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By Alec Shea
Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. DSA’s perspective on the 2016 elections can be found here. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.
During the past year, Bernie Sanders has called for a “political revolution” and urged his supporters to run for office at the state and local level. Helping to build a democratic socialist political force, DSA members have stepped up to run for political office around the United States. Their campaigns represent the next stage of the organizing that began with the Sanders campaigns, and their successes will reflect the strength of socialist organizing beyond national politics. In the months and weeks leading up to elections everywhere from Maine to Texas, DSA members will be volunteering and donating to help elect candidates who will fight for economic and social justice. DSA members running for office include:
Tom Wakely (Texas)
Texas’ 21st Congressional District, which covers northern San Antonio, last elected a Democrat in 1974. DSA member Tom Wakely is hoping to change that. Tom, who manages a hospice for veterans, won the Democratic nomination with 59% of the vote and will face Republican Lamar Smith in the general election. Wakely is a long time activist who started out as an organizer helping Cesar Chavez organize boycotts. He hopes to combine the energy generated by the Sanders campaign in Texas with the support he has received from unions and progressive organizations to win election in what is often considered to be a safe district for Republicans. His opponent is a climate change denier who chairs the House Science Committee. In November, Tom is hoping to prove that even the parts of the country considered to be Republican strongholds can foster a political revolution.
Mike Sylvester (Maine)
Maine’s reactionary governor, Paul LePage, has warned voters that his state’s legislature is being influenced by a “foreign socialist ideology.” Mike Sylvester is hoping to show that democratic socialism is right at home in Maine’s communities. Building on years of experience as an organizer for SEIU, Mike won the Democratic primary race in Maine’s 39th district, which includes Portland’s east end, with 74% of the vote. Running as a democratic socialist and a Berniecrat, he has chosen to publicly finance his campaign and accept no private donations. If he wins in November, Mike hopes to fight to maintain public control of Portland’s water, tax hotel stays to fund improvements to housing and create strong incentives to promote the installation of solar panels.
Rob Frisina (Oregon)
Rob Frisina was inspired to run for office by Bernie Sanders’ call for his supporters to mobilize at the state and local level. A new DSA member, Rob is a former marine who helped organize the Sanders campaign at a grassroots level in Oregon. As a volunteer, he helped coordinate one of Sanders’ largest rallies, which drew more than 20,000 people, as well as many smaller events. Running in a competitive primary, Frisina has emphasized his support for single-payer healthcare and opposition and support for campaign finance reform.
Debbie Medina (New York)
Debbie Medina is no stranger to standing up to established powers on explicitly anti-capitalist grounds. She hopes to continue this work as a democratic socialist member of the New York State Senate. As an advocate for tenants in her native Brooklyn, she has spent her whole career organizing around the issue of affordable housing. Her campaign for New York’s senate has been based on building upon the work she did as an activist; organizing rent strikes and advocating for rent stabilization and rent control. Her opponent in the Democratic primary has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from organizations opposed to tenants’ rights. Medina does not shy away from declaring that capitalism is at the root of the exploitation she fought as an organizer. There is no doubt that she will continue to advance the radical agenda that has driven her throughout her life as a state senator.
Alec Shea is a DSA member from Boston MA and a student at Wesleyan University.