And We’re Off: DSA’s Results In The First Primary Election Of 2022
Six of DSA’s nationally endorsed candidates went head to head with their opponents on Tuesday May 17th, with primaries in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and North Carolina. So far this year, DSA has endorsed 27 candidates and ballot initiatives across 11 states. Three of the six candidates were also singled out by DSA in their promotion of the candidates as a separate “ Green New Deal” slate, a departure for DSA from electoral efforts of years past, and received extra support from national DSA’s Green New Deal committee. The candidates who were added to this second slate were Paul Prescod, Tyler Lamon, and
Robert LeVertis Bell.
In Pennsylvania, three DSA candidates were up for election: Paul Prescod for the 8th State Senate District, Rick Krajewski for the 188th State House District and finally Elizabeth Fiedler for the 184th State House District. All three candidates had the endorsement of the local DSA chapter, Philadelphia DSA, which turned out hundreds of canvassers and raised thousands of dollars for their campaigns.
All three faced massive opposition from the ruling class and the Philadelphia political machine. In the race for the 8th State Senate District, residents saw a massive influx of money from charter school lobbyists like Jeffrey Yass–a registered Libertarian and Republican mega-donor–and his PAC, “Students First.” Yass had given Prescod’s opponent nearly $215,000 since 2021 to support his re-election campaign.
In both Rick Krajewski and Elizabeth Fiedler’s races, both candidates saw their primary opponent endorsed by the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee, despite both Krajewski and Fiedler being incumbents, who usually get the endorsement of the party apparatus. Even more ridiculous: Fiedler’s opponent, Michael Giangiordano, was openly signal-boosting conservative and pro-Republican talking points on his social media accounts.
In his race, Paul Prescod challenged State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams, one of the scions of Philadelphia’s most powerful political families. Williams has held his seat in the State Senate since 1998, when he practically inherited it from his father, Hardy Williams, who in turn held it since 1983. Paul Prescod, on the other hand, does not hail from any of Philadelphia’s ruling political dynasties; rather, he is a proud working-class Philadelphia public school teacher. Prescod is a long time member of Philly DSA, and a leader of the chapter’s Labor Branch, who ran on a platform of increased funding for public schools, protection and expansion of workers’ rights, universal healthcare, and increased funding for infrastructure projects.
The results on election night for Philly DSA were mixed. In the cases of Rick Krajewski and Elizabeth Fiedler, both won their races by huge margins. Krajewski’s opponent, James Wright, who received tens of thousands of dollars from Jeffrey Yass and the charter school lobby, was defeated by a resounding margin of 71% to 29%. In the 184th State House District, Elizabeth Fiedler trounced her opponent by an even bigger margin of 79% to 21%. With both State Representatives winning re-election by such a wide margin, the local Democratic Party leadership will be eating crow for some time to come. Unfortunately, the night was not all a success for Philly DSA. Paul Prescod’s campaign was defeated, garnering 40% of the vote to William’s 60%. Prescod’s campaign did well in the neighborhoods surrounding University City and the Grey’s Ferry/Point Breeze neighborhoods, but came up short in the rest of West Philly and Delaware County.
In Louisville, Kentucky, DSA put up Robert LeVertis Bell and Tyler Lamon. Louisville DSA prides itself on running openly socialist class struggle candidates for elected office. In this election, the chapter decided to endorse Robert LeVertis Bell for District 43 of the Kentucky State House and Tyler Lamon for District 15 of the Louisville Metro Council. Both candidates ran as open democratic socialists and have been long-time members of Louisville DSA.
Bell–like Prescod–is a public school teacher, and was a participant in the Red for Ed movement which spawned a wave of teachers’ strikes across the United States, especially in Kentucky. This is also not Bell’s first run for public office. In 2020 DSA endorsed him to run for Louisville Metro Council in a multi-candidate race, but sadly came just a few hundred votes shy of victory. This year Bell was initially running in District 42, which for the first time in Kentucky state history was going to be under total Republican control, before they promptly gerrymandered the district, and Bell found himself running against incumbent State Representative Pamela Stevenson in District 43.
This time around Bell’s platform centered on a Green New Deal for Kentucky, a Homes Guarantee and, of course, better public schools. After the final results were counted on Tuesday morning, Bell unfortunately fell short of victory and he was defeated by Stevenson by less than 400 votes. With two very close elections under his belt, it seems likely that Louisville DSA and Bell will make another run at it.
In the race for the District 15 seat, first-time candidate Tyler Lamon was facing a crowded race with four other candidates . While the other challengers focused on their personal backgrounds, Lamon put socialist politics at the center of his campaign. Lamon’s platform includes many of the same points as his comrade Bell’s platform did. He used his campaign to advocate for a Green New Deal for Louisville, more transparent and participatory government, and–in the wake of the murder of Breonna Taylor by Louisville Police in 2021–a platform plank reimagining public safety. Lamon ran an explicitly and unapologetically socialist campaign, ultimately losing his race by a razor-thin 51 votes. The Lamon campaign continues a trend in Louisville DSA’s Metro Council campaigns of falling just short of victory, but the margins are narrowing more with each election and victory seems well within reach in the near future.
Finally, we have Phillip Carter, who ran for a County Commission seat in Forsyth County, North Carolina, and who was endorsed by Winston-Salem DSA. Carter campaigned openly as a democratic socialist and saw his campaign as continuing the legacy of African-American socialists of the past like Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Ella Baker and Dr. W.E.B DuBois. His campaign platform included planks calling for Housing For All, advocating for a $15/hour minimum wage, and improving access to mental health and other health care services. In this campaign, voters were to select two candidates from a five-person candidate pool. Carter ultimately was unsuccessful in his race, coming in a distant fourth place.
Tuesday’s elections were a mixed bag for DSA. While Philly DSA was able to help re-elect two of its incumbent progressive candidates, its cadre candidate was defeated, though running a cadre campaign taught the chapter many lessons for the future and built a pathway for success.
The bright star of the evening’s results, though, may in fact have been the results from our comrades in Louisville DSA. While these candidates did not win, they offered a model for how DSA candidates can and should openly state their socialist values, even in red states, and how socialist electoral campaigns can be used to build the capacity of locals to advance socialism, and not only the electoral victory itself.
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