • Robin: “NDTC training was invaluable in my run for office in 2016.  I ran against a 20 year incumbent Judge and garnered more than 40% of the vote.  I don’t believe I could have achieved that without the training that I participated in through NDTC.”
  • Isiah: “In more ways than I can even count. Like many first time candidates for office or those who are thinking about running for office; I didn’t have a clue where to start, but I knew I wanted to make a difference in my community and in my country. By happenstance, I stumbled upon the NDTC and because of them here I stand today. NDTC training helped me figure out how to navigate my way through the steps to becoming a candidate, how to set up my campaign committee, even how to fundraise and. Without NDTC I don’t think I would have even taken the leap of running.”
  • Julian: “My recent training has been a wonderful asset. I, my campaign manager, and our volunteers learned a more thorough overview of the campaign process and the facets that we need to assemble. It has allowed us to take a fresh and more informed outlook on these next few months before our contended primary. The presenters had a depth of experience that we haven’t found elsewhere. The training event connected us to new consultants and new volunteers that we are looking forward to making a part of Team Taylor.”
Equality and Opportunity

It’s candidates like these who really embody the tireless and inspiring efforts of their community who have fought, and continue to fight, for equality and opportunity for all.

NDTC is proud to support so many incredible, influential political candidates who work to represent their communities and make this country a better place.  

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Lily Doctoroff

Lily was raised in Medfield, Massachusetts, a small town outside of Boston. She currently lives in Chicago while she attends college at the University of Chicago studying Political Science and Religious Studies with a concentration in American Politics. She is a member of the Communications team at NDTC.