Member Statements on Resolution 20-12-R04

Statement from Gillie C IN FAVOR of Resolution 20-12-R04

Three years ago I met Karishma Mehta while working at a local coffee shop before being politically involved with any groups. I was just starting my master’s program and under a lot of stress, still trying to figure out how to manage myself/future career and trying understand the world since nothing made sense. I first served Karishma some drink - probably a pumpkin spice latte with soy milk, extra spice, add caramel - and saw that she wasn’t like most customers. She was a regular but didn’t use that as some status to bully new employees or ask for more favors like regulars sometimes do. She never treated anyone poorly. It was clear that although I had been trained in the industry to do certain things - always smile, never eat in front of customers, never go to the bathroom in front of customers, etc - to make sure customers forget about your humanity and don’t get attached to someone if they have to be replaced, she saw right through it and made a human connection with each employee. I was amazed by how personable Karishma was and how she truly cared deeply about the employees in the restaurant; even though she might make a quick stop, it always came through and it was consistent from week to week. I ended up leaving that job as it was exploitative and moved on. I hadn’t thought much about what I left behind. Two years later I attended my first campaign event ever to knock doors for Bernie Sanders. I saw someone on the other side of the room who looked familiar but I couldn’t remember who she was. I realized it was Karishma but couldn’t remember her name. I was embarrassed so I asked her, “Do you like drinking …” and listed the details of one of the specific drinks she might get. She recognized me and it was like we were back in the coffee shop. I was proud to see that two years later she was still the same person. Karishma’s character of working for the unheard, unrepresented, and marginalized was still there and most importantly her kindness, understanding, resolve and passion were consistent over this time as well. Since being more involved locally in politics, Karishma has served as a great guide to learning more and importantly she has served as a great accountability buddy. Karishma is committed to the fight for justice and she won’t make excuses. With only around 40,000 voters in the district I am sure that if DSA members are as committed to justice as Karishma is, we can beat the incumbent who has a history of very poor judgements and is well known for being a bully. For all those reasons and so many more, I wholeheartedly endorse Karishma Mehta in her run for the 49th House of Delegates of Virginia and urge all comrades to please vote in favor of this resolution.

Statement from Tiffany P IN FAVOR of Resolution 20-12-R04

I strongly support Karishma. I met her while we were both Bernie state congressional delegates for the VADP this year. In a crowd of 60 she stood out as very principled and clear in what she was fighting for. She doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable conversations and fight for what is right even though it may not be popular. She managed to lead, along with a handful of other delegates, a meaningful campaign to fight to put Medicare for All BACK on the resolutions packet to be turned in to the DNC to be voted on. She’s willing to fight when it matters.

Statement from Andy B IN FAVOR of Resolution 20-12-R04

I first “met” Karishma as a Bernie congressional delegate in VA. Without over burdening this statement with too many details, during the resolution package reviews we discovered that our language around the support of Medicare for All was stripped from the package. Three was a lot of hand-wringing about the right response, especially given the resolution package did include other really positive issues. Most folks were opting to lay down and accept the slight, given the other gains. Karishma, however, was the strongest voice advocating to fight for what we believed in, and her advocacy helped push those on the fence into fighting as well. I think she’ll be a strong, progressive voice for VA House District 49.

Statement from Aliyah K IN FAVOR of Resolution 20-12-R04

I got to know Karishma when she served as a fellow Bernie 2020 Victory Captain and Bernie 2020 State Delegate in Virginia. The values she holds are always on full display as she is a great model of what you see is what you get. Karishma is an active member of DSA who worked really hard during the POTUS Primary, currently serving as a caring Preschool teacher. She is a model community organizer and a proud daughter of immigrants, and is rooted in mutual aid & direct action.

Karishma knows that change in our community can only come from the people and not corporations, her campaign is fully people-powered. I, therefore, fully support Karishma’s run for public office in VA HD49 as a challenger to Alfonso Lopez, an established Democrat who worked for and took funds from the corporation which owns the ICE detention center in Farmville, VA and who has been and continues to take money from Dominion and other like corporations.

Karishma is committed to ending systems of poverty and working to ensure basic economic and human rights for all is in alignment with DSA’s values. I ask Metro DC DSA and all other chapters and their members to fully support Karishma in her fight for human rights and justice for those under served. Thank you.

Statement from Helena K IN FAVOR of Resolution 20-12-R04

As a co-sponsor to Resolution 20-12-R04, this statement serves to convey my strong support for MDCDSA to endorse Karishma Mehta, candidate for Virginia’s 49th District in the House of Delegates.

Karishma is our comrade - an excellent organizer and one of the most active members in the NOVA branch. By helping NOVA branch to build and maintain coalitions with the Free Them All and For Us Not Amazon, working to organize tenants, and laboring to unionize her workplace, Karishma has demonstrated that she is a committed and energized member of the working class.

It is for these reasons I believe Karishma is exactly the type of candidate that MDCDSA members should put their organizing power behind. Karishma is our comrade - and she is seeking the help of her fellow comrades to build the power needed to win socialism.

Yes, she will have a long fight ahead of her, but DSA has proven time and again that we can win these hard fights against corporate backed candidates with an organized, people powered movement that is about so much more than a single candidate.

NOVA branch has built strong statewide solidarity with other Virginia DSA Chapters that can be leveraged to help push statewide initiatives. Winning another seat in the Virginia assembly will help DSA build power statewide to affect change for the working class.

In Solidarity,

Helena (she/they)

NOVA Branch Co-chair

Statement from Eric S IN FAVOR of Resolution 20-12-R04

I’m a co-sponsor of Resolution 4 supporting the MDC DSA’s endorsement of Karishma Mehta to run in Virginia’s 49th District of the House of Delegates.

Karishma has been a tireless organizer for the Northern Virginia branch of the chapter since the moment she joined… She has been involved in such efforts as the Free Them All Coalition, For Us Not Amazon, and efforts to organize tenants and workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her energy and commitment to our values is beyond question.

Because of this, I believe she is the perfect candidate the chapter should be endorsing. She is one of our own, from our own chapter, an active member running for office. We need to reciprocate the devotion she has made to this chapter by showing our support for her run for office.

This will be a tough race to win but defeating Alfonzo Lopez who is no friend of the left will be an important victory in the Virginia House of Delegates in terms of the voice of the working class Virginians will have in Richmond. This will also further extend the reach of DSA in Virginia as far as state government, and will aid in our efforts to coordinate mutual campaigns with our Virginia DSA chapters.

I strongly recommend and ask that the General Body of the Metro DC DSA Chapter endorse Karishma Mehta.

In Solidarity,

Eric S (he/him)

NOVA Branch Co-Chair

Statement from Alex H IN FAVOR of Resolution 20-12-R04

As the introducing sponsor for this resolution I am very excited for the prospect of this endorsement and campaign. We come into 2021 a larger organization thanks to the fall recruitment drive and people, radicalized by the worsening conditions of our world, looking to find a place where they can make a difference. The best way to hold on to new members and those long standing who feel that they don’t know what to do next is, obviously, give them something to do! Electoral work is a good starting point because it gets people into the mindset of organizing towards a concrete goal, working with comrades and speaking to people to energize them to support your cause. The key difference (and strength) between DSA and many other organizations is that our goal is not to let things lie after a campaign is over, we keep all of those comrades and show them that this is an ever flowing process of organizing, building power and pushing demands. Getting a candidate into office is only the beginning!

Having a candidate like Karishma is a lucky thing- instead of an outside candidate this is a member, one of our own, seeking to advance the demands of our organization. Karishma has been a tireless organizer since she joined our ranks after her time working as a Bernie Victory Captain. She’s taken part in a number of efforts in the NoVA Branch- helping with mutual aid work, supporting the tenants of Southern Towers in the their rent strike, joining canvasses with the NoVA Tenant Organizers and helping push the demands of the #FreeThemAll coalition with the NoVA Migrant Justice Working Group.

This will be by no means an easy campaign- we are facing off against a member of the Democratic establishment in a safe seat, in a solid blue district. I believe this is a fight worth taking on, because Alfonso Lopez takes up the right course often only under pressure and only then half-heartedly. He is the avatar of the faux-progressive candidate who makes the right moves for social justice and the needs of the working class but in the end delivers for Dominion Energy, landlords and big business (as can be seen by his tepid support of Right to Work Repeal). The chapter should continue to copy the strategy and successes seen in DC with the win of Janeese Lewis George and across the country to push to put our own candidates into the halls of power. Replacing powerful incumbents is a strong sign of what the people of Virgina want and gives the interests of the working class a vote in the General Assembly.

I believe this campaign will be greatly energizing to the NoVA branch, with many members excited at the prospect of primarying an old enemy of ours (a number of members will remember working with La ColectiVA to push him on his work with ICA, ICE contractor and deportation profiteer) and fight for a candidate who comes from our ranks and is worth fighting for. Karishma will take her dedication to the work of DSA and apply that same energy when she goes to Richmond. More importantly she will be ready to work with us as we go beyond her campaign and push to make changes in Virginia. She will be there to help push for tenants rights, labor power and the needs of the most vulnerable in the commonwealth. I look forward to the debate on Sunday and hope the chapter will support her endorsement!

Statement from Diana C IN FAVOR of Resolution 20-12-R04

I strongly support this resolution and encourage folks to vote in favor of endorsing Karishma’s run. I first met Karishma in 2020 through the NOVA branch’s Migrant Justice Working Group. Even just over video calls, her clarity of thought, commitment to the working class, and care for migrant communities were obvious. Karishma is a principled organizer who keeps socialist values at the front of everything she does and is unafraid to call white supremacist capitalism by its name. As an addition, her opponent Del. Alfonso Lopez has taken money from immigrant detention company ICA and regularly shows disregard for Virginia’s immigrant population. Overall - Karishma is a fantastic candidate and I urge members to endorse her and help get a people’s candidate into this office!

Statement from David W IN FAVOR of Resolution 20-12-R04

Letter of Support for the Endorsement of Karishma Mehta

We are excited to learn about our comrade Karishma Mehta’s 2021 campaign for the House of Delegates seat in Virginia’s 49th district and strongly urge everyone reading this letter to support our DSA chapter officially endorsing this candidacy. As elaborated below, this campaign is deeply aligned with DSA’s core values and serves as an opportune moment to grow socialist power in the DMV.

Karishma, a DSA Organizer: As the daughter of first-generation working class immigrants from India, Karishma knows firsthand the struggles of growing up with health and housing insecurity. She continued to experience the difficulties of living in the Metro DC area on a teacher’s salary, struggling to pay for rent and her student loans. She understands the struggles that so many of us suffer through, and she has centered that struggle in her organizing work. Since joining DSA in January 2020, Karishma has been an active member of our NOVA branch, fighting for migrant justice and joining the Tenant Organizing Working Group, supporting the rent strike at the Southern Towers complex in Alexandria.

On Labor Rights: Karishma is a preschool teacher currently working to unionize her fellow teachers. Karishma believes in repealing right-to-work and supports the right to unionize for contract/gig workers, undocumented immigrants, and Amazon workers. She supports Delegate Lee Carter’s bill for sweeping state-wide labor reforms (HB 1806) and advocates for legislation guaranteeing the right to a pension for all workers, regardless of field.

On Migrant Justice: Building from her experience as an organizer within migrant justice, she has centered immigrant labor as foundational to her campaign. She is committed to enacting the Undocumented Worker Bill of Rights, passing legislation to protect Virginia’s 16,000 seasonal migrant farmworkers, enacting a moratorium on any new immigrant detention facilities, and the shut down of ICA-Farmville and Carolina County Detention Center.

On Housing and Tenants’ Rights: Housing is a human right, and Karishma believes that a Homes Guarantee law is necessary to ensure it. Karishma has spoken on the urgency of fighting for rent control and protecting families displaced by COVID. With thousands of families becoming unhoused in the winter and during a pandemic after the eviction moratorium has ended, it is heartening to see a candidate stand up for them. As delegate, she will fight for a local tenant Bill of Rights and substantial investments into guaranteed public housing.

On Racial Justice: Karishma is dedicated to defunding police departments and reinvesting those funds in public health programs, banning private prisons, ending corporate partnerships with police and ICE, and removing police from schools. She aims to end cash bail, end prison labor, and combat poverty through universal programs for housing, healthcare, education, and food. She is also committed to cannabis legalization with full expungement of records and reparations towards a just post-carceral transition. These are all central to our goals in MDC DSA and it’s rare to find a candidate so committed to this cause.

On Health Justice and Single-Payer for VA: Karishma believes healthcare is a human right and will fight for universal single-payer healthcare in Virginia. She will also campaign to guarantee 12 weeks of sick leave for all workers in the state and to cancel all medical debt. Karishma has also centered her platform around racial disparity in healthcare - particularly with Black maternal morbidity - and calls for investments in doulas, home care, and midwives programs.

Her Strategy for Winning: Karishma campaigned tirelessly as a Victory Captain and State Delegate for the Bernie 2020 campaign, and knows her own path to victory lies through providing a meaningful alternative to neoliberalism and mobilizing an army of volunteers to champion these ideas to the residents of Virginia’s 49th district. Karishma, unlike past primary challengers before her, is able to meaningfully distinguish herself from the district’s centrist incumbent because of her socialist policy platform that rejects capitalism and incrementalism in favor of a society that’s rooted in working class justice.

Karishma Mehta - Positions Chart

Nearly 100 volunteers have already committed to canvass, phone bank, and text bank for the campaign, with over half of those being Virginians. In addition to engaging with the members and working groups of the DSA NOVA branch, the campaign is working to build a broad local coalition of volunteers from the Sunrise Movement, Mijente, student organizing groups, and other potential coalition partners. We are committed to performing ground work for her campaign, as well as persuading fellow DSA comrades to volunteer.


Medicare for All Working Group (13)

Ahmed S.

David W.

Chase M.

Gayatri S.

Jayesh S.

Kristian B.

Tess C.

William J.

Anthony C.

Hilary A.

Alexia P.

Elis R.

Sweta H.

Northern Virginia Branch (4)

Maria B.

Zack S.

Mallory K.

Anna N.

Montgomery County Branch (2)

Frank S.

Nicole Z.

Statement from Eric T IN FAVOR of Resolution 20-12-R04

I’m submitting my statement in support of a MDC DSA endorsement for Karishma Mehta’s candidacy to represent Virginia’s 49th district. I’m submitting on my own behalf and on the behalf of my wife Laurel Bosma (also a member) who requested that I do so. We have both worked with Karishma personally, first on the Bernie Sanders campaign and afterwards in various activist campaigns. We can say with confidence that Karishma is dedicated, compassionate and effective and will make a great representative.

Statement from Stuart K AGAINST of Resolution 20-12-R04

Recommendation and Summary Overview

I am submitting this statement to indicate that I will vote ‘No’ on whether Metro DC DSA should endorse Karishma Mehta’s candidacy for the Virginia House of Delegates (Resolution 20-12-R04). I recommend that chapter members do the same.

My rationale for voting ‘No’ on this resolution is not rooted in any opposition to Mehta’s platform or politics, but instead in my belief that our DSA chapter should endorse candidates who have a reasonable chance at victory. Based on the conditions of the race, I believe that a victory for Mehta is unlikely because it is unlikely that a broad left-labor coalition will coalesce around Mehta’s candidacy. The top opponent in this race, Alfonso Lopez, has secured endorsements from labor, progressive, and environmental groups in the past, and it looks like these groups will continue to back him. This is unfortunate because left-labor coalitions have been a crucial factor in the victory of previously endorsed candidates of our DSA chapter. Without such a coalition – and the support of constituencies represented by coalition organizations – previous chapter-endorsed candidates have consistently lost their elections by around 30 percentage points. One such loss, after Irma Corado’s 2019 race for the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, occurred even as chapter members knocked on the doors of 20,000 voters.

Considering the low likelihood that Mehta is able to win this race without a left-labor coalition supporting her, this endorsement also raises an important question about our chapter’s broader electoral strategy: Should our chapter endorse a candidate when conditions in that election – based on our experience in past electoral campaigns – reasonably point to that candidate losing the election? Due to the resource intensive nature of electoral campaigns, in terms of volunteer time, energy, and donations, I do not believe we should endorse candidates who are unlikely to win. I hope the chapter is able to more thoroughly and collectively answer this question after engaging in future democratic debates.

Again, I am voting no on this endorsement resolution, and I recommend that chapter members do the same. That said, regardless of where I or other members eventually stand on this question, if the chapter votes to endorse, I will bring whatever skills, experience, time, and energy I have to help Karishma win this election. Executing the democratic will of the membership is extremely important to me. One of the main levers of power we have as DSA is acting democratically, collectively, and with discipline to affect change.

Analysis of Previous Candidates Endorsed by Metro DC DSA

For guidance on how I would vote on the question of Mehta’s endorsement, I analyzed the performance of the 17 electoral candidates for state and local office in DC, Maryland, and Virginia that our chapter or DSA national has endorsed since 2017. This analysis is available at, with a summarized table in Appendix A at the end of this statement.

In this analysis, I looked at the following characteristics of chapter-endorsed races:

  • Candidate performance by vote totals and percentages. These performance indicators were for (a) our chapter’s endorsed candidate, (b) the best performing winning candidate, (c) the worst performing winning candidate (for races where more than one candidate could win), and (d) the best performing losing candidate.

  • Breadth of coalition support for our chapter’s endorsed candidate. The three indicators I used for breadth of coalition support were ‘Broad,’ ‘Moderate,’ and ‘Little to none.’ In this sense, a broad coalition would be 10-20+ endorsements from a diverse array of organizations, a moderately sized coalition would be 5-10 organizations, and little to no coalition would be 0-4 organizations. This characteristic is unfortunately subjective because neither I nor the chapter have tracked the number of endorsements for chapter-endorsed candidates or opponents. As such, the breadth of coalition support there is based on my experience as a lead organizer and coordinator in nearly all the chapter’s past electoral campaigns.

  • Level of voter outreach conducted by our chapter. Voter outreach here includes the number of doors knocked and the number of calls to voters made by our chapter on behalf of the chapter-endorsed candidate or slate of candidates.

This analysis of previously endorsed candidates found that four of our chapter’s previously endorsed candidates had little to no coalition support: Ross Mittiga in 2017, Jeremiah Lowery in 2018, Irma Corado in 2019, and Mckayla Wilkes in 2020. All four of these candidates lost by around 30 percentage points. Corado’s campaign, which I sponsored for endorsement, is notable due to the fact that the loss occurred even after chapter members knocked on 20,000 doors in the district. Corado ultimately lost by 34 points.

Chapter endorsed candidates with at least moderate coalition support who also lost were much closer to winning than candidates who lost with little coalition support. With the exception of Mysiki Valentine’s candidacy for the D.C. State Board of Education this past cycle, which lost by 13 percentage points, the five other losing chapter-endorsed candidates with broad or moderate coalition support lost by between only one and four percentage points. Among the seven chapter-endorsed candidates who won their races, only Vaughn Stewart did so with moderate coalition support. The rest of the victorious candidates all had broad left-labor coalitions backing their candidacies.

Role of Chapter Volunteer Efforts

Since 2017, our chapter has built a reputation as a voter outreach powerhouse through our work supporting endorsed candidates. In total, our chapter has contacted approximately 160,000 voters, with 100,000 of those contacts coming from knocking on doors and 60,000 contacts coming from phone banking. The level of discipline and organization required to achieve voter contact numbers of this scale – all through volunteer labor – is a monumental achievement.

Based on conversations I have had with chapter members who support endorsing Mehta, I believe our chapter’s voter outreach levels in this race could match the numbers from previous races. Chapter members are excited about Mehta’s unapologetically left platform, and that enthusiasm has translated to members making early volunteer commitments to support Mehta in the field. However, as our chapter has seen with past chapter-endorsed candidates, and especially with Irma Corado’s candidacy for the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, enthusiasm for a candidate and a strong voter outreach program does not automatically translate into a winning campaign if that campaign lacks at least a moderate left-labor coalition.

Possibility for a Left-Labor Coalition Backing Karishma Mehta

It does not appear that Mehta’s campaign will ultimately secure the endorsements necessary to build such a coalition. My rationale for this prediction is that Mehta’s top opponent in this race, incumbent Alfonso Lopez, has received endorsements in the past that would constitute most of (if not the entirety) of a left-labor coalition in Northern Virginia. For the 2019 campaign cycle, Lopez received over $36,000 in donations from labor, progressive, and environmental organizations. Lopez has also never lost a primary election by less than 33 percentage points and has served in the Democratic Party leadership of the Virginia House of Delegates since 2016. Therefore, due to his electoral track record and leadership role, it is probable that organizations that have supported Lopez in the past will continue to do so in the future on the basis that Lopez will win and he will be able to deliver on promises due to his leadership position.

I posed good faith questions to Mehta’s campaign and to members of the chapter’s Northern Virginia branch about the potential for a left-labor coalition to emerge for Mehta. It is still currently unclear to me whether the campaign or NoVa branch members have heard from allied organizations about whether a left-labor coalition is possible for Mehta’s candidacy. I understand the hesitancy to speak publicly about the deliberations of endorsing organizations. However, when a left-labor coalition is one of the strongest indicators of a candidate’s chance for victory, information about such a coalition is vital. Without this information, I can only assume that most progressive, environmental, and labor organizations are either remaining neutral or endorsing Alfonso Lopez in this election.


Considering the critical role that left-labor coalitions have played in whether chapter-endorsed candidates win their elections, and the low possibility of such a coalition forming to back Karishma Mehta, I cannot support our chapter’s endorsement of Mehta if I believe our chapter should focus on endorsing candidates with a reasonable chance of victory. The resource intensive nature of electoral campaigns means that our chapter should engage in races where we can be confident that the countless hours we devote to the campaign will make a difference. I cannot in good faith support the endorsement of a candidate when our chapter’s experiences in past elections and the conditions of the election in question reasonably point to the loss of a candidate seeking our chapter’s endorsement.

As I mentioned in the opening section of this statement, should the chapter vote to endorse, I will commit my time, energy, and skills to ensuring that Karishma Mehta wins this election. I also look forward to supporting the further development and refinement of our chapter’s broader electoral strategy regardless of the outcome of this endorsement vote. As we learn from our chapter’s losses and build on our victories, we will only become stronger in our quest for a better world.

MDC DSA Electoral Record

Statement from Rachel B IN FAVOR of Resolution 20-12-R04

I am an at-large member of the MDC DSA steering committee and I am excited to support the chapter’s endorsement of Karishma for the House of Delegates seat in Virginia’s 49th district
Karishma is a fantastic progressive candidate that will fight for universal single-payer healthcare in VA, tenant’s rights, migrant and racial justice, and repealing Right-to-Work in VA.She is ready to fight for the people of Virginia and our comrades in the NoVA branch.
She has proven to be a dedicated member of the chapter. She has dedicated her time to migrant justice organizing and the Tenant Organizing Working Group in NoVA. Beyond the chapter, she worked hard as a Bernie Victory captain and against Amazon HQ2.
While this is a tough race to win, endorsing Karishma will provide our chapter, and specifically the NoVA branch, to be intimately involved in the race of a progressive DSA member. This is a chance for the NoVA branch to build their electoral organizing during an off-year when DC and Maryland don’t have other races. This could be hugely energizing for the branch, and give members who are excited to participate in the ground work of the campaign to participate through the chapter.
Broadly, I believe that MDC DSA and socialists need to support good socialist candidates to keep pushing more and more socialists to run for office in the future. Karishma embodies DSA’s core values and takes our endorsement seriously. We need to encourage more folks like Karishma to run for office to have a chance of filling more and more seats around the country at the state and federal level, and we have that chance with her!

Statement from Zeina H IN FAVOR of Resolution 20-12-R04

A statement of endorsement and support for Karishma Mehta- Candidate for VA HD-49

First, a note to my friend Karishma.

Karishma, you represent so many in your experience, journey and principles. Very few people decide to run for any office. And even fewer women, immigrants, people of color and someone who doesn’t back down on helping someone they don’t know. You are up against a lot. Watching the tireless hours you invest in young children daily as a teacher, then rushing home to work on a campaign promising fairness, justice and equality; promising determination and fierce representation on the issues; promising an ear to listen and an opportunity to organize; promising a needed change in leadership approach. The unexpected obstacles you have overcome and the beautiful support you have gracefully embraced are part of this ride. I’m truly proud of you and will continue to support you. Your friend, Zeina

We want to get money out of politics yet we fail to provide an empowering alternatives to those in our community, alternatives like resources, time and effort, when they do bravely take on the challenge. We are not lacking. We didn’t become Victory Captains or super volunteers by sitting on the sidelines and wishing for a win. We believed in the substance of what we were working towards and focusing our energy on goals- long term and short term; challenging ones and easily attainable ones. I believe in my friend Karishma and the message she is uplifting.

We all know how much a few dollars matter and how much a dozen or two phone calls can help a campaign. We have a chance to really make a difference. Karishma is giving us a reason to work together to empower her, ourselves and this movement in Virginia.

A people powered campaign doesn’t just mean donations, it means time and energy but also input and conversation. She is making a genuine and sincere effort to engage, learn and affect reality for many people in her community. Let’s help her build and let’s build together. We constantly ask for change on all levels of government, this is our chance to actually do it.

I firmly believe that, no, the status quo is not “good enough”, and yes, we can do something about it!

I proudly endorse Karishma Mehta, candidate for VA HD49

Statement from Ben D AGAINST of Resolution 20-12-R04

When socialists contemplate beginning a campaign, it’s essential to step back and think strategically. Our end goal is socialism, and the way we get there are workers organized as a class for ourselves. To do this, we work to form a mass organization of the working class around a shared program of demands. As socialists, we know just electing as many socialists as possible will not itself lead us to socialism, but the experience of DSA over the last five years and of the working-class movement worldwide has demonstrated the value of electoral work. Electoral organizing works on a few fronts: as organizing in itself, bringing new people into DSA, honing our skills as organizers, fomenting class struggle by polarizing voters on class lines; and also, just as importantly, a tool to open up more organizing and foment more class struggle by using the leverage we have gained in the legislature.

We should evaluate the potential endorsement of Karishma Mehta for House of Delegates in Virginia, as with all potential campaigns, based on our long-term strategy and the lessons learned by electoral organizers over the previous five years of work. Our chapter has a model electoral program: six wins, each against favored opponents with far more money and media backing. We’ve also had some real losses along the way due to mistakes in strategy, assessment of our capacity, and the strength of our opponents. Our own comrade John Grill has written what, in my eyes, is the comprehensive view on how DSA should approach electoral work. How does this endorsement fit into our view of electoral work as a strategy for winning socialism? Unfortunately, I don’t believe endorsing Karishma Mehta fits into a serious socialist electoral strategy and will be voting No on her endorsement.

Running to Win: Socialists should always be running to win, with a very serious strategy to accomplish this. Losing an election doesn’t necessarily mean the campaign was a failure, but running to win must be the cornerstone of all electoral strategy. Winning isn’t just good because we have a seat in the legislature and the ability to shape policy. Winning allows us to have more discipline over our elected candidates, it allows us to pressure non-member electeds, it allows us to advocate increasingly radical positions, it pulls candidates closer to our positions, and it gives us a bigger mouthpiece. Much of our power comes from the threat that we can successfully defeat current elected officials and candidates. Losing seriously damages our ability to do all of this. The more we lose, especially if we lose by large margins, the less influence we have, and the less ability we have to project power to accomplish our goals. The socialist strategy of running electoral campaigns to “raise awareness” or “spread our message” has been an abysmal failure everywhere it has been tried. From Josh4Congress and the winless Rose Caucus to Shahid Bhuttar’s quixotic attempt to win a seat in congress: unserious symbolic campaigns have cost the socialist movement an enormous amount of time, effort, and money with no reward whatsoever. An electoral campaign without a serious chance of winning takes away our ability to do other, more productive types of organizing. Every call we make and door we knock for someone who can’t win is one that isn’t going to tenant or labor or migrant justice organizing.

Unfortunately, this campaign seems to be more in the model of an awareness campaign than a serious attempt at winning. Based on previous campaigns, Lopez is not very vulnerable, winning all previous primaries by a margin of well over 50%. He should have a spending advantage, even if Mehta hits all of her fundraising goals, of 4 or 5 to 1. Money isn’t everything, but every successful campaign we have run has also included a massive coalition of labor and progressive groups, one which shows no signs whatsoever of occurring here. There is a good chance that if MDC DSA endorses, we will be her only endorsement by any organization with a membership base in Northern Virginia. From all conversations between DSA members hoping to unseat Lopez in the past and representatives of NoVA Labor: NoVA Labor will not only support Lopez vigorously but view a primary attempt as an attack on the labor movement in Virginia. Based on all available data, experience with dozens of DSA electoral campaigns, and speaking with the campaign itself, my conclusion is that this campaign has very little chance at mounting a serious challenge at Delegate Lopez.

Advancing Working Class Politics: Of course, winning isn’t everything: even in defeat, electoral work is an organizing tactic we can use to get the working class mobilized. Our long-term strategy as DSA, one which has been extremely successful locally, is cleaving the Democratic base along class lines. In Democratic primaries, with the fog of partisan polarization and tribalism gone, we have a chance to foment serious political conflict between the Democratic Party’s working-class and bourgeois bases. By centering issues of class, we can expose the fundamental class antagonism between workers and actual Democratic elected officials. This has been a great success: every campaign we have run has done far better among working-class voters across race, and we have developed over time a self-consciously socialist base in the areas we have run, who consistently vote for our candidates. As noted above: the only way to do this is to win over a majority of unions and working-class membership organizations to our cause.

Despite our rapid growth, the truth is that DSA is not a mass organization yet: we are a small organization with fairly specific demographics. Just announcing a candidate is socialist and has our endorsement doesn’t mean much at all to most people without the support of the organizations that have deep roots in working-class communities. I do not believe this is a candidacy that can help spur working-class formation in this way.

Building Organizational Capacity: Another important piece of electoral organizing besides winning is building DSA as an organization. A serious campaign that is trying to win but still results in defeat can still hold value by recruiting members, training organizers, and developing organizing infrastructure over the long-term. Losing campaigns in DC and NYC in 2017 formed the nucleus of successful campaigns in 2018 and 2020. Organizing strategically is a good in itself. Here is where I see the best case for engaging in this campaign. There does seem to be a degree of enthusiasm for Karishma in the chapter. There are some real mitigating factors here: much of our recruitment comes from coalition partners in these campaigns, and it takes people stepping up to leadership within the campaign to mobilize enthusiastic members into organizers, but overall I think this is the best argument for the endorsement. If the chapter chooses to endorse Karishma Mehta, our primary focus should be on developing organizers and leaders and in particular standing up the electoral capacity of the NoVA Branch, so that as MDC DSA grows in the future we can run campaigns in Maryland, Virginia, and DC simultaneously with local leadership instead of having one electoral formation for the whole chapter that can only focus on one election at once.

Coalition Building: Another important strategic question about any DSA campaign is how it contributes to coalition building. As I covered earlier, this is the biggest drawback to this campaign. I believe engaging in this campaign will not only not help build coalition relationships, but may actively harm our current relationships. Fraying the left-labor coalition in the region we have spent years building would be very bad. Fraying this coalition only to project weakness by losing dramatically would be disastrous.

Overall, engaging in this campaign would be a clear strategic mistake. Endorsing here would be disregarding strategic thinking and the hard-won lessons we have learned over the past five years. I strongly recommend members vote no.

Statement from Irene K AGAINST of Resolution 20-12-R04

My name is Irene K. (she/her) and I am submitting this statement against endorsing Karishma Mehta for Virginia House of Delegates, District 49. I have been a member of Metro D.C. DSA for about three years and in that time have been heavily involved in a number of chapter-endorsed electoral campaigns, with some wins and some losses. I want to emphasize that I have the utmost respect for Karishma as a person and socialist organizer and sincerely appreciate all of the work she has contributed to the NoVA branch. Her questionnaire answers and responses during the Q&A call were, I believe, fully in line with our chapter’s values, and her platform undoubtedly charts a stronger moral vision than that of her Democrat opponent, Del. Alfonso Lopez.

However, based on my electoral experience and in examining lessons from our chapter’s previous losses, I do not believe that Karishma has a path to victory (which I outline in more detail below). As such, I do not believe that this electoral campaign is an avenue to building socialist power, particularly in a political moment where our organizing around issues of tenants’ rights, defunding the police, and labor has taken on heightened importance and, in my opinion, deserves our chapter’s full focus and energy.

One of DSA’s unique areas of strength is our committed volunteer base and canvassing capacity. In every cycle in which we’ve endorsed a candidate, our chapter members have knocked tens of thousands of doors; in the midst of a pandemic, we built up an army of phone bankers that blew every other area organization out of the water (our chapter made more than 35,000 calls for the Ed Lazere campaign). Karishma and her campaign manager have cited volunteer enthusiasm and voter outreach—with an emphasis on door-to-door canvassing and voter registration—as one of their key strategies. However, enthusiasm and strength of socialist ideas alone have proven time and time again to be insufficient for victory. I would point specifically to our chapter member Irma Corado’s campaign: Irma ran for local office in 2019, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, in a district that is majority-working class and people of color. Despite backing from our chapter and other allied activist organizations, such as CASA Virginia, members of La ColectiVA, and the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers union, and despite surpassing our win number and knocking thousands of more doors than James Walkinshaw’s campaign, Irma lost by more than 30 percentage points. As someone who was in leadership for our 2019 VA Elections working group, who drove out to Fairfax from D.C. proper and organized canvasses every single weekend for six months, I can confidently say that Irma was a wonderful candidate and a talented grassroots organizer with deep ties in her community, but her campaign did not ultimately build capacity across the chapter or in the NoVA branch.

The harsh truth is that our chapter has never succeeded in the absence of a broad labor-left coalition. The Irma campaign in NoVA is a sober reminder that voter contact, while both necessary and hugely important, is not enough against the weight of institutional Democratic Party support ( especially in Virginia) and being outspent 15-to-1; another chapter-endorsed candidate Yasmine Taeb, who challenged the notoriously awful and unpopular Sen. Dick Saslaw in NoVA in 2019, had the full backing of labor and progressive organizations (even at a national level) and still came up short by more than 500 votes. Since Lopez’ election to the House of Delegates in 2011, every primary challenger facing him has lost by 33 points or more. While Lopez receives donations from groups that are openly hostile to and at odds with the left—such as Dominion Energy and realtors associations— he also, importantly, receives tens of thousands of dollars from labor, progressive, and environmental and climate justice organizations that we would ostensibly need on our side. His top donors since 2016 include the Virginia AFL-CIO ($8,500), SEIU Local 32BJ ($13,000), the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades ($2,600), IBEW ($5,000), LiUNA ($2,500), NoVA Area Labor Federation ($1,550), the VA League of Conservation Voters ($38,500), and the Clean Virginia Fund ($12,559), among others. Lopez has extremely strong ties to organized labor, is favored by Democratic Party leadership, and has massive fundraising abilities (raising an unbelievable $200,000 for his 2019 primary) that we simply have no hope of matching without buy-in from unions. To be perfectly clear, this is not a value judgment: I fully believe in Karishma’s platform on labor justice and know that she would be a real champion for working people in Virginia where Lopez has not, and I know from experience that unions can often be frustratingly conservative when it comes to getting involved in primary contests. It is, however, the material reality that our DSA chapter alone is not powerful enough to challenge a candidate as well-funded and well-resourced as Lopez. Karishma currently has no labor endorsements, and my understanding from conversations with chapter members with ties to labor is that such a coalition is unlikely to materialize.

Having thrown myself into multiple electoral campaigns in our chapter, I know firsthand the level of time and energy required by our members and leaders with every endorsement; I also have seen how every loss can have a demobilizing effect on our members and lessen our credibility among allied organizations in the region. I am not of the opinion that we should only endorse candidates who are “guaranteed” (as much as a race can be) to win—a lot of our previously endorsed candidates have been longshots! I also fully believe that a well-run, unapologetically left campaign—one that is running to win with the backing of a strong progressive coalition—can ultimately fall short but still result in important relationships on which to build future campaigns and capacity. But if such a coalition doesn’t exist, a crushing 20-to-30-point loss will not build power for our movement; in fact, it will further marginalize us and actively set us back in the electoral sphere. We cannot be taken seriously as a political organization if we do not approach these endorsement questions with an explicit eye to strategy and a realistic assessment of conditions on the ground, and I firmly disagree with anyone who believes that these concerns simply don’t or shouldn’t matter to socialists. (I will also note that Karishma’s involvement in Rose Caucus, as a member of their national Steering Committee, gives me significant pause.)

A DSA endorsement is only as valuable and influential as our ability to build relationships with allied organizations and push candidates to victory. We should not endorse in a race we know we will lose. I ask our membership to vote “no” on this endorsement because I do not think Karishma has a reasonable path to win and believe our collective organizing efforts will be better spent on viable, strategic, issue-based campaigns. It is my sincere hope that we will be able to grow our electoral capacity and strength over the next few years to mount successful primary challenges against corporate Democrats across the DMV, and I genuinely wish Karishma all the best in her campaign.