Nearly 40 members of the East Area Progressive Democrats came forward as candidates in the June 7 primary. And two-thirds, or 26 of the club members whose names appeared on ballots in the communities of the Eastside won their elections outright—while others now proceed to a runoff vote on November 8.
The local contests ranged from L.A. County Democratic Central Committee, to judge and county office to the state legislature. Major victories for EAPD members include the breakthrough by Democrat Darrell Park in the race for the open seat to succeed longtime arch-conservative Board of Supervisors member Mike Antonovich.
In Assembly District 51, Luis Lopez (a nonprofit healthcare director and Planned Parenthood board member), and Lisa Alva (a public school teacher at Roosevelt High School) were top vote-getters for Democratic central committee, outpacing several longtime members of the body.
In Assembly District 53, first-time candidate Susan Jerich, a labor attorney, and Hector Huezo, founder of the Alliance of River Communities and secretary of EAPD, also won seats on the Democratic central committee.
Delegates to the county central committee wield considerable power as they endorse candidates and ballot measures, as well as shape the Democratic Party’s platform.
“As Bernie Sanders’ campaign winds down, millions of supporters are looking for how to make a lasting difference in an electoral system biased toward big money,” says EAPD president Hans Johnson. “This primary election shows a promising path forward for progressives willing to step up as candidates, engage the grassroots, expand the electorate and change the Democratic Party from within.”
The surge in progressive leadership on the city’s Eastside shows the importance of working in politics on a local level. And it coincides with the national mood that pushed policies of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren into the mainstream.
Having triumphed as the party’s nominee, Hillary Clinton has recently campaigned with Warren. “The shift in direction of the Democratic party is now coming to a close with the victory of the Warren wing,” claims Alan Green, co-founder of the national organization Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
As history shows, influencing the Democratic Party on the local level is one of the best ways to create change from the bottom up. “Laws and court rulings to allow workers to form unions, to limit pollution, to stop police interference in women’s reproductive decisions, to recognize and equalize protections for same-sex couples, and to reform elections to curb the corrupting power of big money all began at the state level,” says EAPD president Johnson. “They have become central to our vision of a free and fair society through Democratic Party activism, resolutions and endorsements.
“Now we have proof that we can open doors for new leaders here in L.A. pushing forward-thinking goals like these,” Johnson adds. “Progressive Democrats from diverse backgrounds willing to step up as candidates, engage the grass roots and expand the electorate possess a winning recipe.”
Mary A. Fischer