On October 3, 2021, DSA Los Angeles members voted by an overwhelming margin (451 – 57) to endorse DSA-LA member Hugo Soto-Martínez in his campaign for Los Angeles City Council District 13.
The first campaign event of the DSA for Hugo working group was a co-hosted canvass with the campaign on Saturday, October 30.
You can see a constantly updated list of Electoral Committee events for Hugo, and RSVP for those here.
The Role of Electoral Campaigns and Strategy in Working Class Struggle
DSA engages in electoral organizing because elections are one of the primary avenues through which working people experience politics. Electoral campaigns provide a critical opportunity to articulate democratic socialist politics to millions of people, draw the lines of class struggle, build support for transformative reforms, and win material demands. Moreover, DSA uses electoral campaigns to build a durable political organization and grow the collective strength needed for our membership and elected officials to effectively wield political power towards a Los Angeles that works for our class.
Core pillars of DSA-LA’s electoral strategy, as outlined in the 2021-2022 National Electoral Strategy and the Build a Bench chapter priority resolution include a careful assessment of potential electoral races in Los Angeles county, with a particular focus on opportunities where DSA can engage strategically, including against bad incumbents, where we can play a significant role in the outcome of the election, and can elect candidates who are “socialist organizers with a relationship to a working-class base, not just individuals who run on ‘good ideas’,” with a particular focus on developing candidates who are already core DSA organizers.
Considerations for DSA-LA endorsement should not only be based only on tactical considerations related to the candidate and their platform and campaign, but also on the strategic value of the particular race and district and of DSA-LA’s involvement in the race. We don’t endorse candidates simply to be a check mark to say the candidate is good – we want to build socialist power. When we endorse, DSA-LA members volunteer hundreds of hours organizing canvasses, phone banks, doing research, making content for social media, and more. It is a massive commitment to make and depends on large amounts of chapter enthusiasm and labor to mobilize and succeed in our electoral work.
Analysis of Races Considered in this Endorsement Phase
With these parameters in mind, the first district to be considered for the 2022 election by DSA-LA is LA City Council District 13, which is unique among upcoming elections due to the following tactical advantages:
- Existing DSA-LA Membership Base. The district has nearly 1000 dues paying DSA-LA members within its boundaries, almost twice as many as the next City Council seat to be contested.
- Building a Multiracial Working Class Constituency. The district residents are plurality Latine, overwhelmingly (79%) renter, and low-income, with a median income of $46,800 (compared to city median of $60,200).
- Challenging an Establishment Conservative Politician. This seat is currently held by an incumbent who not only votes consistently on the conservative end of Los Angeles City Council, but has clashed with DSA-LA members advocating for the residents of Echo Park Lake. Councilmember O’Farrell has been a longtime ally of Mayor Eric Garcetti and a champion for the interests of wealthy white home- and business-owners. This was most visibly and recently true with his brutal police sweep of Echo Park Lake, through which unhoused residents were forcibly evicted.
- Leveraging Voter Support for Democratic Socialists. The district is one of just three Los Angeles City Council districts in which over half of 2020 Democratic primary voters voted for Bernie Sanders.
LA City Council District 13 thus offers a district uniquely suited to be a strategic race for DSA Los Angeles. This is a race where our chapter could play a huge, visible role, if we so decide.
Electoral Committee Recommendation for Candidate Endorsement
The DSA-LA Electoral Committee published the following recommendation to chapter membership ahead of the endorsement vote:
On September 3, 2021, the Electoral Committee received a petition for endorsement of Hugo Soto-Martinez, signed by over 50 members in good standing. Though the power to make a chapter endorsement lies with the membership, the Electoral Committee is tasked with providing electoral strategy recommendations to the Steering Committee and membership. The following represents our recommendation in response to this petition.
The Hugo Soto-Martinez campaign for LA City Council District 13 offers an incredible opportunity for DSA Los Angeles: to accelerate the leftward shift in Los Angeles city politics that began in 2020; to elect a longtime socialist union organizer, a core chapter member; to activate hundreds of our members in a diverse, renter-heavy district; and to keep building coalitions with labor and broad social justice campaigns across Los Angeles.
Hugo has been an active member of DSA-LA since early 2019, including serving as a chapter officer for NOlympics for two terms and as a delegate to the 2021 National Convention. The son of immigrant street vendors and a native Angeleno, Hugo has been a union organizer with UNITE HERE Local 11, a regular labor ally of DSA-LA, for over 15 years, since being a part of a union drive as a hotel worker. Hugo has also been an organizer across many non-union organizing campaigns, including campaigns around immigration, racial justice, and anti-police brutality.
Through his interview with the Electoral Committee and his candidate questionnaire, Hugo emphasized his goal of building on the coalition that elected Nithya Raman in 2020, while strengthening the link between that grassroots coalition and organized labor. He emphasized his deep affinity to the organizations, like DSA, that he has organized with, and expressed a vision of being an organizer in office, grounding socialist politics with labor organizing experience and being a champion for the poor, working class, and marginalized in our city.
Based on this assessment, it is the unanimous opinion of the DSA-LA Electoral Committee that DSA-LA should endorse Hugo Soto-Martinez for LA City Council District 13.
About the District
City Council District 13 is unique among upcoming elections. Represented by incumbent and frequent DSA-LA opponent Mitch O’Farrell, the district has hundreds of dues paying DSA-LA members within its boundaries, almost twice as many as the next City Council seat to be contested. This is a race where our chapter could play a huge, visible role, if we so decide.
Of course, this race is not relevant only to members living in the district, but to the entire chapter. Los Angeles city politics are a dominating force in the county, and all members’ voices and labor are welcomed in considering and supporting candidate endorsements. All of our members to have an opportunity to meet, engage with the candidate, and DSA-LA members across the entire chapter will be voting on whether to endorse or not, so no matter where you live you should engage in the process.
The DSA-LA Endorsement Process
The DSA-LA Electoral Committee voted unanimously to adopt a three-stage endorsement timeline for the 2022 election cycle, which began after the ratification of the Democratic Socialist Program for Los Angeles, in keeping with the 2020 Chapter Resolution “Build a Bench for a 2022 DSA-LA Slate”. In keeping with that timeline, this page is to collect resources related to first phase of that timeline, in which the chapter membership is considering endorsements for Los Angeles City Council District 13.
For this phase, the Electoral Committee has received an endorsement petition for Los Angeles City Council Candidate and DSA-LA member Hugo Soto-Martinez. Running for Council District 13 in 2022, Soto-Martinez is seeking endorsement from our chapter, and this decision will be made by our chapter membership via a membership vote.
The next part of the endorsement process is a candidate forum open to all DSA-LA members in good standing, followed by a chapter-wide vote. The forum will feature an open discussion and Q/A period with the candidate, a summary briefing of the race and district, and a recommendation from the Electoral Committee. The event will conclude with closed deliberation among our membership, after which balloting will begin on the endorsement question.
You can find the candidate questionnaire that Hugo Soto-Martinez filled out linked to here, on DSA Los Angeles' member-only forum. You may use the same forum post to submit questions for the member Q&A if you're unable to attend. The Electoral Committee will open another section for member statements in support or against the endorsement following the candidate forum.
Other 2022 Endorsement Resources