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Why DSA Failed their CD9 Bid

Tonight the first batch of results from the 2022 Primary Elections have gotten counted and gone public. Adam Smith, the incumbent for the House of Representatives from the 9th Congressional District, started the night with a smashing 57% of the vote! The other progressive candidate, Stephanie Gallardo, ran on a Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) platform and did not beat the GOP candidates, beginning the evening with 13% of the vote.

Of course, this is only night one. Late voters trend progressive, so some dynamics are still at play. More votes will come in for Gallardo, but it is a large gap to make up and the likelihood is that the race will come down to Adam Smith and Doug Basler, an anti-abortion Republican. Why did this happen?

I believe this comes down to the DSA’s perspectives. Programs that DSA has ran successfully on college campuses and metropolitan cores won’t inherently work in other communities. CD9 is older, and has a much higher proportion of trades jobs than offices. One position stuck out to me this race that really didn’t make sense in this district. Gallardo went hard on Smith for being an “imperialist” and took the DSA position of “fighting the military-industrial complex”. CD9 is no heavy anti-war district, in fact quite the opposite a lot of the workers in CD9 work for businesses that have military contracts, some even work directly on them.

The night before the first count, Gallardo tweets “Co-sponsoring the [Green New Deal] without reducing the environmentally catastrophic defense budget, is like planting trees on Earth Day, only to be cluster-bombed by the gas-guzzling B-52 Stratofortress’ funded by my opponent the next day.” Of course, Boeing is in CD9, and is one of the largest employers for Renton, which prides itself on having built the B-29 during WWII and continues some military production today like P-8 Poseidon. Additionally, while this sloganeering was meant to present Adam Smith as part of the war machine, he was one of the only Democrats who didn’t want to go beyond the initial budget proposal in defense spending.

Gallardo also took the DSA position on the Russian conflict against Ukraine: no extra military support for Ukraine, and no sanctions on Russia. In the district that CD9 represents is a Ukrainian community center. The Ukrainian population around this area is one of largest in North America. While I do not speak for Ukrainian communities, I cannot imagine most of them would support these neutral positions on a genocide against their families in Europe.

I believe that Adam Smith has been ripe for a new progressive challenger (but I think he also does a great job for us). In 2018, Sarah Smith, a progressive Democrat, ran against him and received 32% of the vote in the general election. But, this DSA campaign was not interested in learning from the district and representing it, but rather was an attempt to force a platform onto it. Supporters of Gallardo would throw insults at people who disagreed with her positions: “useless libs”, “establishment Democrats”, etc. Suffice to say this is not an effective way to win over the non-socialist Democratic voters they would need to win an election.

I believe that the combination of their platform, alongside their hard ideological stances kept voters at a distance. The platform didn’t demonstrate how this community would do better under her leadership, and the ideological stances prevented the campaign from showing genuine interest in representing the nuance of this district: support for self-determination in Ukraine, workers with jobs in military industries, and communities built by refugees from authoritarian socialist countries. In this way, DSA underestimated the needs and values of this district, and voters showed this to them in the primaries. Hopefully they take this loss as a moment to adjust their perspectives and work harder in future years to understand the 9th Congressional District.

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