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On Super Tuesday, including the California Primary where Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and the others will top the ballot, further down the ballot is an important race for the Los Angeles City Council's 10th City Council District. The candidates include L.A. Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, Attorney Grace Yoo, Department of Water and Power commissioner Aura Vasquez, and Channing Martinez. Martinez self-identifies a "Black, Garifuna, queer, revolutionary civil rights and climate justice organizer." He is running on a radical platform that pushes the bounds of thinkable thought (as Noam Chomsky formulates it) based on a counter-hegemonic set of demands (as we formulate it) to raise the consciousness and aspirations of the oppressed.

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* Cut the LAPD budget by 50%

* Affirmative Action for Black Jobs—50% of all new public and private sector jobs must go to Black applicants

* Free Public Transportation for All, No Cars in L.A., Stop MTA Attacks on Black Passengers

* Open Borders for all Immigrants, Kick ICE out of L.A.

* Free, Safe, and Legal Abortion for all women

* 50% of all public housing for very low-income families way below market rates

* U.S. out of Venezuela, Bolivia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, stop the war with Russia and China, No U.S. intervention in the internal affairs of other nations.

A central theme in the campaign is to protect and expand L.A.'s Black population from a genocidal gentrification that has already driven Blacks out of the job market imposed mass imprisonment and occupation and driven low-income people out of the district and L.A.

A central theme in the campaign is to protect and expand L.A.'s Black population from a genocidal gentrification that has already driven Blacks out of the job market (thus 50% new jobs for Black applicants) imposed mass imprisonment and occupation (thus cut LAPD by 50%) and driven low-income people out of the district and L.A. (thus Free Public Transportation and 50% or more investment very low-income housing). The Campaign is also calling for structural challenges to global warming in the region through Free Public Transportation, No Cars in L.A. through auto free zones, auto free days, and bus only lanes. We want an end to the criminalization of the Black and the poor on LA buses and trains by the MTA policy of arrests and tickets for the grotesque infraction of "fare evasion."

In that we are campaigning in a district that still has a Black representative— but is now only 25% Black from its high of 75% and a city that was once 25% Black and now is only 9% Black— we repeat that gentrification is genocide. We are asking Black, Latinx, Korean, and white voters to prioritize the protection and expansion of L.A.'s Black population to repay the Black movement for all it has done for society and to stop The System's plan for Black occupation, imprisonment, and dispersal.

This campaign is led by Channing Martinez, 32, a lead organizer with the Labor/Community Strategy Center, manager of the Strategy and Soul Movement center, and producer of Voices from the Frontlines the radio show that I host. He is doing a very impressive job in the 10 candidate night debates in the city. In that the other 3 candidates are formidable he is competing in the big time of L.A. politics.

At a recent candidate's night by the League of 100 Black Women voters, the moderator asked Channing, "You say you want to cut the LAPD budget by 50%. But if you are the only vote on the City Council how do you plan to win that?" The fact that the radical demand to cut the LAPD budget by a penny let alone $1 billion and to cut the LAPD force from 10,000 armed officers to 5,000 was taken as legitimate demand in itself reflected the impact we are having on the public debate. Channing replied, "I don't know how many votes there were for the end to slavery or of Jim Crow at first. But somebody has to call the question and I am willing to do so."

At another debate he was asked if he supported Uber drivers getting a significant raise. He said he did but said, "The main issue is I want no cars in L.A. and free public transportation. I don't want the private auto to be replaced by a massive fleet of Lyfts and Ubers." When asked if he supported "local area hire for all construction projects" he said, "The elephant in the room is that the Democratic Party establishment is driving Black folks out of the city altogether so what is the value of 'local area hires' if we can no longer live in the area."

On the other hand, our fundraising hopes, once at $50,000 to $100,000 have not taken off and our total expenditures are less than $20,000. This is compared to the $100,000, $200,000 and $500,000 the other three candidates have raised. We do not celebrate our lack of funds but have learned to work within those restrictions out of necessity. Also, since we have no paid staff, a small but dedicated group of volunteers, excellent campaign materials, and a targeted ground game we are focusing in several key Black majority precinct clusters to test our results in areas where we can achieve high levels of saturation. In the last 7 days of the campaign, as each day is like a week, if we can get a new infusion of financial support we can dramatically expand our capacity up until election day. (Please support our campaign at Channing2020.com)

What does victory look like?

In November 2019, when we all agreed to launch this campaign and Channing was fully on board to be the candidate, we wrote a campaign strategy paper for all of our key organizers so that we could judge our campaign's performance against our own strategic and tactical objectives. Let's look at the goals and so far, the results.

* Putting forth a radical political program to move the electoral debate to the Black, to the Internationalist, and to the Left.

The Strategy Center, a community based think/tank act/tank rooted in South Los Angeles has a long history of putting forth radical, structural demands for the Movement beginning with our Reconstructing Los Angeles—and U.S. Cities—from the Bottom Up (1992) and Towards a Program of Resistance (2000.) We understood this campaign as completely separate legally and organizationally but to be another tactic to carry out that focus on Demand Development and bring it into the electoral arena.

Channing's campaign begins "Build a Black/Latinx/Third World Alliance" so the international focus of the platform is asserted from the outset.

* Cut LAPD budget by 50%

* Affirmative Action for Black Jobs—50% of all new public and private sector jobs must go to Black applicants

* Free Public Transportation for All, No Cars in L.A., Stop MTA Attacks on Black Passengers

* Open Borders for all Immigrants, Kick ICE out of L.A.

* Free, Safe, and Legal Abortion for all women

* 50% of all public housing for very low-income families way below market rates

* U.S. out of Venezuela, Bolivia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, stop the war with Russia and China, No U.S. intervention in the internal affairs of other nations.

The platform demands are everywhere—on our T shirts, posters, flyers, emails—this is not a radical facade followed by a softer delivery. The demands shape the campaign and are the key to attracting people, voters, and votes. We are not just trying to see how many votes we can get—we are trying to see how many votes we can get to support this comprehensive program.

* Working with other movement groups in the city to expand this program to incorporate key additional demands

This has been not been very successful. We had the idea to go to many of our community allies to ask them to suggest additional demands to this program. Many community based organizations admire our boldness and privately agree with many of the elements of our program but do not want to carry it in their own work. Thus, they do not want to be included in it because they would be implicated in it as well.

Many of the groups are very close to the Democratic Party and feel that is critical to their success in winning specific demands. They argue that since Channing's campaign is challenging the Democratic Party political establishment and our platform goes way beyond traditional community based demands and we all agree in this first experiment that getting elected is not in the cards—in this election versus future ones—they fear isolation and even retaliation. It is also true that these were never their politics. So since we are in a united front with many of them, and have good relationships with them, they respect our independence and initiative in that united front but do not agree with many of our views.

We respond that all is good, we will work with them on the issues we have in common. This was our idea; we take responsibility for it and don't ask others who do not agree to support it. Our goal is to strengthen coalitional relationships not to weaken them so the policies of mutual respect go a long way to build good will for our campaign.

* Finding a strong candidate to carry the tactic

In some political theories you start with a strong candidate and then figure out the larger objectives. But from our perspective, if we did not think this was the right time to initiate an electoral experiment, if we did not have a radical program to intervene in the electoral arena, then it would not matter if we had a strong candidate because the tactic itself might not have been right. But now that we did fully endorse this electoral tactic we are very fortunate to have a community organizer and leader who can also function as a viable and strong candidate—aka Channing Martinez.

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Channing Martinez is a 15 year veteran of the movement, a Black, Garifuna, queer, revolutionary who fully understands, helps to shape, and can carry the platform and the program. He is a graduate of Audubon Middle School, Crenshaw High School, Otis College of Art and Design, the Bus Riders Union Planning Committee, Lead Organizer for Labor/Community Strategy Center, and Manager of the Strategy and Soul Movement Center.

To begin with, Channing is a community organizer running for public office but keeps his identity as an organizer central to his campaign. At one of forums he said, "If I am elected I will spend 90% of my time in the community and only 10% of my time in the madness of the city council" Mark Ridley-Thomas, a very experienced elected official said, "If you do that they will steal your lunch" and he had a good point too—but that is why MRT has been an elected official for 29 years and Channing has been a community organizer for 15 —since he was 17.

Channing is able to put out radical politics in an authentic, charming, and even disarming way. Aura Vasqez is very feisty and forceful, Grace Yoo is sincere and thoughtful, Mark chooses to be understated at times but very confident, and Channing is ironic, caustic, but very clear. "I don't have to worry about taking campaign contributions because with my politics no one would want to give me any money." Or, "I have studied the LAPD budget. Do you know they invest millions of dollars in community mental health? If you were having a nervous breakdown would you want a cop with a gun and a billy club to come to your door." Channing has been able to up his energy level and confidence as the campaign has progressed. He is comfortable in his own skin and connects very well with the audiences.

He is also both the candidate and the campaign manager—not by design but by necessity. In terms of the official documents someone had to be "campaign manager" so I took the official name but I did not want to manage the campaign nor did I think that was the best role. Channing and I are very close but I still have to work full time every day and we both agreed my best role would be as a campaign field organizer and advisor. So, in that no one else was available Channing is managing his own campaign. From the outset, it was Channing who worked with the election commission to figure out the very specific rules and all the things that could get you qualified and disqualified. We had to set up very formal bank accounts with strong reporting requirements and were very fortunate to find a great attorney group to serve as campaign treasurers. Channing made sure we all attended the orientations to learn all the election laws. Big props to the staff of the LA City Clerk’s Election Division that did such a great job of explaining all the regulations to new candidates that was so essential to our success. And again it was Channing who would call them almost every day to get clear clarifications to make sure we were always in compliance.

Channing manages the database and the fundraising app. With regards to campaign literature, he and I and the team consult on the message, I often write the first draft, he edits them and makes his own revisions, then he does the lay-out and gets them out on email, Instagram, and every other social media platform. He and my daughter Melinda Alexander collaborated on a series of compelling 3 minute videos on every demand in the campaign (go to Channing2020.com).

Channing is a tireless campaigner. It takes a lot of will to go out every day without a strong support team but he does. He works with Barbara Lott-Holland and others on the phone banking technology, then he and I work with the printers for the lawn signs and door hangers, and then he organizes the teams to go out in the community and he is always the first out and the last to come back.

And he is loved in the community. His boyish even sometimes shy personality is very appealing, "Are you sure you are old enough to run, son? Good for you, we need some new blood.” And yes, we get a lot of “God bless you all for your work.”

* The ordeal and triumph of qualifying for the ballot

When we began this campaign we did not grasp almost anything— but certainly not how difficult it would be to qualify for getting on the ballot. We understood it required payment of $300 after which we had to get at least 500 valid signatures of presently registered voters in the 10th District—between Olympic and Vernon north and south and Robertson and Western west to east. All candidates were given a 30 day window to get those 500 valid signatures.

The first day we went out with great enthusiasm and a dedicated group of 10 volunteers. We went door to door for 4 or 5 hours, working with lists of registered voters we got from the election commission. At the end of the day some people got 3, some 5, some 6 and we ended up with about 45.

But other days we only had 2 or 3 people going out, (yes, our troops are small) and got 8 or 10. Then we thought about paying people per signature but found that those who volunteered had more enthusiasm than those who wanted to be paid and it also created a tension in that we would have to pay everyone and did not have the funds. About 15 days into the 30 we were panicked. We had perhaps 270 signatures and were not sure how many were valid. Going door to door was getting more and more exhausting as it seemed that so many people were not home or did not want to sign. We made a major course correction and focused on two big Supermarkets in the Black community—Albertson's in the Crenshaw Mall and Ralph's at Obama (yes Obama!) and LaBrea— and what a great relief that was. Almost everyone there lived in the community and while perhaps half lived outside the district we got much better at recognizing addresses inside the district. With so many people coming in and out of the markets there was a much higher chance of finding sympathetic people. I would say to people, "Help a young Black man get on the ballot" and many stopped, as I had Channing's picture on my T-shirt. Even a few kidded me, "You?" with a sense of irony since I'm a Jew and a lot older. I said, "no of course, (pointing to my shirt) it's my friend Channing" and so many people, yes, many middle aged and older Black women in particular, would say, "It's so good to encourage young people to run for public office" and we would tell them a little about his campaign.

In a moving experience, a man said, as many did, "Sorry, I don't have time" and I said kindly "There is always time to help a young Black man trying to get on the ballot." To my surprise, ten minutes later, as I was speaking to many other people, he returned and said, "You are right. I was thinking about it. Good idea" and signed. These were not mechanical conversations. The Black community has a great tradition of loving to talk politics and so many shoppers were kind, engaged, and supportive. (Yes, of course, not all were.)

On Thanksgiving eve, I was getting signatures at Ralph's. I saw an old friend coming into the store and we were both surprised to see each other. "Karen" I said, "Eric" she said, "What are you doing here?" I said, "What I always do. I'm organizing. In this case for Channing's campaign." We both wanted to talk about other issues facing the community so she gave me her cell and email and we exchanged very warm texts of mutual appreciation. After she left, Erika Jimenez, my partner, a great young organizer from East L.A. asked me, "Who was that? And I said, "That's Karen Bass, a great community organizer and the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus." She was duly impressed as she should have been. This was the fabric of hours and hours of organizing.

Then, to our great fortune, came the four day "Thanksgiving" holiday—the only good thing about it being our opportunity to organize. We decided to virtually live outdoors. Channing, Barbara Lott-Holland, Ericka Jimenez, Brigette Amaya, Kiyana Williams, Channing's mom Nadia Martinez, UCLA students Taylor Bentzen and Joseph Seyedan, Akunna Uka, and 5 or 6 others camped outside of Albertsons' and Ralphs and the response was heartwarming. People would sign up and some veterans of the civil rights movement wanted to talk to Channing for long times. Others came by, "I 'm from Houston but the police are terrible there too."

Every night Channing and I would go back to the campaign office and hand check every signature. They were on sheets of 20 and we had an app on our phones that could check every address to see if it was in the 10th District. As we tightened up our game we were getting very favorable outcomes. Out of every 20 signatures we would get 13, 15, or even 18 good ones so we knew if we kept pushing we would make it. But the stakes were so high. We kept hearing our political adversaries saying, "Shoot, you guys did not even get on the ballot." Since fear of failure is a great driver of organizing work we kept getting more and more signatures. A few days before the December 4 deadline we had 600 valid signatures. Yes they were in the district and they said they were registered, but what if they were not registered or if their address would be challenged. So we kept on pushing. By the time Channing drove our completed petitions to the Board of Elections office we had collected 900 signatures. We had crossed off, as we had been trained, any we knew to be out of the district. That still left us with 706 signatures we were confident were valid—far more than the 500 required. But there are no guarantees. So we kept saying, "OK if 10% are not accepted that leaves us 636 valid signatures. If 20% are not accepted that still give us 564. And if 25% are not accepted (which would be a basis for a challenge on our part for sure) that would still leave us with 529.” And we were very confident that more than 90% of our 706 signatures were as good as gold. We knew these were very strong signatures because they were not superficially gathered and the Black residents were very proud that they were registered voters. While the election commission checked every signature, the same day we turned them in were told that Channing Martinez had qualified to be on the ballot!

That in itself for us was a groundbreaking victory. At the first candidate's debate at SEIU in October, long before the signatures were to be collected, there were 9 very strong candidates, including two other insurgent candidates from the Black community with far greater electoral experience than us. Mark Ridley Thomas—a county supervisor running for this open seat would obviously qualify. And yet, 4 of the 9 did not get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. It was a great achievement for us to do so.

Channing Martinez

Learning how to build an electoral campaign structure to actually GOTV—Get Out the Vote.

Now what did we do? We wished we had a person experienced at GOTV work and had the funds to hire one. But again, we were experienced organizers and would have to learn as we went. We are now going out door to door, handing out door hangers, putting up lawn signs, going to public events. We have a great campaign office at 4315 43rd Place in the heart of Leimert Park in the heart of what is left of L.A's Black community.

We have a computer automated phone banking system headed up by Barbara Lott-Holland that can systematically call registered voters in the district. Our recorded phone message says,

Hi, this is your neighbor Barbara Lott-Holland. I'm calling to ask your support for Channing Martinez for LA City Council in the 10th district where you live Channing is running to dramatically reduce LAPD spending, calling for affirmative action for Black jobs, demanding that 50% of all new housing must be for very low-income families and working to stop U.S. wars all over the world. Please call me (we leave a phone number) to continue this conversation. Channing graduated from Audubon Middle School, Crenshaw High School, Otis College of Art and Design, and is a professional photographer. He is the manager of the Strategy and Soul Movement center right across from Krispe Kreme at King and Crenshaw. Please support our campaign.

We designed it with the demands frontloaded so if the recipient does not choose to hear the entire message they will still hear the demands and if they do like them they will continue to listen. These are our phone banking results so far. .

* We have made 1878 calls.

* 312 went to voice mail

* 162 people answered the phone and participated in a conversation

* 24 people called us back.

From an organizers perspective, the voice mail messages are important and the 162 conversations are very important and the 24 call-backs are the most impressive since that requires the most initiative. We do not know how many of these messages and conversations will turn into votes but the fact that the community wants to talk about a radical platform and is even calling us back reinforces our greatest hopes.

* Recruiting and expanding a dedicated core that will work with our movement and campaigns after the election.

So far we have built more than 20 new, solid relationships in the community and dozens more connections with people. Just yesterday I met Angelita Parker who came to the campaign office to support Channing. I drove her back to her apartment with lawn signs and door hangers. There she met her friend Arlette Pilgrim. The three of us spent 2 hours going door to door in their neighborhood. Angelita got her apartment manager to agree to put out all the lawn signs we wanted and of course she knew her neighbors the best. Then we went to Strategy and Soul for a tour and they had suggestions on how to encourage more community residents to come to our programs. We agreed to spend more time together canvassing since we thought we were such a great team. These are among the quantitative and qualitative victories—strengthening our ties to the community and finding grassroots leaders who are attracted to our program and campaign.

* Getting a lot of votes that outperform people's expectations.

Well, this one will be difficult. Since we started with such a small electoral base (in that so many of our key members are high school students who are not eligible to vote and we had no previous voter turnout work at this scale) we do not know if we can transform the organizing work we are doing into a significant vote even for a first time campaign. We will give you the actual vote count when we know it. One cost of coming in, in retrospect, relatively late and spending so much energy learning how to run the mechanics of the campaign is that we are just learning the art of turning out large number of votes. As my friend Mao Tse-tung always taught me, "Seek truth from facts." On election night we will learn the vote count and whatever that is, it will be wonderful that some people chose Channing over 3 other very strong and far better financed candidates. And whatever that number is, it will be a baseline from which we can make future plans.

After the election, we will assess how many new dedicated volunteers we recruited and whether they continue to work with us. We will assess name recognitions of Channing, the Strategy Center, Strategy and Soul, and community support for our program. And yes, since this an election we will certainly hope to get as many votes as we can. We are already learning more every day. When the election is over we will spend some time evaluating our results and report back to you with humility, transparency, and greater wisdom and experience.

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Eric Mann

Eric Mann is the host of KPFK's Voices from the Frontlines, the author of Playbook for Progressives: The 16 Qualities of the Successful Organizer, and a campaign volunteer for Channing Martinez for City Council. He urges you to contribute to and learn about Channing's campaign at Channing2020.com He would welcome comments at eric@voicesfromthefrontlines.com

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