Primaries are tough. There’s a huge number of candidates, many of whom have very little information written about them. This year, Democratic Socialists of America-Los Angeles and Future Left teamed up to pool our research and analysis for these races, but we still can’t do as much analysis into all the candidates and races as we’d like to. We decided to create a cheat sheet with our recommendations and have included less deep analysis of the candidates as we would in a general election with fewer candidates to research. Many of our recommendations represent “lesser evil” calculations, and in some cases, there simply isn’t anyone else to vote for.
California’s primaries are nearly all top-two “jungle” primaries: all candidates are in the same pool, and the top two vote-getters move onto the general.
You might also notice that a surprising number of these races are either literally or practically uncontested and that most of the candidates seem bland, hazily defined, and mildly corrupt. This is a consequence of our big-money political system that rewards machine candidates and incumbents and drastically hampers the democratic process. We’ve chosen not to make recommendations in races where a Democrat is running against a non-Democrat and is expected to coast unless we thought the Democrat was particularly worth recommending. It is our collective duty to make sure these uncontested candidates face true challenges from the left in future elections.
Throughout the guide, “Recommendations” are candidates in line with progressive values, while “Preferred Candidates” are those who we do not fully support but are the best option compared to their competitors.
Your vote and the votes of your friends and family can make a big difference in our collective lives, so please vote on March 3.
The guide is partial towards candidates, propositions, and ballot measures that work in favor of the following:
Our guide is vehemently against candidates, propositions, and ballot measures that enact corporate and private interests over those of the 99%. The Future Left is for the people!
Plenty of other progressive, forward-thinking organizations have created their own voter guides as well. We will publish them as soon as they are relased below in this section. Compare and contrast them with ours to help you find where your opinion and politics fit in with our own.
We’re a collective of progressive professionals, community organizers, activists, and concerned citizens who call Los Angeles home. We love this city—our goal is to make it better for everyone, regardless of race, gender, creed, or economic standing.
For as many decades as we can count on one hand there has been one person who has fought for the working class people in the face of political risk against the most powerful and wealthy in the country. This is the fight of our lives lead by the person who has been fighting their entire life and for this reason we are inspired and honored to be part of this movement. Bernie’s platform such as Medicare for All, tuition-free college, a Green New Deal, expanding equality for all while ending: mass incarceration, wars, wall street greed, anti-worker trade deals.
Bernie Sanders is not just taking on corruption and Donald Trump as those who are to his right but he is also taking on those complicit on the “left” furthering the ruling neoliberal class, media, and Democratic establishment. We don’t only think that Sanders poses the best chance of fighting these major systemic issues but that he will work to democratize power and wealth for a multi-racial, gender-diverse, and working-class movement. Sanders isn’t the movement but has been a catalyst for the movement who is building a future we all deserve.
Vote: Bernie Sanders
Proposition 13 would authorize $15 billion in bonds for school and college facilities in California, including $9 billion for preschool and K-12 schools, $4 billion for universities, and $2 billion for community colleges. Bond measures are one of the quickest methods of rapidly acquiring financing, but also one of the most frustrating. This matters more than ever for Prop 13, which is the largest school construction bond in state history. The immense amount of support for the bill and the virtual nonexistence of an opposition to it make it hard to argue with. The bill’s focus on matters of safety and not on dubious plans of modernization also make it attractive. The added detail that subsequent construction projects will prioritize union labor makes this YES endorsement a confident one.
Lead by Reform L.A. Jails, Measure R aims to prevent and reduce jail population, incarceration, and unseen corruption within these systems. By investing in rehabilitation and mental health treatment instead of incarceration, reducing the jail population, and rooting out corruption. Measure R will help to curb abuses by the Jails and Sheriff’s Department. Measure R is supported by Black Lives Matter LA, JusticeLA, ACLU, and Community Coalition, among others.
Background: The California State Assembly is the lower house in the California State Legislature. There are 80 members each representing a seperate district of California. Representatives serve 2 year terms, and can serve a maximum of 12 years in the State Legislature (E.g 8 years in the Senate and 4 in the Assembly, 12 years in the Assembly, or any other combination). Members of the Assembly write and vote on bills that can pass through both houses in order to become State laws.
Ohlsen is running as a Bernie-style progressive. He is already endorsed by Our Revolution, Blue America, and the California Progressive Alliance. Ohlsen’s campaign materials prioritize infrastructure, housing, climate change, immigration reform, criminal justice reform, student debt elimination, education, and economic equality. Ohlsen’s most competitive opponents have ties to law enforcement or the military industrial complex.
Dina Cervantes has a solid record of allying with teachers, hotel workers, unions, climate justice groups, and immigrants. She worked to block ICE from showing up to public schools. Cervantes has the institutional background and broad community support to wage a competitive campaign.
Luz Maria Rivas is an incumbent Democrat running against a Republican.
Chris Holden has a strong track record on most progressive issues, especially those concerning civil rights and environmental protections. He’s served as the Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Energy, and founded & co-chaired the Wildfire Preparedness and Response Legislative Conference Committee. Most of his campaign contributions are from labor unions. The only marks against him are his abstention from SB 460 (to reinstate net neutrality in CA) & AB 2500 (to protect consumers from predatory lenders).
Since being elected to the California State Assembly in 2016, Laura Friedman has been in favor of progressive change, notably in regard to environmental issues and the affordable housing crisis. In her first term she secured the funds to complete the Glendale Riverwalk Project, and has sponsored a number of bills relating to water conservation and environmental sustainability. Friedman also serves as the chair for the Assembly Select Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and the Chair of the Joint Rules Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response. Friedman’s funding is found to be around 50% labor unions with the other half being classified as “uncoded”, meaning that the category of donor is unknown or has not yet been assigned. Despite the ambiguity of some of her donors, her voting record receives an A+ rating from most progressive outlets.
It’s hard to consider Jacqui Irwin a progressive candidate due to her voting against or abstaining from many progressive issues and receiving an F rating from progressive outlets. Though she has a positive record for environmental reform, as well as gender equality and reproductive rights. Irwin’s voting record favors protecting law enforcement over citizens rights. Her funding comes largely from labor unions, finance & real estate, and the party itself. Jaqui Irwin is hard to recommend, however she is the preferred option over her opponent Republican Denise Pedrow.
Jesse Gabriel is pretty well liked across the board even if he tends to sit on the fence. He scores great with the Sierra Club, serves on the Assembly Select Committee on Women’s Reproductive Health, and a majority of his campaign contributions come from unions. However, he does have a habit of abstaining from bills which enforce restrictions on policing. That might stem from his former job as a general litigation attorney, though he focused his efforts on hate crime prevention, gender pay equity, and anti-discrimination legislation.
Adrin Nazarian has a solid track record of progressive voting, especially in regard to unions and increased public infrastructure. He voted for AB 378 (authorizes collective bargaining for childcare workers) & ACA 14 (forces the UC system to reduce contracted services and increase the percentage of union workers on payroll). His campaign is also focused on affordable housing and expanding services to the homeless. However, he is also the chairman of the Assembly Select Committee on the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games and his campaign has taken large donations from the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
Assembly District 48 covers primarily Latinx eastern San Gabriel Valley and the surrounding foothill communities. Democrat incumbent Blanco Rubio is running unopposed for her third term in this assembly seat. She is a supporter of protections for immigrants, assistance for victims of domestic violence, assistance for children in foster care, supervised pretrial release in criminal cases, and women’s rights and pay equality. That said, our donor highlight reel from 2018 shows that over 70% of her donations come from a murderer’s row including Betsy DeVos, Monsanto, Walmart, and assorted defense Contractors. Rubio is a fundraising machine, having hauled in $2.8 over the last three years, so lord only knows how many smaller races for “progressives” she is laundering all this corporate cash through.
Chau seems good on just about everything, though he has a tendency to step out of the room when votes about law enforcement and sex work or drugs come up. He didn’t vote on SB 233 (Gives immunity to sex workers when reporting certain crimes), SB 1322 (excempts minors from prostitution charges), or SB 649 (makes certain drug offenses misdemeanors). However, all of his scorecards come back B or higher from almost all progressive outlets. He rates highly among reproductive health groups, anti-corruption groups, labor unions, and somehow even with NORML, despite not weighing in on criminalization issues. Chau did vote for a statewide rent cap and promised to vote to repeal Costa Hawkins but failed on the day of the vote after being pressued by landlords. Chau’s voting record for tenant protections deserves attention but he cannot we cannot completely recommend him based on his inconsistencies
Meanwhile, Chau’s challenger Bryan Mesinas Pérez may have less experience and thus less detailed policy proposals but he is Chau’s left challenger in the primary. Chau was endorsed by our friends at the Feel The Bern Democratic Club and has been a volunteer with the Bernie Sanders campaign, and viewed as a vital and authentic and vital part of the San Fernando Valley. We caution to endorse Pérez soley because we are unsure about the depth of the plans written about. We similar approaches like that of Andrew Yang like rank choice voting, lowering regulations for businesses, and democracy dollars, which take the policy approach of novelty over centering truly detailed and substantive plans. We see this further with vaugeries like “equality in the justice system” or “reducing crime” for instance, through what our brother and sisters in the criminal justice reform movement would call the failed practice of community policing. We appreciate where Bryan is coming from but we cannot fully endorse a platform that seems unrooted, decisive, and detailed.
The incumbent Richard Bloom certainly isn’t the worst person to have in your big tent. However, he is a donor to the Democrats for Israel Committee, which is a pro-Israel group that describes BDS as “anti-Israel and anti-peace”. Anti-peace is a bridge too far for us to give our recommendation for this candidate, especially in a race that Bloom is a shoe in for. His opponents include a guy who lists his IMDB credits on his campaign page and an immigration stance of, “All we ask is that the new people assimilate into American culture, learn English, obey our laws and swear an oath of allegiance to the USA,” and someone that may or may not have last ran for Lt. Governor with the American Independent Party.
Incumbent Wendy Carrillo is running uncontested, which we all know is a sign of a healthy democracy. A couple years ago, Carrillo got some buzz running as an outsider progressive in a special election to fill Xavier Becerra’s vacated Congressional seat in District 34, running against insider Jimmy Gomez. Touting support for the California single payer healthcare bill and an immigrant background, she looked like a rising progressive star. So, the establishment jumped on the bandwagon and helped her win the special election for AD51 in 2017 with a huge donation from major PACs, in return for dropping her support for single-payer healthcare, which has been conspicuously replaced on her website with “improving access to healthcare” and “working towards universal healthcare”. In 2018, Carrillo moved deeper into the machine, raising nearly one million dollars from big pharma, charter school interests, building trades, developers, realtors, telecommunications, oil lobbyists, and the list goes on. She’s similarly raised $600k for her uncontested reelection campaign from the usual suspects this year, so that she can funnel the money around the party establishment. No recommendation.
Rodriguez loves to not vote. If not voting for progressive issues can be counted as a vote against progressive issues, then he is pro-surveillance, anti-Green New Deal, anti-worker protection, pro-prison industrial complex, anti-tenant, and against public banking. He’s about as progressive as Rahm Emanuel but with less conviction and more union endorsements. He is, however, running against a Republican who might be an anti-vaxxer and most certainly doesn’t want your kids to learn about gay people existing.
Plata is running a scrappy, energetic campaign based on a deep understanding of the material challenges facing all of his working-class constituents. It’s a tough hill Plata is climbing as he attempts to unseat the established centrist incumbent, Miguel Santiago. If he’s able to pull it off, it will be a sharp tug left for city and state politics. Plata’s policy positions are all good, encompassing sophisticated and nuanced takes on everything from rent control and health care to education and social justice.
The incumbent, Sydney Kamlager, is the Bloomberg California campaign co-chair and initially voted against statewide protections for renters, but after constituents raised concerns, she voted for the bill in 2019. She also voted against public banking and has taken campaign contributions from charter schools. One challenger, Tracy Bernard Jones, is a teacher who volunteered for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020, identifies as a socialist, campaigns for Medicare for All, public banking, and against charter schools, and previously worked on establishing a gang truce in South Central LA. By contrast, the other challenger, Clint Brown, is a real estate developer who supports gentrification. This district, which runs from the Crenshaw District to UCLA, is virtually certain to reelect the incumbent. The best choice in the primary is to vote for Tracy Bernard Jones.
Democrat Andrew Rodriguez has the dubious pleasure of running against the Republican incumbent, Phillip Chen. AD 55 has been Republican since at least 2012, although Chen was within 10 points of being unseated in 2018. With a potential upset within reach, it’s strange that Rodriguez is running unopposed. He hasn’t updated his social media since April 2019, and the platform listed on his website gives short platitudes lifted, apparently, from the April 2019 issue of “Campaign Boilerplate.” He’s the 27-year-old Mayor of Walnut, California (being within AD55), but there is precious little to recommend him. He holds a Masters of Real Estate Development, which probably tells you all you need to know.
In a busy race in a center-left district, Vanessa is not a loudly progressive candidate (her Twitter account indicates that she supports Warren, and has an endorsement from Melissa Harris Parry), but she’s clearly about climate change, housing, and education for all. Her life’s work in women’s shelters and in academia suggests a real commitment to encouraging marginalized groups to participate in the political process. Also, she is facing other well-backed candidates with ties to some shady business interests (Rubio and Calderon) and, in the case of Lisa Calderon, family ties to the people who’ve been ousted from this very seat for corruption. Josue Alvarado posits himself as too pro-business for us to trust the lacking specifics of his platform, while the other candidate’s platform clarity fails to meet our standard for considering a recommendation. We do not fully support any of these candidates but we do want to make sure the best candidate is highlighted, in this case it’s Tyson.
The incumbent, Cristina Garcia, received large contributions from landlord and developer lobbies after abstaining on state rent cap, just cause eviction, and opposing public banking. She doesn’t advocate for Medicare for All. Her only challenger, Margaret Villa, supports Medicare for All, rent control, the Green New Deal, and free public college tuition. Villa is the obvious choice here.
Reginald Jones-Sawyer is running for his fifth consecutive assembly district term. He formed and chairs the Progressive Caucus that serves as the main opposition to the business-democrat “Mod Squad,” boasts good endorsements (including labor groups, teachers, and farm workers), and has a progressive voting record to back it all up. His challengers are uninspiring. Efren Martinez (D) was allegedly involved in a Huntington Park City Council kickback scheme, is endorsed by law enforcement lobbying groups, and focuses his campaign around his military service and Chamber of Commerce ties. Marcello Villeda (R) has declined to share any information about his campaign contributions, platform, or personal history other than to state where he attends church. The easy choice here is James-Sawyer.
Democrat Autumn Burke is far from this year’s best candidate for State Assembly district representative, but her opponent Republican Robert Steele might just be the worst. Burke has no published platform, has allegations of sexual misconduct levied against her, and is endorsed by charter schools. Steele, on the other hand, unironically advocates for arming teachers to prevent school shootings and thinks that California’s high cost of living is best tackled by relaxing air-quality regulations on gasoline and encouraging gas stations to buy wholesale from Arizona.
Maria Estrada first ran against Anthony Rendon in 2018, after he single-handedly tabled CA’s single-payer healthcare bill SB562, (after having accepted over $700k in campaign contributions from health insurance companies, natch.) On her website she indicates she is the sixth of seven children, mother of two, and a grandmother of two more. She received her entire education in Lynwood in the 63rd district and has been working since she was 15. She lost that race by just under 10 points 54.3% – 45.7%, hopefully with the momentum of the presidential primary on her side, she will make those 10 points up in November. In her 2018 candidate questionnaire returned to Democratic Socialists of America, Estrada also voices support of universal basic income, clean elections, investment in education and infrastructure, public banks, federal jobs guarantee, abolishing ICE, banning private prisons, protecting unions, stopping the expansion of charter schools, and support of Prop 10.
She has been canvassing for Bernie Sanders in the 2020 primary. Estrada’s platform is strongly progressive, but there are reasons to be concerned about her candidacy this year. Her 2018 campaign website is gone, and the campaign now seems to be running entirely via Facebook, and Estrada herself has gotten into trouble with other progressive activists for public posts praising anti-Semitic preacher Louis Farrakhan and for other spats with activists. Still, electing Estrada, long-shot though it may be, would be a clear repudiation of the Democratic Party’s most corrupt, centrist tendencies, and that is sufficient reason to suggest voting for Estrada.
Big Oil has a stranglehold over District 64. More than 80% of the people living in District 64 are people of color, and they are massively affected by pollution and public health issues stemming from the oil and gas industry. Incumbent Mike Gipson frequently votes for legislation favoring these industries, and takes money from Big Oil as well. His challenger, Fatima S. Iqbal-Zubair, is a former public school teacher who has made addressing environmental racism a key platform item in her campaign. We recommend a vote for Fatima to help get this district out from under Big Oil’s thumb.
Incumbent Al Muratsuchi is running in a comfortably Democratic district against a Republican. He was first elected to the assembly in 2012, lost in 2014, and then won his seat back in 2016. Muratsuchi is a former prosecutor and deputy attorney general who earned a 100% pro-public safety voting score from the California Police Chiefs Association. He appears to be a “tough on crime” candidate. We have no recommendation for him.
Incumbent Patrick O’Donnell misrepresents a district heavily burdened with pollution by voting against oil and gas well testing requirements, public notification of health impacts of industrial projects, and reduced emissions from electrical generation. He also voted to retain mandatory sentencing enhancements and failed to vote for the statewide rent cap and just cause eviction protections.
The deck could scarcely be more stacked against Kim Mangone. With no political experience she’s running in CA 23, the reddest district in the state, against a Republican incumbent who was one of Trump’s first supporters and is currently the Minority Leader and a co-signer of the USMCA. Her working-class history and military experience will give her a shot, but she’s going to need our help at the polls.
This race is fraught with a wide range of unrelated controversies, making it maybe the most fascinating congressional seat to watch. On paper, Cenk Uygur is the obvious progressive choice, even though it would be his first elected office. He aligns specifically with the platform of Democratic Socialists of America and The Future Left. However, it would be risky to go where even Bernie Sanders won’t (he’s previously pulled an endorsement for Uygur) and we must take the concerns about him very seriously regarding allegations of sexism and Armenian Genocide denial. Christy Smith’s neoliberal platform, including her lack of support for Medicare for All, makes her highly questionable as an alternative and certainly undeserving of an endorsement.
This race seems secure for incumbent Julia Brownley. None of her rivals have ever held political office and neither of her Democratic opponents seem to be taking the race seriously. Brownley is not an ideal candidate. Many of her talking points and the bills she sponsors are very good, but she is in no way a progressive candidate and frequently votes with Republicans even when she is one of the only Democrats doing so. She has pointedly decided not to support the Green New Deal. In cases like this, it would make sense to give her the endorsement in lieu of a better candidate, but her willful lack of support for any actionably progressive policies leaves us unwilling to endorse anyone. Rep. Julia Brownley is the preferred candidate.
Chu’s record in Congress is good for a prominent Democrat. She’s a strong supporter of abortion rights, opposed mass surveillance and other jingoistic Patriot Act boondoggles, pushed immigration reform bills and opposed immigrant detention centers, even under the Obama administration. She was a founding member of the congressional Medicare for All Caucus, introduced the Protect Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation Act (POWER Act, or H.R. 2169), and fought to bar employers from exploiting immigrants. Most importantly, she is a co-sponsor of Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s Medicare for All Act of 2019, which will be important in the coming years.
The Democratic incumbent Adam Schiff’s career has been marred by coordination with the military industrial complex and the introduction of legislation targeting the pro-Palestine Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement in the U.S. Schiff is known for indifference towards issues in his district, but is expected to win based on time in office and name recognition. The Democratic Socialists of America and Future Left are recommending Maebe A. Girl for the 28th Congressional District, though we acknowledge the low-likelihood of Maebe’s victory. Our decision is based on a solid record of advocacy for a truly progressive platform including the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and expanding LGBTQIA equity and social programs. Maebe is also the first Drag Queen elected to public office in the country’s history.
Democratic incumbent Tony Cardenas previously served as an LA City Council member and state assemblymember. He’s a standard corporate Democrat who has endorsed Joe Biden for president. His two challengers, Angélica María Dueñas and Michael R. Guzik, are both running on Bernie platforms and are in favor of key policies like Medicare for All. However, Dueñas is a Democratic Socialists of America member and a 2016 Bernie Delegate, setting her apart from Guzik. She’s been endorsed by Our Revolution LA and California Progressive Alliance. Given that she has more experience in politics and the backing of other progressive organizations, we recommend you vote for Angélica María Dueñas.
Incumbent Brad Sherman is a warhawk who supports our ongoing imperial interventions in the Middle East and Africa. He also maintained a work environment so toxic that junior staffers were too afraid to report sexual harassment from his longtime aide. Two of Sherman’s three challengers, CJ Berina and Brian Carrol, are running on progressive platforms with support for key policy issues like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. Berina has been endorsed by Our Revolution LA and Sunrise Movement LA, and is a person of color. A vote for Berina is a vote for more representation in a majority white congress.
The incumbent Ted Lieu is no worse than most of his liberal ilk and is a powerful Democratic voice (because he got good at tweeting). Still, we can’t recommend him, given his Russia hysterics and general tendency toward imperialist defense policy (he introduced a bill to collaborate with Israeli defense firms to create laser weapons, just for example). Goldberg is a real estate developer without any campaign presence beyond an FEC listing about his PAC. That’s a no from us.
There are two progressives running in this race Frances Yasmeen Motiwalla and Keanakay Scott. Motiwalla supports the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and is an avowed anti-war activist. While Keanakay Scott is another progressive option with strong policies to address LA’s homeless crisis, but while we prefer Keanakay Scott, we might choose her over others because of her willingness to work with others in the community. Ultimately, as DSA-LA we have decided to make no recommendation in this race after receiving feedback from members of the Boyle Heights community (including Union De Vecinos Eastside local of the LA Tenants Union). Please just do not vote for Gomez. Incumbent Jimmy Gomez is in lockstep with the Democratic party, receives donations from AIPAC and big businesses, and has a less-than-progressive voting record. We leave this decision up to the voter in this case and who is to say that we always have to tell you what to do!
It’s a disappointment that incumbent Norma Torres wasn’t primaried. She takes a ton of agribusiness money and has an F rating from ProgressivePunch. Her abysmal record includes voting for the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, getting rid of defense spending oversight, ballistic weapons development, warrantless FISA searches of federal employees and increased use of biometric data collection. She’s bad. Still, she’s running against a guy who lists impeachment as his candidacy’s raison d’etre. Surprise, surprise, the Inland Empire is actually quite conservative!
Karen Bass is the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, a ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and a co-sponsor of Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s Medicare for All Act of 2019. She supports DACA and the DREAM ACT, and worked on Proposition 47. She started the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, “a vehicle to organize members of Congress to come together to work for passage of legislation to improve the child welfare system.” Bass is also one of the authors of FOSTA/SESTA, and was in a position to change the bill so it didn’t endanger sex workers but didn’t do so. We are standing in solidarity with our fellow workers who have been put in danger by FOSTA/SESTA and are not recommending anyone in this race.
Incumbent Linda Sanchez voted for Trump’s trade deal with Mexico and Canada and voted for each of Trump’s National Defense Authorization Acts, which included giving Saudi Arabia weapons to bomb Yemen. Also, Sanchez doesn’t advocate for Medicare for All and her husband was indicted on federal corruption charges. Her opponent, Michael Tolar, campaigns for Medicare for All and rent control. The incumbent is virtually guaranteed of winning reelection.
In 2010, Gil Cisneros won a $266 million lottery jackpot, which he used to become a philanthropist (read: tax evasion specialist). He won his seat in the 2018 midterms, and was one of the Democrats who helped flip the entirety of Orange County blue. He might not be the most progressive candidate ever, but he is arguably the luckiest. Cisneros doesn’t support Medicare for All, he wants to add a public option to the Affordable Care Act. He doesn’t support universal tuition-free higher education, favoring a tuition-free higher education for “motivated students.”
While he does support overturning Citizens United, he’s taken shady money from lobbyists. Despite these many flaws, his main challenger is Republican Young Kim, and they are running in a district that is eager to return to its status as a bastion of 80’s conservatism. In the choice between a centrist Democrat and a member of the increasingly reactionary Republican party, we defer to pragmatism and recommend a vote for Cisneros. There is an independent, likely libertarian candidate, Steve Cox, who frankly has a better platform than Cisneros (universal healthcare, raising taxes on the top, ending the wars on drugs and terror, making higher education tuition free). Unfortunately, Cox garnering only 856 votes in the last election (0.6% of the primary ballots cast), suggesting to us that your vote is better spent on Cisneros.
Dr. Cortes Barragan’s stated ideology and policies are extremely in-line with the beliefs of Democratic Socialists of America-LA and affiliates. Incumbent Lucille Roybal-Allard isn’t the most corrupt Democrat in the House and has done a lot of work she should be applauded for, but Cortes Barragan is right there with us on the issues, we recommend you vote for him.
Waters is the incumbent and the lone Democrat against two Republican competitors. In her district, she’s helped found organizations that promote black women, provided job training to young people in public housing, and worked on behalf of homeless people. However, the House Ethics Committee investigated allegations that she helped a bank in which her husband owned stock to receive bailout money during the financial crisis. For this reason she is preferred rather than recommended.
Incumbent Nanette Diaz Barragan is more of a bog-standard Democrat than a true progressive, but she’s still the most left candidate in this race. Racking up endorsements from Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, SEIU California, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Sierra Club and beyond; she has a solid base of support from labor and left organizations and her community. Nanette supported the Green New Deal and speaks up for fellow women and people of color on her website. Unfortunately, she’s very focused on promoting the Affordable Care Act versus Medicare for All, but everybody has room to grow and we hope Nanette will come over to our camp.
Peter is a well-established progressive author and activist with a detailed platform that has received attention from progressive media personalities like Thom Hartmann. He supports universal programs including the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, tuition-free college, and abolishing private prisons.
Background: The California State Senate is the upper house in the California State Legislature. There are 40 senators, each representing a different district in California. Senators serve 4 year terms and can serve a maximum of 12 years in the State Legislature (E.g 8 years in the Senate and 4 in the Assembly, 12 years in the Assembly, or any other combination). Members of the State Senate write and vote on bills that can pass through both houses in order to become State laws.
Kip Mueller is a young progressive fighting for change in the Democratic establishment. During his career as an attorney he’s fought ICE pro bono and has supported unions, universal healthcare (including extending healthcare to undocumented immigrants), reproductive rights and sanctuary cities. He’s a newcomer, but he’s moving the party in the direction we’d like to see it go (leftward, ho!).
Although Kris Goodfellow and Abigail Medina share progressive ideals, Goodfellow has more specific plans on how to implement them into law. She endorses the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act to restore over $11 billion per year to California’s public school system. She supports California’s cap-and-trade program to limit carbon dioxide emissions, which requires companies to pay money damages for non-compliance. Medina also endorses California’s Earned Income Tax Credit, which boosts the incomes of low-income families. She pledges to close the wage gap by pushing corporations to pay living wages. She has actionable progressive plans, and that’s why we should vote for her.
Anthony Portantino Jr. is a decent state senator. He is mostly aligned with our progressive agenda and his campaign contributions primarily come from state labor organizations. He did get a few fat checks this election cycle from Elevate Credit, Inc. and ACE Cash Express, both payday loan companies. Since he decided to run out for milk and cigarettes during the votes for SB616 (forces debt collectors to leave a debtors final $1,724 in their bank account) and SB298 (protects seasonal workers’ savings from debt collectors), it seems he’ll vote for worker protections and wages, but not to keep us from being exploited by payday lenders. Portantino should definitely stop shilling for these parasites, until he does, he’ll get no recommendation from us.
Henry Stern voted no on bills around housing and police accountability. He chose not to vote on multiple bills that would have benefited immigrants, boosted harm reduction efforts in the city, and provided oversight of police departments’ use of surveillance technology. While he might be slightly better than a Republican, we don’t feel comfortable recommending him.
Newman is fighting for renewable energy, quality affordable education, and funding mental health facilities for the homeless. He secured $20 million for a local program which addresses the root causes of homelessness and youth violence, and assists in post-incarceration reintegration programs. He’s been endorsed by the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, California Teachers Association and OC Labor Federation.
Incumbent Democrat Lena Gonzales has a progressive history and is running unopposed. She’s voted yes on bills such as AB 68 (ADU unit legislation), AB 1215 (a 3-year ban on biometric surveillance and facial recognition in police body cameras), AB 1487 (to raise affordable housing funds), and AB 857 (allows local governments to support public banks). She’s also received a Courage Campaign score of 100%.
Newman is fighting for renewable energy, quality affordable education, and funding mental health facilities for the homeless. He secured $20 million for a local program which addresses the root causes of homelessness and youth violence, and assists in post-incarceration reintegration programs. He’s been endorsed by the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, California Teachers Association and OC Labor Federation.
Incumbent Steven Craig Bradford has devoted much of his political career to ensuring the passage of bills on criminal justice reform, solar energy, and public safety. He boasts a long list of progressive endorsements, including Dolores Huerta, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, and the California Labor Federation.
Background: The council is composed of fifteen members elected from single-member districts for four-year terms. The City Council is the governing body of the City, except as otherwise provided in the Charter, and enacts ordinances subject to the approval or veto of the Mayor. It orders elections, levies taxes, authorizes public improvements, approves contracts, and adopts traffic regulations. The Council adopts or modifies the budget proposed by the Mayor and provides the necessary funds, equipment, and supplies for the budgetary departments. The Council confirms or rejects appointments proposed by the Mayor and prescribes duties of boards and officers not defined by Charter.
38% of households in CD2 are living 200% below the federal poverty level. A whopping 77% of public school children are eligible for free or reduced lunch programs, and 54% of households are spending over one third of their income on housing. The incumbent Paul Krekorian has been sitting in that seat since 2009, and has had ample time to help his constituents. Clearly, he has not. His opponents are Republican Rudy Melendez and Independent Ayinde Jones, who don’t have any actual policy positions or proposals available for us. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, Paul Krekorian is moonwalking his way into a third and final term as councilperson of CD2.
Incumbent David Ryu has raised upwards of a million dollars in campaign contributions, including donations from predatory housing developers and oil industry lobbyists. Ryu framed himself as the government outsider in his initial victory, but has quickly embedded himself as a pro-establishment Democrat. Nithya Raman has displayed courageous leadership in her role as Executive Director of the #TimesUp movement, worked as a City Administrative Officer for Los Angeles, and has worked tirelessly on behalf of the unhoused population in southern California. Nithya is a dues paying member of DSA-LA, and she is the only local candidate our chapter has endorsed in this election cycle. Nithya’s has also been endorsed by other organizations such as the Sunrise Movement, LA League of Conservation Voters, Our Revolution, and the National Women’s Political Caucus. We recommend Nithya Raman for Los Angeles City Council District 4.
The incumbent, Nury Martinez, began her new role as City Council President this year by criticizing the city’s homeless sweeps for not being aggressive enough in disposing of homeless people’s possessions. One challenger, Benito Benny Bernal, is a pro-Trump Republican who runs for a different race every year, rarely collecting more than 20% of the vote. The other, Bill Haller, is a current Lake Balboa Neighborhood Councilmember and a former Sierra Club air quality committee chair who supports climate justice and transit investment, but his campaign presence appears to be just one Facebook page with 47 likes. Martinez is almost certainly going to roll this race, but since Bernal is not a viable challenger, we recommend voting for Haller.
Incumbent Marqueece Harris-Dawson is running uncontested. Before he was a Council Member, Harris-Dawson had a leading role at Community Coalition, a social justice organization in South LA focused on creating safe neighborhoods with access to quality education and community. Harris-Dawson’s current platform includes working towards affordable housing, infrastructure repair, public transportation investment, economic development, and homelessness prevention. No sitting councilperson on a city council that has overseen Los Angeles’ drastic increase in homelessness while voting unanimously over 99% can be truly called progressive or leftist, but Harris-Dawson is about as close as you can get; he was the second council-person, after Mike Bonin, to come out in opposition to Los Angeles’ draconian anti-homeless sleeping ordinance 41.18.
Aura is a Columbian-born immigrant with a long history of community organizing for progessive policies. Her efforts include helping undocumented residents obtain a driver’s licence, fighting for affordable housing as chair of the Land Use Committee, leading the Sierra Club’s campaign to eliminate coal dependency, banning single-use plastic bags, helping establish a rooftop solar program, and bringing supplies to Standing Rock. She is running on a platform pushing for 100% renewable energy, affordable housing and homeless services, and free public transit. Aura’s endorsements include Sunrise movement and Our Revolution. Aura’s primary opponent is Mark Ridley-Thomas (MRT, for short), a titan of establishment corruption with fingers in every major Democratic Party pot in the country. Most notably, MRT made sure his failson, Sebastian, who had resigned from the state assembly to get ahead of a sexual harassment allegation.
Incumbent Repubican John Lee is the last remaining Republican holding a seat on the Los Angeles City Council. Lee is supported by the police and fire association, as well as pro business groups including oil lobbyists, predatory housing developers, and right wing elements throughout southern California. We recommend Lorain Lundquist for Los Angeles City Council District 12. Lundquist is a physicist teaching sustainability at Cal State Northridge. She has supported the Democratic Socialists of America and many other grassroots organizations on campaigns including Keep Families Together, the UTLA Teachers Strike, Aliso Canyon, and Prop 10.
Her highest priority is bringing a Green New Deal to Los Angeles, modelled in part after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s plan. Lundquist has received numerous endorsements including the National Union of Healthcare Workers, Muslim Democratic Club of Southern California, Our Revolution, Stonewall Democratic Club, International Longshore Workers Union – Southern California District Council, Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters, United Teachers Los Angeles, and the National Women’s Political Caucus California.
The big name in the race is Kevin de León, the former state senate President Pro Tem. Kevin wields a lot of power in Los Angeles, as does the other primary contender Mónica Garcia. Garcia served 13 years on the LAUSD board, spending a good chunk of that time as the board president as well. Ultimately, these two candidates are running large, well-oiled campaigns. Cyndi Otteson, however, is the candidate we are most interested in. Otteson supports a rent freeze and vacancy tax. This is big, especially when you consider D14 is home to some of the highest concentration of unhoused people in the country. Per her campaign website, she rejects money from developers, corporations, fossil fuel interests, and the charter school lobby. She also believes the city should eminent domain vacant commercial properties to build more affordable housing.
Look, we have a confession to make: we didn’t have enough time and resources to research every race for smaller cities in the Los Angeles area, much as we wanted to. Still, we wanted to make sure to include a few key races.
Pasadena City Council District 6 includes southern and western Pasadena. Twenty-year Incumbent Steve Madison is facing two challengers. One of them is endorsed by pro-ICE former LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell. The other, Ryan Bell, is running on a tenants-rights platform to be the only tenant on the council. As an active member of the Pasadena Tenants Union, a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders, and former director of PATH (People Assisting the Homeless). He’s likely a long-shot candidate.
LAUSD School Board races are significant, because they are the subject of a massive ongoing battle between organized labor and would-be education privatizers. UTLA, one of the most militant and effective teachers unions in the country, is fighting for public education as a public good, and securing some serious victories. Charter schools and the monied interests supporting them, who look to privatize and cash-in on education, are on the opposing side, we can’t let them win. We don’t have time to go into it in depth here, but suffice to say: we’re with the union. Incumbent George McKenna is with the union too. He has held this seat since 2014, is endorsed by UTLA, and is running opposed only by a write-in candidate.
That candidate, Michael Batie, seems nice enough – he’s particularly campaigned on improving STEM education for black students for several years. Still, McKenna has been an educator in LAUSD for 58 years, starting out as a math teacher in 1962. McKenna’s fierce advocacy for improving LA schools, particularly for the non-white students he taught in South LA has become so legendary that he was played by Denzel Washington in a 1986 movie about him. While that story is somewhat fictionalized, the takeaway is not: vote for George McKenna.
Scott Schmerelson wants to lower class sizes, stop evaluating teachers based on test scores, and prioritize public schools over charter schools. He is endorsed by UTLA and Education Workers United.
Jackie is a Democratic Socialists of America-LA member and a decades-long socialist. Goldberg’s platform focuses on reducing class sizes, reforming the budget, and allocating resources directly to the classroom. She strongly advocates for improving learning conditions and protecting LAUSD schools from attacks by the federal government. Goldberg has supported teacher strikes and is endorsed by UTLA, CHIRLA, Dolores Huerta and Our Revolution.
Our recommendation for Castellanos comes alongside UTLA, who wrote, “UTLA is endorsing an LAUSD parent who is committed to the fight against privatization and for fully funded schools. Patricia Castellanos is a founding member of Reclaim Our Schools LA, the parent-community coalition that was with us during our strike, walking the picket lines and protesting outside privatizers’ homes. She is a former deputy director for L.A. Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) and led campaigns with unions and the community for better working conditions for employees and stronger neighborhoods for families.
Background: Veronica Sauceda spent 13 years as a lawyer at non-profit, legal service organizations, representing clients who could not afford private attorneys. She obtained hundreds of restraining orders protecting victims of domestic violence and she worked on complex family law cases. Veronica worked on a county wide initiative that individuals who do not speak English can access all of the services of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. In 2015, she was elected by the Los Angeles Superior Court Judges to serve as a Superior Court Commissioner. She graduated from law school at UCLA and has been endorsed by many sitting judges, Dolores Huerta, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and many local mayors.
Decision: Veronica has many years of experience as a public interest lawyer defending those in need. Her opponent, Alfred A. Coletta, is a prosecutor who is endorsed by local police unions as well as Republican former District Attorney Steve Cooley.
Background: Patricia Hunter is a criminal prosecutor in the City Attorney’s office with over 28 years of experience. She’s endorsed by the Los Angeles Democratic Party, City Attorney Mike Feuer, Councilmember Paul Koretz, Superior Court judge James Hahn and others.
Decision: Patricia Hunter’s opposition, Sydne Jane Michel, is endorsed by California Firearms Enthusiasts since her husband is an attorney who has been representing the National Rifle Association for the past 20 years. She’s also endorsed by numerous law enforcement police.
This is perhaps the most important local race in 2020. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office is the largest in the country, so the race has fittingly received national attention. There’s a nationwide trend of so-called “progressive prosecutors” running for office, and now we have the chance to vote in one of our own. Our current DA Jackie Lacey has spent the last eight years prosecuting poor people of color at appalling rates while failing to hold any law enforcement accountable for the over 500 extrajudicial killings they have meted out during her tenure. She supports capital punishment and has fought against all kinds of reforms. We stand with Black Lives Matter and our coalition partners in demanding that Jackie Lacey Must Go!
Lacey has two opponents.The former DA of San Francisco George Gascón is a career police officer and prosecutor who promises to be a reformer. There is little doubt he would be better than Lacey, but that is an extremely low bar. Much like Lacey, he has come under fire for not prosecuting killer cops in San Francisco, leading to weekly protests in front of the Hall of Justice. Sound familiar?
The other contender is Rachel Rossi, a public defender who has never been in law enforcement. While many of her proposals are similar to Gascón’s, her rhetoric during the campaign has skewed to the left of him. She is more emphatic about decreasing the filing of charges, increasing pre-trial diversions, and creating systems of accountability for the DA’s office. She speaks openly about the long-standing conflict of interest between prosecutors and law enforcement. She advocates for decriminalizing sex work and homelessness, and abandoning gang enhancements. As abolitionist organizations, we typically avoid making recommendations in DA races, but the harm reduction inherent in having non-cop as DA is too significant to ignore. We recommend Rossi.
This is one of the biggest local races in Los Angeles this year, featuring a three-way battle between long-time titans of the Los Angeles Democratic Party establishment. LA County Supervisors wield an enormous amount of power – with only five supervisors reigning over county services for roughly 12 million people – earning themselves the nickname the “five little kings”. Races for County Supervisor are almost exclusively won by well-established politicians with massive name recognition and internal Democratic Party support.
The current supervisor in District 2, Mark Ridley-Thomas (MRT), is a titan of establishment corruption, with fingers in every major Democratic Party pot in the county. Most notably, MRT made sure his failson, Sebastian, who had resigned from the State Assembly to get ahead of a sexual harassment allegation, landed softly, by bribing USC to give him a professorship (Sebastian was fired after this bribery was investigated by the press). Now, MRT is termed out, so he and corrupt establishment mainstay Herb Wesson, who just termed out of his reign as president of LA City Council in District 10, decided to swap seats. Healthy democracy, right?
Wesson’s failures as city council president are expansive. As Council President, he orchestrated the past term in which Los Angeles faced skyrocketing rents and homelessness and responded almost exclusively with criminalization and neglect. Over 99% of city council votes have been unanimous, and the few times the city council walked back its own inhumane criminalization, such as when it finally voted down the city’s criminalization ordinance of sidewalk sleeping, the result was orchestrated by a revolt of the council’s “progressive” wing (Mike Bonin and Marqueece Harris-Dawson) against Wesson’s rule, in responsive to massive grassroots pressure. He’s also been named (though not indicted) as a person of interest in an FBI investigation into bribery and corruption, centered on Jose Huizar and hotel developments in Downtown Los Angeles. Still, he’s heading into this race as a massive favorite, with well over a million dollars raised and endorsements from the County Democratic Party, most local unions, and an army of establishment city politicians.
But there’s a hitch. Wesson is facing two other candidates with support from the party establishment. Former City Councilwoman Jan Perry has long been a political opponent of Herb Wesson, with numerous political clashes during their shared time on the city council culminating in Wesson overseeing a redistricting of City Council districts explicitly to break up Perry’s base. Jan Perry has raised over $700,000 for this race, and is endorsed by an array of establishment politicians, albeit a much smaller array. While Jan Perry is probably more progressive than Wesson, it’s not by much. Her most recent position was in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s pro-business “Economic and Workforce Development Department”.
Finally, there’s Holly Mitchell. Mitchell is a current state senator representing Crenshaw, Culver City, South Central, and parts of Downtown Los Angeles and Inglewood. As State Senator, Mitchell has been called the “social conscience of the California Senate” and chaired the powerful budget committee. She’s been a fierce voice in support of funding and expanding social services, as well as unions. She supported the board of supervisors granting subpoena power to civilian oversight committees which, when properly equipped, can represent a meaningful check on the police. Though by no means a leftist, Holly Mitchell is among the most progressive establishment politicians in California. She has raised about $900,000 for this race, and has endorsements from a block of influential unions including SEIU, UFW and NUHW, grassroots organizations including the Sierra Club, Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and Planned Parenthood, as well as a wide array of state politicians, most notably Governor Gavin Newsom and former Governor Jerry Brown. Mitchell is probably a favorite over Perry to make the runoff against Wesson, but with local races, as always, the lack of polling makes it tough to tell.
There are five other candidates, none of whom stand a realistic shot of making the runoff. Of them, Jorge Nuño is the most progressive. Nuño is a longtime progressive and organizer who has been working to raise the quality of life with kids in south central with the Big House project. It’s now the home to the Bernie Sanders campaign office. He’s raised $4000 for this race, with $3000 coming from his own money.
LA County’s 4th District is massive, probably too massive, stretching from Marina Del Rey down through Diamond Bar. The incumbent Janice Hahn is a relatively generic California liberal, and backed by the entire Democratic coalition of California. Hahn is the scion of a long-ruling dynasty of Los Angeles politics – her father, Kenneth, was on the Board for 40(!!) years, and her brother, James, served as city attorney through the 1990s before becoming a one term mayor from 2001-2005. Janice put in good work on housing issues, got Measure H on the ballot, and subsequently used that money towards shower programs and urgent care beds in San Pedro. She also pushed a rent stabilization ordinance in unincorporated LA County that caps rent increases at 3% and requires just cause for eviction. Contradicting these efforts is her vote to support efforts in overturning Martin v. Boise. Worse still, Hahn supported the appointment of Nicole Tinkham as Interim Public Defender in 2018. Tinkham had no criminal law experience, is a big proponent of law enforcement, and provided civil defense to Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Sorrow after he shot 15-year-old William Fetters in the back while he was biking with his friends.
Challenging her is Desiree T. Washington, who currently practices business law in the private sector. Her marquee issues are housing and homelessness. However, none of her solutions include any sort of expansion of tenant rights, zoning for affordable housing, bridge housing, or making the places homeless people currently live, safer for them. There is a lot of platitudes about mental illness, substance abuse, job training programs and, “encouraging more job creation in less dense areas of the county to better support any movement of working class homeless peoples to those areas.” This loosely translates to “Ship them to Lancaster.” She wants to reduce traffic but also reduce the county gas tax. Her plans for this are based on the actions of employers and police enforcement. None of them are infrastructure related.
Hahn is cruising into re-election here. In a world where she can do better, we’re not recommending anyone for this race.
John C. Harabedian holds a law degree from Stanford Law School and a Master of Science degree in comparative social policy from the University of Oxford. He has both impressive educational credentials for this role and genuine progressive vision. Harabedian supports ending cash bail, eliminating the death penalty, and kicking ICE out of LA County. He’s endorsed by San Francisco’s newly elected progressive DA, Chesa Boudin, an ally to the Black Lives Matter movement. Another challenger, Darrell Park, is an environmentalist and businessman who supports 100% renewable electricity for the county by 2030 and free public transportation. He has agreed to the Housing Guarantee and has been endorsed by Ground Game LA. As Harabedian and Park are the only two challengers running against a single incumbent, we feel comfortable recommending a vote for either of them for this seat. Both will be strong progressive challengers against incumbent Kathryn Barger.
We based our recommendations for judge races on guidance from the Public Defenders Union and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. In two races, #97 and #129, our recommendations differ from AFSCME, which chose no endorsement.
#42: Linda Sun
#72: Myanna Dellinger
#80: Klint James McKay
#145: Troy Slaten
#150: Tom Parsekian
#162: David D. Diamond
#129: No Endorsement (AFSCME) / Ken Fuller (recommendation)
#97: No Endorsement (AFSCME) / Timothy D. Reuben (recommendation)
#76: No Endorsement