Electoral Politics Committee Proposal to Endorse Gayle McLaughlin for Lt. Governor

The Electoral Politics committee has unanimously voted to endorse Gayle McLaughlin for Lieutenant Governor of California, and advocates for the endorsement of Gayle McLaughlin for Lieutenant Governor by DSA-LA as a whole.

Additionally, the Electoral Politics committee advocates for the sponsorship and development of events to support her candidacy, including but not limited to canvasses, phone banks, fundraisers, and awareness-raising events in advance of the statewide primary election on June 5, 2018 and (should McLaughlin advance to the second round) the general election the following November. The committee further advocates that this work be done in coalition with other organizations in Los Angeles.

Lastly, as Lieutenant Governor is a statewide office, we advocate for the development of a statewide strategy to promote her candidacy, developed in conjunction with other DSA chapters throughout the state.

A DSA-LA candidate questionnaire was drafted by the Electoral Politics committee and completed by Gayle McLaughlin prior to the committee endorsement and can be read here.

Why Support Gayle?

FIfteen years ago, the East Bay city of Richmond—home to Chevron’s primary west-coast oil refinery—was run by politicians in the pocket of Big Oil.

The small port city, comprised of a largely black, working-class, and deeply impoverished community, struggled under the company’s shadow. Chevron controlled their company union and segments of law enforcement, dumped money into local nonprofits to secure their support (and good PR), and lavishly funded the campaigns and pet causes of the ruling bloc on city council, all while poisoning residents with periodic plumes of toxic smoke from industrial accidents. Richmond had been a company town for decades, and there was no reason to think that was changing anytime soon.

But in 2004, Gayle McLaughlin and a group of local organizers decided to start the Richmond Progressive Alliance—a coalition of community groups, unions, Green Party members, environmentalists, and socialists—to take back their city.

Focused on grassroots organizing and building authentic relationships within the community, RPA pushed forward a political insurgency on a corporate-free, working-class, anti-racist, environmentally just agenda. They not only built support during elections (which they often won), but activated the people of Richmond year-round through regular mass public meetings on pressing local issues, engaged municipal employees and unions, and built power through appointments to the city’s vast array of committees, boards and commissions.

On the strength of this organizing model, Gayle McLaughlin was elected to two terms as mayor and two terms as city councilor, and was endorsed by Bernie Sanders for her final city council run. While in office, McLaughlin and her allies in the RPA passed the first Fair Rent Control law in California in 30 years, increased local minimum wage to $15, opposed the construction of local jails, ended local criminalization of the homeless, reduced homicides by 75% in eight years, reformed policing, forced Chevron to pay $7.5 million in additional taxes to the city per year, opposed privatizing public education and charter schools, and brought greener and cheaper energy to 85% of homeowners and businesses in the city.

Today, the RPA has a supermajority on the Richmond city council. And in 2018, McLaughlin is taking her socialist politics and the RPA model statewide.

McLaughlin is running for Lt. Governor as an independent “No Party Preference” candidate, with the explicit goal of using her campaign and her office to build the kind of leftist activist-electoral coalitions she helped forge in Richmond across the state—and she sees DSA as a key ally in that project.

Three California DSA chapters (San Francisco, East Bay, and SF Peninsula) have already voted to support McLaughlin’s campaign. The support of DSA-LA, the largest chapter in the state, would send a clear message that we stand united, as democratic socialists, behind a rare committed socialist candidate for statewide office who has not only built and remained accountable to a democratic organization, but who might actually win.

Her opponents include West Covina State Senator Ed Hernandez, Sacramento developer and former Ambassador to Hungary Eleni Kounalakis, Bay Area lawyer and former Ambassador to Australia Jeff Bleich, LA doctor Asif Mahmood, and San Diego lawyer Cameron Gharabiklou. None of these candidates have pledged to run a campaign free of corporate money, none of them are committed socialists, and all of them are either lifelong players in the California Democratic Party machine or newcomers with no political or organizing experience.

But Gayle McLaughlin isn’t just good for California, she’s good for DSA-LA. Her platform priorities (which you can find in her candidate questionnaire) read like a DSA-LA wishlist, and we stand to directly benefit from her commitment to using her campaign and office as a vehicle for building independent local power.

If she becomes Lieutenant Governor, she has committed to maintaining the RPA model of responsiveness and accountability to members and coalition partners. DSA’s statewide endorsement would ensure us a seat at that table. As an added bonus, collaborating with other California DSA chapters will help lay the groundwork for a strong statewide DSA organization.

But most importantly, supporting the McLaughlin campaign will give us a chance to activate our membership with a candidate we can all rally behind. In socialistic synergy with our other chapter-wide campaigns, we need to hit the streets to let our fellow Angelenos know what DSA-LA is fighting for—yes, to get Gayle elected, and to repeal Costa-Hawkins, but also to make DSA a household name across Los Angeles, and to keep growing through 2018, and to build stronger connections with our allied organizations across the city.

Endorsement Timeline 

December 10, 2017: DSA-LA’s Electoral Politics committee votes unanimously to endorse Gayle McLaughlin for Lieutenant Governor of California

December 16, 2017: Candidate Gayle McLaughlin speaks at DSA-LA’s chapter meeting along with a Q&A session

December 17 - 22, 2017: Open call for for member statements for or against the proposal to endorse Gayle McLaughlin. Statements will be posted publicly on a central website on a rolling basis (after a brief review for relevance and civility—these are going up on the internet) for all members to read in advance of the chapter-wide vote.

December 23, 2017 - January 2, 2018: The entire chapter votes electronically on the proposal to endorse Gayle McLaughlin for Lieutenant Governor of California.