2019 Steering Committee Nominees

Every year, DSA-LA comes together to vote for a new Steering Committee to help lead the chapter. The first step is learning about the candidates who are running! You can learn more about how the Steering Committee and elections work in the chapter's bylaws, especially in Articles VII, VIII, and IX

Here is the timeline for the election process:

October 29th

November 9th

  • Deadline for member statements

November 10th

  • The Nominations Committee will be hosting a Candidate Forum, where members can meet and talk with candidates to learn more about them. It will be hosted at the UTLA at 3303 Wilshire Blvd #10, Los Angeles, CA 90010 from 2 to 4 PM. Please RSVP for the forum here. 
    United States The event will be live-streamed for members who can not attend, and questions can be submitted in advance.
  • Voting opens, members in good standing will be reached out to via email. Elections will be run by a secret ballot using the Borda count system for Steering Committee at-large, and by a simple plurality for Recording Secretary, Communications Coordinator, Treasurer, and YDSA Coordinator.
  • Your ballot for Steering Committee at-large will ask you to rank your candidates in order. Your top choice will receive 6 points, your second ranked choice will receive 5 points, your third-ranked choice will receive 4 points, so on and so forth, with candidates below 6 receiving zero points. The six candidates with the highest point totals from all ballots will be elected to the Steering Committee. 

November 17th

  • Voting closes at midnight PST

November 18th

  • 2019 Steering Committee announced!


If you are interested in submitting a member statement (either in favor or against a candidate) you can use this form here.

If you have any more questions about the process, please email it to the Nominations Committee at elections@dsa-la.org.

Here are the candidates and their statements, separated by the different positions. The chapter will elect (six) At-Large Officers, a Recording Secretary, a Communications Coordinator, a Treasurer, and a YDSA Coordinator.  The order was decided by a random number generator.

Steering Committee at-large

Carley Towne

Kellen Dane

Jack Suria Linares

Willetta "Willie" Waisath

Francisco Cendejas

Olivia Gamboa

Meghan Walsh

Kyle Scott

Recording Secretary

Steve Couch *

Communications Coordinator

Arielle Sallai *


Nickolas Ballard

Ezra Pugh

YDSA Coordinator

Ari Ben Berrong-Huber *


* Steve Couch, Arielle Sallai, and Ari Ben Berrong-Huber are running unopposed for the positions of Recording Secretary, Communications Director, and YDSA Coordinator, respectively. Per chapter bylaws, they will be declared elected by acclamation.


Candidate Statements

Carley Towne

Running for: Steering Committee at-large

Why would you be a good local officer for DSA-LA?

As an active DSA-LA member for the past two years, I’ve taken the lead on organizing several events which were important in bringing new members into the organization and building the leadership capacity of current members. Most recently, I helped organize the Beyond Roe event which had the goal of outreaching to people in Los Angeles who are unfamiliar with, but are sympathetic to, the unique socialist critique of power in this country. I also helped organize DSA-LA’s contingent at the 2018 Women’s March.

As chair of the Anti-Oppression committee I helped put on several culture forums to help ensure that DSA-LA is a welcoming space for everyone.

I’m particularly proud of being a founding member of the socialist feminist education group, which has helped develop our critical capacities as socialists and feminists.

None of this would have been possible without the deliberate relationships and structures in place which made me a better organizer. Like many in our chapter, I came to DSA with very little formal political experience but was able to learn and grow because of programs and mentors in the chapter. As a local officer, I would like to continue this work, not only through mentoring but by helping to strengthen and deepen formal structures to help expand the capacities of existing members as well as recruiting new ones. One program that I think is doing this important work is the mobilizer program. As a lead mobilizer, I’m helping re-establish a structure that would create a more sustainable pipeline of new leadership by equipping people with organizer skills and preparing them to take on more responsibility in the chapter. This should be the lifeblood of our organization and it’s work I’d hope to continue as a local officer.

What is your vision for the evolution of DSA-LA in 2019?

In 2019, I want to see DSA-LA grow as a fighting force on the left. So far we’ve done a good job of not only being strategic coalition partners, but leading our own campaigns. I think we should continue to strengthen our capacity to do political work across Los Angeles County by building leaders within our organization and growing our organization to broader demographics and geographic regions. This requires equipping our members with the tools necessary to become effective organizers in our organization. 2019 is not an election year, so it presents a great opportunity to build our base through community organizing, meaningful participation in labor movements in LA, and forwarding a socialist analysis within existing left movements. Doing so will allow us to take full advantage of the episodic upswings in interest in DSA that we’ve seen over the past two years, and begin to grow more intentionally and sustainably.

Kellen Dane 

Running for: Steering Committee at-large

Why would you be a good local officer for DSA-LA?

I joined DSA-LA in Summer 2017 — immediately after the A12 attacks at the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville. I’ve worked on political campaigns in the past but seeing the rise of fascism gave me the sense of urgency that I needed to recognize that now is the time to seek out alternatives to the political system and institutions that have legitimized the current political climate. DSA-LA has been a good place to explore those alternatives.

Since joining DSA I have committed most of my work and time to the Housing and Homelessness, AgitProp, and Political Education (where I currently hold the Coordinator position) committees. I honestly enjoy the administrative tasks that have come with the coordinator position and would be happy to step up my administrative responsibilities. With the goal of helping our members learn about and develop socialist praxis, the first major project I bottomlined was our chapter’s digital library that now contains a few hundred texts. Since then I have created graphics for a variety of our chapter’s events and projects, helped coordinate events, and most recently helped develop the Class On Class teach-ins.

Hopefully during my time in DSA I have demonstrated that I am a reliable organizer and committed to the work. But I also must give credit to the chapter for giving me the opportunity to participate in facilitation trainings and organizer workshops that have given me the confidence to take on the tasks I have.

The role I would take as an at large member of the Steering Committee is that of a delegate and administrator whose responsibilities are to ultimately help and give members the tools they need to implement their ideas. I believe the multi-tendancy structure of DSA is vital and allows us to learn from each other as organizers and equally important is the autonomy of committees, working groups, and caucuses within our local chapter. People need to be able to organize around their own interests to stay involved, but also be provided direction when needed.

As a disabled person capitalism is unique to me in that it has basically rendered me unemployable. The silver lining... I have the time to commit to our socialist project. I enjoy doing this work and would very much like to continue with the additional responsibilities that come with a position on the Steering Committee. For many, DSA has offered hope and a place for all of us alienated by capitalism and as things get potentially worse, I will do my part for that to remain true.

What is your vision for the evolution of DSA-LA in 2019?

2018 brings us to the end end of another election year. We’ve put in a lot of hard work into the campaigns for Prop 10 and Charter Amendment B — but the fight for socialism has really just begun. I believe that the most pressing issues facing Los Angelinos today are the current housing situation and the climate crisis that will exacerbate existing social problems. With 60,000 of our neighbors living on the street and with 60% of renters cost burdened, DSA-LA must continue its fight for housing justice now and until housing is no longer a tradable commodity. To this end we must continue our fight for universal rent control post Prop 10 and make a commitment to radical tenant organizing with an effort to develop neighborhood and tenant councils to empower our communities. In the long fight for socialism, we need to build our own institutions and mutual aid networks — inside and outside the chapter — to challenge the state and to stay clear of liberalism’s orbit.

However, no task we take on can succeed in the long term without addressing the destruction of the planet. Millennials and younger generations have grown up knowing that climate disaster is imminent. There may have been a time when incremental half measures were appropriate, but we need action now and an ecosocialist analysis must be implemented in future DSA-LA projects. This battle is no longer about saving the planet, it’s about saving us all.

Coming off an election year is exciting — the chapter has the opportunity to get our hands dirty and experiment with our organizing. As the DSA-LA branch system develops — and to ensure its success — we as a chapter should commit to giving our members the tools and skills we need to be successful organizers so we can effectively implement them into more localized efforts and concrete projects to advance the struggle. To do this, I would like to see frequent educational events and trainings to build member capability and capacity so we can successfully act on our ideas — we should lean hard into Putting The Organizer Into Socialist Organizing, one of the priorities we agreed upon at our annual convention. The success of the Political Education Committee’s Class On Class shows that the community wants to hear more about socialism and get involved when there is an opportunity to learn. So let’s give them what they want! Ultimately I see our chapter as being an incubator/laboratory for learning and implementing organizing techniques — offering frequent trainings in facilitation, street medic, starting co-ops, direct action, public speaking, base-building, etc.

With increased levels of member capability and capacity, our goal in LA should be for a socialism here and now. Let us get rid of the notion that a transition period is necessary. I want to emphasize that we don’t have to wait for socialism — we can realize it within our chapter. The institution we build must reflect the socialist future we wish to see. When the first blow hits late capitalism, it will ripple across the world. As members of DSA-LA, we can deliver that first blow.


Jack Suria Linares

Running for: Steering Committee at-large

Why would you be a good local officer for DSA-LA?

I believe I have both organizational infrastructure knowledge and political experience on the U.S. left to help guide the chapter onto its second phase. I have represented our national international committee in the Sao Paulo Forum, which is made up of many Latin American Left Parties. I help organize political education workshops in our national youth conferences and in this chapter. I support our monthly hangouts in MacArthur Park, where I was born and raised in a largely Central American community.

This upcoming cycle will be the first real test where we stand in the Los Angeles political world. There will be the school board election and national presidential primaries, but more broadly the question on immigration policy and U.S. foreign policy. 2019 will come with lots of pressure to form a statewide federation as well as prepare a strategy on how we pressure the CA Labor-Latino machine. While growing the organization via the branches and organizing campaigns is important, density is an insufficient measure of success. 2019’s victories and losses will present an external reflection on the chapter’s capacity to influence and pressure the city to support working class demands through various pressure points.

What is your vision for the evolution of DSA-LA in 2019?

My vision for DSA-LA for 2019 is that we establish a Spanish Language Branch organizing committee and shape a policy for how each branch will integrate the largely spanish speaking community to participate in the chapter. This is crucial to changing the political component of the chapter and its relationship to the working-class spanish speaking immigrant community.

Second, I believe that the branch policy needs to provide more concrete language to codify organizing committees for each branch. Coordinators is a good step, and crucial to steering each branch. The areas in which those branches are located should elect their leaders in the organizing committees, not only two coordinators. This will help reduce administrative work from steering and provide more space for steering to engage in political work for the chapter.


Willetta "Willie" Waisath

Running for: Steering Committee at-large

Why would you be a good local officer for DSA-LA?

Within DSA-LA, I’ve served as a member of the Interim Steering Committee, the 2018 Steering Committee, and as a leader within the Political Education Committee. I’ve meaningfully contributed to building our organization’s bylaws, our conflict resolution infrastructure, our first annual convention, designing a framework for our chapter’s first set of priority resolutions and supporting their implementation.

Throughout all of this work, I’ve learned from long-time and new organizers, and if re-elected to the Steering Committee, I would be committed to both sharing lessons from my experiences in the chapter and listening to and learning from new leaders.

I’m deeply commitment to our chapter--as a member of the Steering Committee, I’ve been committed to growing our movement, supporting other leaders, and working to ensure that our organization is a deeply democratic one that recognizes the freedom, rights, and capacity of all of our comrades.

What is your vision for the evolution of DSA-LA in 2019?

The past year was a critical period of sustainability and renewed growth for our chapter. As a member of the Steering Committee and Co-Chair of the Political Education Committee in 2018, I worked alongside comrades to ensure that the wave of enthusiasm for socialist politics that followed the 2016 election developed into ownership of our shared struggle for liberation and power for all people.

Over the past year, we’ve taken important steps to raise our membership’s collective level of participation and knowledge. We’ve also identified and engaged in strategic fights that have the potential to shift power from capital to people and build our own capacity as organizers. We’ve taken these important steps but we know that we are not yet the organization that we need to be—we are not yet an organization capable of enacting meaningful political change within our own massive city and beyond.

In 2019, DSA-LA must become an organization with stronger infrastructure to support our ambitious goals and member-led campaigns. As a member of the current Steering Committee, I’ve meaningfully contributed to the implementation of two of our chapter’s priorities — the repeal of the Costa Hawkins Act, and branch-building across LA County. Through this work, I know our organization does not yet have the infrastructure or capacity to mobilize and strategically engage with all of our members, let alone the broader working class.

In 2019, we must be able to pair our ability to plan canvasses and actions across the city with the capacity to individually organize our members to meaningfully engage in these canvases and actions. In 2019, we must pair our branched chapter meetings with thoughtful, comprehensive plans for engaging communities that represent the full diversity of Southern California and intentionally ask them to join our shared work across the city.

As members of the working class, we should take seriously our responsibility for realizing the potential of this current political moment to build towards a new socialist society, and we must ensure that our struggle for a better world is a strategic one. It would be a privilege to be re-elected to the Steering Committee to continue to contribute to this important work on behalf of the members.


Francisco Cendejas

Running for: Steering Committee at-large


Why would you be a good local officer for DSA-LA?

Before becoming active in DSA-LA, I had spent a decade organizing with unions and housing rights organizations in the area. Our organization is still fairly new in LA’s left and progressive world, and I’ve seen it as my obligation to connect DSA to various other allies and future members. Humbly, I believe my experience and knowledge of LA is valuable, and I intend to continue sharing it with the chapter whether elected to the Steering Committee or not.

2018 marks my twelfth year in the labor movement, having worked mostly as an organizer, and also a strategic researcher. This experience has been deeply instructive to my work in DSA. It is my vocation to build organizations, both in my paid work and within DSA.

Part of organizing is deliberately moving people beyond their doubts and fears and towards a vision of collective empowerment. This is fundamentally the same process whether talking to newly radicalized young people, or hospital workers, or teachers, or truckers. At their best, labor unions are organizations of ordinary people who collectively are capable of accomplishing extraordinary things. Unapologetically, this what I believe DSA-LA can be.

What is your vision for the evolution of DSA-LA in 2019?

2019 promises to be a pivotal year for the Left in Los Angeles, as we see the consequences of increased politicization and polarization around us. Large scale workplace struggles are on the upswing after literally decades of consistent decline; the targeting of immigrant workers continues and sharpens; electoral contests have afforded broader awareness and adoption of radical political ideas, all among other factors. To seize on the political moment, there are many things we should commit our organization to next year -- these are but 3.

Deliberate and intentional growth, particularly among young people of color, with at least 1 new branch.

There has never in Los Angeles’ history existed a mass, multi-racial socialist organization -- today, DSA-LA is not this either, but of all political forces in the region I believe it is best positioned to become it. To make DSA-LA into the organization that we want it to be, we must reach 2000 dues-paying members in good standing, with particular attention and focus on people of color. Growing DSA-LA is not a vanity, or an empty recruitment exercise - if we don’t commit to growing our organization, then either we mistakenly believe that we are capable of carrying out our political objectives as we are currently constituted, or our political objectives are simply empty words.

Establishing regional branches in 2018 was an important step toward this -- one which I’m proud to have worked on -- but it was only the first step of many. Improve new-member onboarding, continue with chapter-wide focus on key campaigns.

Across the country, DSA has exploded in membership, while also struggling to maintain consistent and even involvement by these new members. Our chapter in LA has not been immune to that. Chapter-wide priorities were introduced this year, and I believe they’ve been very effective at giving new DSA members and the DSA-curious something clear to quickly become a part of. As opposed to presenting our new members with a long menu of committees to choose from, chapter-wide campaigns make for an easy opt-in, usually with actions that they can participate in within two weeks. Prop 10 work has been very effective for this, and we ought to find a way to continue one way or another after November.

Increased member protagonism, deeper member-to-member engagement.

We must re-examine what it means to say that our members are our most powerful resource, and that collective action is our most powerful tool. We’ve done admirable work in coalition with other orgs, but I believe that we have not done nearly enough to mobilize our own members in support of our objectives. How many of our own members themselves are tenants facing unjust rent increases? How many of our members actually voted to support Prop 10, registering to vote if necessary? How do we know? One of the shortcomings of our organization, as I see it, is that we often believe that somebody else is the “right” political actor - we want to support others in their fight against their landlord, we want to walk picket lines in support of someone else, etc. We have over a thousand members, each of which can not only be allies to someone else’s struggle, but in truth should be protagonists of their own. To spur this, we need members to know other members, to create more connections locally, and to both spread out and reach deeper, in part by doubling down on making DSA-LA branches the centers of our local work and outreach.

More strategic coalition-building and organization-to-organization partnerships, encouraging collaboration between our issue committees, and markedly improved transparency and disclosure from the organization’s leadership are a few among other important topics for our org. We have so much to do, and it will take hundreds of us, and many others who aren’t already active in our organization.

Olivia Gamboa

Running for: Steering Committee at-large

Why would you be a good local officer for DSA-LA?

I have a decent amount of experience in socialist organizing that I’d love to put to use for DSA. I began organizing with Occupy Oakland for their general strike, then helped organize rallies and civil disobedience actions for public education and ‘the millionaires’ tax’ (which became Prop 30) in college and helped people get on the freeway for #BLM protests. I also worked as an organizer for UC Student-Workers Union, gathering support for contract strikes, and now have been helping with canvassing in DSA.

While that sounds (maybe?) like a lot of experience, I only joined DSA a year ago. DSA is by the far the most organized, efficient, and friendly group I have ever been a part of. I am constantly surprised with members who assume good intentions and ‘call in’ rather than out; members who are willing to follow a union’s lead rather than insisting on having ownership over everything; meetings where it’s okay that we didn’t vote on every single decision; polite debates; and really our amazing ability to get work done with friendly discussion and without bickering! I realize I have a lot to learn from all of you, and expect to learn from veteran steering committee members how to keep everything so smooth and inviting!

One of the things I love about DSA is that we do have structure, like this steering committee. Most of the other groups I’ve been a part of, especially Occupy, were so allergic to structure that they couldn’t get anything done. Every single decision was voted on by whoever happened to be around. So we’d spend meeting after meeting trying to decide how to make decisions, and only those with tons of free time could have a real say because eventually, everyone else would have to go home in time for work the next day. My favorite story is the 2am meeting where a couple of people set a quorum for future meetings of 1000 people. Of course no future meeting managed to get that quorum. But then, those future meetings didn’t have the quorum necessary to vote to change quorum, or the common sense to realize that the point of organizing is the work we do, not how we decide how to decide to do it. The group died in long meetings about quorum and voting procedures.

This is all just to say that I like it that DSA has rules and structure that allow us to be thoughtful, have respectful dialogue, and also be effective. I want to be a part of maintaining our structure so that we can continue to do our creative and efficient work. I think leadership positions, when held properly, are more of a responsibility and service than privilege or source of power. I happen to be lucky enough to have some experience, and much more importantly, enough free time, to be a responsible organizer, and want to be of service to you all :)

What is your vision for the evolution of DSA-LA in 2019?

I want to see DSA foster long-standing coalitions with other organizations and unions around Los Angeles. Together, I hope we can continue to work around campaigns, pass legislation, and maybe even run local candidates. We do great work, and so do many other organizations around the city. Often, we’re doing the same work, totally parallel, but unaware of each other. We would be stronger if we could have coalitions and partnerships that last beyond a single campaign, so that, together, we could span LA.

This isn’t just my random idea. The Movement for a Peoples’ Party aims to do just this - create networks of local power to organize for legislation and run their own candidates. I’m not suggesting that we be the weird third party in huge elections where we only stand a chance of doing harm. I’m suggesting that, in local politics, where it’s often democrats running against each other anyways, that we try promoting our own legislation and running our own candidates as a coalition of left groups and unions.

Of course, we are already doing some of this. For example, we endorsed the candidate Ankur Patel with a coalition of groups. I am curious how it would have gone with Ankur if he had run as the “Peoples’ Party” candidate, endorsed by a federation of DSA, ACCE, SAJE, etc., rather than as one more potentially corporate democrat.

We also endorsed Yes on 10 with a coalition of groups. However, a lot of times, a coalition like this falls apart when the single focus disappears. Regardless of whether Prop 10 passes or not, we still have a lot of fight left. I hope we can keep working with our current coalition to pass legislation for rent control and/or affordable housing construction. We could encourage the coalition to remain and grow as a long-standing ‘housing’ coalition that would continue to organize for housing rights. Along this model, I would hope to encourage long-lived coalitions for all our organizing.

I would get optimistic and say that someday these coalitions could join and see the ways that all these different issues are stitched together. However, I haven’t seen many successful ‘unite the left’ attempts. Maybe once we can get coalitions to last beyond a single campaign, we will be able to see the way towards a multi-issue federation, or even a real political party.

For now, I hope we can focus on making decisions in coalitions at all. We’re going to have an easy chance to test ourselves coming up! There’s currently a vacancy on the LA Board of Education (a technically nonpartisan position), and the charter goons are guaranteed to run someone. We want someone decent to run against the pile of money. We could come up with someone just as DSA, but if we could convene with UTLA, CFT, and community groups around LA to run someone together, our candidate would stand a real shot. Let’s see how it goes!

Meghan Walsh

Running for: Steering Committee at-large

Why would you be a good local officer for DSA-LA?

I believe I would be a good officer for DSA-LA because I am passionate about engaging with our community members. I enjoy talking to neighbors and strangers alike about their hopes and needs. It is important to have a DSA-LA committee that works not just for the people, but with the people.

I have worked and volunteered with local domestic violence orgs and homeless services to assist our most vulnerable community members. I am a regular volunteer at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, and I understand the importance of political activity at the most basic human level--for people to have educational and economic access. Our community members often go voiceless, feel like they have no say in their own lives, and we need someone who will listen and work with them.

On a surface level, I am young, energetic, and I have nothing but time and enthusiasm to dedicate to DSA-LA's mission. I will fight for us every day and am happy to ignore my professional work obligations in favor of creating a more fair city.

What is your vision for the evolution of DSA-LA in 2019?

I would like to see DSA-LA have a larger presence within the city's communities and have our voices represented on a legislative level.

So many of our friends, colleagues, and neighbors haven't heard of DSA-LA and aren't aware that there's a local socialist party dedicated to the working class. We see high rises go up, rents rise, and mayors pocket more money. But people aren't fully aware that there is a party resisting the capitalism on display here within our own city limits. I want us to expand our voices and show people that there is an organization for them. We need to knock on more doors, call our neighbors, and advocate for a healthier city climate. I am hopeful that we can spread awareness for the party, that people can have a voice and a vote with our agenda to end racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, patriarchal, and capitalist oppression.

In addition to the marketing of our party, I would like to see us have an impact on local legislation to further prove to our communities that we are here to stay and fight for them, that our actions do actually work for the people. With Los Angeles being the second largest city in the nation, I would like to see DSA-LA have legislative success so that the country's attention turns towards our national vision for a more equal society. We need to contest unjust laws and practices and walk the talk.

Kyle Scott

Running for: Steering Committee at-large

Why would you be a good local officer for DSA-LA?

I joined DSA a little under two years ago, in February of 2017. My organizing work was initially centered in the Immigration Justice Committee (then called the “Sanctuary City Working Group”). I eventually began organizing with the Housing and Homelessness Committee (HnH), which has continued to occupy the main chunk of my DSA organizing time up to the present. As a member of HnH, I have led Prop 10 canvasses, assisted in coordinating protests and actions, and have been especially active in the ongoing Streetwatch program.

Streetwatch is a project modeled on the Community Watch program run in Skid Row by the organizers at the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN). It’s geared towards assisting in the organization of the unhoused, monitoring police and sanitation sweeps of homeless encampments, advocating for the unhoused in public meetings, on social media, and through direct actions, and exploring both legal and extra-legal strategies to alleviate, address, and illuminate the homelessness catastrophe in LA County and beyond. I have a been a core organizer in Streetwatch over the past year or so, doing outreach to the unhoused, monitoring police sweeps of encampments, organizing regional Streetwatch teams and onboarding new members, designing the Streetwatch “Know Your Rights” flyer, dispatching for the Streetwatch “hotline number,” and contributing to building our Streetwatch coalition with our incredible comrades at the the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) and LACAN.

I have also recently assisted with DSA-LA’s “branching resolution,” as a member of the organizing committee for the newly formed Westside Branch, where I have worked on building turnout and activating westside members, and helped coordinate the Westside Branch meetings. I am also a member of the Los Angeles Tenants Union and Jewish Voice for Peace, and—in my non-DSA life—a Ph.D. student studying political philosophy at UCLA, where I am a member of the UC student-worker union UAW 2865.

I believe my work with Streetwatch, in HnH, with the Westside Branch, and in the chapter more broadly over the past 21 months has given me a strong sense for what DSA-LA already does well and what it can do better. To take just one rather obvious example of the former: we are, I think, far ahead of other leftist organizations when it comes to organizing online. We’ve been incredibly good at building social-media presence and campaigns, and gathering media attention and turnout through online channels. We have, however, perhaps lagged slightly behind other, more deeply-rooted leftist organizations when it comes to organizing off-line, interfacing with vulnerable members of our communities in face-to-face “IRL” settings, and building capacity in communities where our online presence does not meaningfully extend. I think my work in HnH—especially in Streetwatch and in the Prop 10 canvasses—has given me experience and insight into how to build our capacity and prowess when it comes to this second kind of “off-line” organizing.

In short, I envision a 2019 for DSA-LA in which our offline presence comes to equal (or surmount) our online one: a year of carefully planned direct actions, increased presence at community and local government meetings, and expanded “IRL” campaigns such as those modeled by Streetwatch and the Prop 10 canvasses, in which comrades continue to develop themselves as bonafide, face-to-face, community organizers.

What is your vision for the evolution of DSA-LA in 2019?

My vision for the future of DSA-LA in 2019 (and beyond) is shaped by what I take to be the fundamental challenge faced by the organization. Namely: how do we both continue to appeal to and include those to our liberal right, while also maintaining a cohesive, radical political vision that refuses to capitulate to the liberal status quo?

I think it goes without saying: this is not the same organization that Michael Harrington started. We’re not Our Revolution; we’re not the Justice Democrats; and we’re not a vehicle for political opportunists, the Democratic Party, or those who refuse to see political horizons beyond those immediately offered to them by bourgeois elites.

To be a socialist must always mean something—and that “something” must always be more than a nebulous commitment to progressivism or center-left party politics. Indeed, to be a socialist must always be fundamentally incompatible with certain views of power, politics, and society. There is, for instance, no viable socialist position that sides with—or fails to recognize—the forces of imperialism, colonialism, and apartheid at home and abroad. As we continue to reject outright any ”leftism” that fuses social progressivism with economic conservatism, we must also remain vigilant in our rejection of any “leftism” that fuses domestic reforms with overt or tacit support for militarization and colonialism abroad.

So: there is no socialism to be had in a society driven by relations of private property; there is none to be had in a society that willingly or uncritically props up structures of racism, misogyny, ableism, and transphobia; and there is certainly none to be had in any society that bankrolls domestic reforms with the fruits of colonial and imperial plunder. Let us never apologize, then, for the fact that socialism is, at its core, a fundamentally stubborn ideology—one that adamantly refuses to accommodate itself to relations of oppression, exploitation, or domination, whenever and wherever they obtain.

And yet: no one is born a socialist. No one has the perfect “analysis.” No one has all (even most) of the answers. None of us can fully extricate ourselves from the structures and systems that have and continue to shape us. We are all, in a very deep sense, products of an unfathomably iniquitous world.

And so while socialism is stubborn, it must never be rigid or exacting, must never demand anything like moral or ideological purity or perfection. Any viable socialist politics sees beyond not only the actually-existing social formations but also the human subjects that currently constitute them. Which is to say that socialism sees growth and possibility everywhere and in everyone: future comrades among liberals of various persuasions; future organizers among those presently alienated and apolitical. And it never, ever ceases to posit the ongoing and future self-liberation of the marginalized, whatever their current ideological framework and level of political engagement might be.

It is in this spirit that DSA must and will remain a proudly multi-tendency organization; one where progressive liberals, the socialist-curious, and the politically disenfranchised will always find a place to learn, grow, teach, and be at home. And DSA must and will always remain a place for self-identifying socialists and lifelong leftists to self-critique, hone their analyses, change their views, and evolve. A static socialism is a dead socialism.

I see a DSA-LA that continues to lead the national organization by explicitly confronting, wrestling with, and engaging this challenge: a chapter that maintains its ideological integrity without alienating newcomers; that seeks both to expand its membership and develop the organizing capacity, engagement, and education of those already involved; that is afraid neither to endorse non-traditional candidates nor to revoke the endorsements of those who betray our principles and reconcile themselves to the status quo.

There is no contradiction in being an open, multi-tendency, big tent organization that is uncompromisingly and unapologetically socialist. This is the needle we must thread.

Steve Couch

Running for: Recording Secretary

Why would you be a good local officer for DSA-LA?

I believe that my work in the chapter over the last year and a half has shown a steady commitment to honesty, transparency, and respect to all voices in a room that I see as essential for a Recording Secretary.

The position requires a certain distance from the passionate debates that can happen in order to be of service to the rank and file who can only participate after the fact. I love a good argument as much as the next leftist, but I, especially when taking notes, always look for the generous reading of someone's remarks. Even those I disagree with deserve to have their arguments heard and preserved in good faith; it's not my job to do the interpretation for someone else.

When I, together with several of my extremely dedicated comrades, embarked on the task of creating bylaws for the Mutual-Aid Committee, we structured ourselves so that our work would never be hidden from view. The group we created was open to all members of the committee and gave continuous feedback to the committee at large, keeping everyone abreast of our work, even if they were not intimately plugged into the minutia of the project. After nearly 3 months of often grueling work, the bylaws were approved by the committee almost unanimously, and committee members shared that they were extremely happy with how the drafting process went along.

I'm proud of the bylaws we wrote, but I'm especially proud of our commitment to radical transparency, which ensured that everyone, regardless of involvement, could follow what we were doing, make comments and critiques, and have those opinions folded back into the drafting process. I want that same sort of feedback loop to exist with the work the Steering Committee will do. You shouldn't have to know who to talk to to find out what the committee has been up to. Meeting notes and relevant documents should be regularly presented in a digestible, engaging, and public way so that the Steering Committee and its meetings are not shrouded in mystery, as they unfortunately have been at times.

Beyond the narrow qualifications for this position, I feel that I would bring useful skills that will enhance the committee's work. I acted as a parliamentarian at our last convention and will be a real stickler that we follow the processes we democratically decided on as a chapter (I actually carry the bylaws around in a binder like a total loser). Also, I somewhat masochistically enjoy administrative tasks and take extra care to ensure that data and documents are stored sensibly. I like those things to be tight.

But overall, I feel like I'd be a good officer because I first and foremost believe in being a servant to the chapter and its members. My personal beliefs have a role to play in certain decisions we will face, but I know that the membership is the supreme decision making body, and my actions will never contradict that.

What is your vision for the evolution of DSA-LA in 2019?

As I am running for Recording Secretary, I have a special interest in making sure that our chapter is as transparent and internally democratic as possible. We've got it right in some ways, like publishing any member position when we vote as a whole chapter, or giving ample time and notice to members around our annual convention. But in other areas, the status quo is inadequate, especially with regards to the Steering Committee. The Recording Secretary has a duty defined in the bylaws to "[ensure] that key decisions and meeting minutes are available to members of the [chapter]". Yet as of this writing (October 22nd, 2018), the most recent published notes came from a May 8th, 2018 meeting. Assuming that Steering has met at their current rate of once a week since then, that means more than 20 meetings and decisions within those meetings have gone unrecorded. That is unacceptable, and if elected, I would view the circulation of Steering Committee minutes and decisions as my highest priority.

I want to see DSA-LA get involved with “hyper-local” organizing. In 2019, we’ll be experimenting with our branch structure, and facing new local organizing opportunities and challenges. Los Angeles is too big of a city to understand and change without a knowledge of its constituent neighborhoods. Recently, in Highland Park, we had a discussion at a neighborhood hangout around LAUSD School Board Member Ref Rodriguez and his corruption trial, and realized we could engage in the local campaign to call for his resignation. We saw an opportunity to connect with parent groups, public school advocates, and teachers in the neighborhood, a demographic that is largely missing in our current membership, and while our involvement in this particular campaign ended too soon to forge truly strong bonds (He resigned about a week after a DSA campaign group was formed), it's an example of the kinds of local organizing that we should prioritize. Whether it be engaging with a school board election or radical tenant organizing, we should seize these chances when we find them as a way to both meet people and neighborhoods where they are and grow the organization from the ground up.

At our last convention, we set as one of our chapter priorities organizer training, I would want to see this priority extended and expanded. With the recent success of Political Education's "A Class on Class" program, we see that people are hungry to get together and learn, discuss, and debate socialist ideas. I believe that a similarly structured course meant to teach members organizing strategies and how to navigate life as a volunteer organizer would attract similar levels of enthusiasm. We all have lofty ambitions about what our organization can achieve, but at the moment, many projects and ideas are stuck in the starting gate because we don't inherently possess the requisite skills to build these collaborative endeavors.

Arielle Sallai

Running for: Communications Coordinator

Why would you be a good local officer for DSA-LA?

I've proven myself to be a capable organizer not just in my role on the Steering Committee over the past year, but as a communications specialist on the Yes on 10 campaign and in my active work in the Housing & Homelessness committee and the NOlympics working group. My insight from the Prop 10 campaign itself has been incredibly useful as we work in coalition with other groups — it helped me spearhead perhaps the most coordinated statewide chapter work DSA has seen, as I organized monthly California DSA calls around Prop 10 that resulted in a statement signed off by every single chapter in the state and the endorsement of DSA National. This coordination will not go away after November 6; I've successfully formed relationships with all the California DSA chapters and plan to maintain contact to help us share resources and strategy going into the National Convention next year.

Ultimately, this was a year of tremendous growth for me as an organizer and communicator. In my role with Yes on 10, I was fortunate to learn from top communications strategists about what it takes to persuade voters and win a campaign. I've already used those lessons to develop a media messaging training that I shared with the chapter at our general meeting in August. The next step for me is solidifying a simple communications process for every event and action produced by the chapter so that we can maximize attendance and press. Prior to my term, we mostly just responded to press inquiries; now we have robust press lists who I actively pitch with regularity, resulting in coverage from top media outlets — not just spreading the work of our chapter, but ultimately sharing socialists ideals with a broad audience. By maintaining a consistent point of contact, our coverage will only get better.

However, the role of Communications Director is an extremely involved one; I’m not just tasked with building out the comms strategy of the chapter, but with the basic duties of any Steering member. To that end, I was fortunate to learn a ton from my fellow Steering Committee members, especially the incumbents, and I hope to do the same for the new members in 2019.

What is your vision for the evolution of DSA-LA in 2019?

2019 is going to be an especially vital year for the growth of DSA-LA, as we build our new branches, adjust our strategy around the housing justice resolution through April, decide our next chapter priorities, and prepare for the National Convention. Over the course of the year, I want to see us refine our political goals and strategy, while also putting more time and dedication into membership growth and retention. On the communications side, this means continuing to try to break our way out of the leftist media echo chamber and get our message out to more and more working people. It's not enough to maintain a vibrant social media presence, but to actively chip away at the attacks being shaped against us by the right.

Part of that work is the development of the Communications Committee. A huge component of the Communications Director's role is to build out this committee, utilizing the existing communications liaisons from the other committees in the chapter. Part of why I am eager to run again is that there is still a lot of work to be done in this capacity, and I am the most equipped person to see this work to completion. We have a strong foundation now — with active members beyond the liaisons — and I have a refined sense of how I can better delegate work and help committees navigate the many communications needs they should address before planning any event, action, or ongoing campaign. One thing I always like to say is that communications is persuasion, and that persuasion is fundamental to winning. We should take this work extremely seriously, and I hope to train our members to do so and be more calculated with how we present ourselves.

Beyond communications strategy, I am ever committed to DSA’s engagement in the movement for housing justice, and see this work as fundamental to a robust base-building strategy that will help us grow our membership to reflect the city we live in. We don’t yet know what this will look like after Proposition 10, but we know we are committed to this work until our next Annual Convention, at least. To successfully engage in this work, I hope to facilitate more collaboration across committees, especially when it comes to research and power-mapping, and commit to being more intentional about how we engage with partners like the LA Tenants Union. Finally, it is my hope to be part of making housing justice work a national priority for DSA in 2019, and I will be in the best position to do so as part of the Steering Committee for another term.

Nickolas Ballard

Running for:Treasurer

Why would you be a good local officer for DSA-LA?

I've been a member of DSA-LA for a year and a half and a BLMLA member for a year. As DSA-LA treasurer for almost 6 months, I've found the task is only getting more complicated. Maybe from our former position of penury, we couldn't do a whole lot to there was less information to process, thus a simpler job. Now that we're less broke, the treasurer must be more woke.

My primary impression of the role was that its tasks were mostly clerical. As our operations have expanded, the duties have come to include delegation, negotiation, legal compliance, tax compliance, location scouting, event planning, inventory management, it's a lot. I guess I should get better at the delegation part!

I want to continue in this position on steering because I've built familiarity with it and maintaining my momentum in creating a strong institutional acumen would benefit the chapter. I pledge to focus on our Finance and Fundraising Committee which, when running well, will keep us compliant, insured, ready to party/raise funds, and merched up. I also want to be a presence on Steering that helps us remember to stay grounded in the revolutionary work that compels us, that seeks to collaborate often with comrade orgs, and that can help inspire the black community's trust in us.

Thank you for your consideration!

What is your vision for the evolution of DSA-LA in 2019?

My first DSA meeting captivated me. In April 2017, we met at the AFSCME building on Shatto, packing in about 150 in a moderately sized room. The space lacked open seats but not enthusiasm. Fucking Noah's delightfully fluent profanity stirred the audience as they recounted the actions they and others had done in support of the sanctuary city push. Francisco expertly laid out the May Day plan and the history of labor action; you could tell he had rallied comrades before. Carol ecstatically welcomed me and the noobs to the organization. She couldn't be happier to embrace the explosion in attendance and excitement in the chapter she had led for years. The raucous energy in the room made us feel we're the team that's going to win, no matter the calamity and barbarity that roiled outside those walls.

We've grown a lot in 2018, perhaps even more than in 2017. As our resources, membership, and capacity improve, we should keep present the vigor of our conviction. I do want our chapter to operate efficiently, methodically, centering the protocols that hone our passion. But we can't forget that this is our holy struggle whose core belief is in the achievement of dignity and happiness for all. This quest for liberation from the vice of capital animates us in ways profit-focused self-absorbed work cannot do.

I know a stronger DSA-LA necessarily means a fairer Los Angeles. Sustained expansion for DSA-LA will come if we maintain the fervor that brought us through the door the first day.

Ezra Pugh

Running for: Treasurer

Why would you be a good local officer for DSA-LA?

My background and qualifications for this office are:

  • I grew up here in LA
  • I have an undergraduate degree in heterodox economics from The New School
  • I am in my last semester of getting a Master of Business Administration from CSULA
  • I and my mother started a sewing business 5 years ago and I have done the bookkeeping and administration of that business from the beginning
  • I have extensive experience in clothing manufacturing and distribution, and dealing with different types of vendors
  • In school I have done first-hand financial analysis for 2 small businesses, and financial analysis of many case studies
  • I hate unanswered texts and emails on my phone so I am very responsive!

What is your vision for the evolution of DSA-LA in 2019?

I believe 2019 will be a critical year for DSA-LA and DSA nationally. It is a year where the groundwork must be laid, and systems put in place for the 2020 election cycle. Unfortunately, I do not believe that adequate financial systems have been put in place in DSA-LA so far. Once in the office of treasurer I will create these systems -- both for the good of the chapter internally, and for the security of the chapter from external threats, such as tax agencies.

I believe DSA-LA has immense room to grow. Our chapter covers an incredibly vast geographical area holding millions of people. Many of those people are amenable to our cause, but don’t even know it yet. My priorities as treasurer would be 1.) strategically using the chapters funds to stimulate membership growth, 2.) creating and distributing merchandise that increases the visibility of the chapter, and 3.) generating accurate and actionable financial reports so that steering, and the membership at large, are informed and know what’s going on in the chapter.

With these systems in place, DSA-LA can become a true force for good, and a force to be reckoned with, here in Los Angeles.

Ari Ben Berrong-Huber

Running for: YDSA Coordinator

Why would you be a good local officer for YDSA-LA?

While I’ve not held the position for a full term, as the incumbent, I feel that in the time I’ve had, I’ve gained a greater understanding of what the role demands, and what the state of the regional YDSA chapters is. I’ve also recently moved, and am more centrally located, with a fair bit of free time and a car. For those reasons I’m able to be present on any LA campus if it’s requested or needed.

What is your vision for the evolution of YDSA-LA in 2019?

YDSA’s presence in LA is steadily growing, and I hope to enable that growth to accelerate, adding new chapters to campuses we haven’t reached, and helping to more closely coordinate YDSA action with the work of DSA-LA.