On Tuesday, November 8th, voters in Assembly District 103 chose Sarahana Shrestha as their Assembly member. This was the culmination of a people-powered upstart campaign that began over a year ago, a victory that many said was impossible. After defeating a 25-year incumbent in this June’s Democratic primary, Shrestha beat back a right-wing Republican challenge to secure her position as the first socialist in history to be elected to the New York State Legislature from outside New York City.
This campaign was run on the Democratic ballot line, but it was not a Democratic campaign. This campaign was helped by our progressive allies, but it was not merely a progressive campaign. This was a socialist campaign with a socialist candidate, a socialist platform, and socialist volunteers.
Shrestha is a DSA member and the Co-Chair of the Ecosocialism Working Group for this local Mid-Hudson Valley chapter. Leadership positions in the campaign were all filled with DSA members new and old. Dozens of DSA members volunteered as phonebankers and canvassers, helping the campaign make over 200,000 calls and knock on over 43,000 doors.
This win builds on Mid-Hudson Valley DSA’s electoral victories in 2021, when the chapter elected five members in local elections across Dutchess, Orange, and Ulster Counties. Notably, DSA member Phil Erner toppled David Donaldson, the Chairman of the Ulster County Legislature and a 28-year incumbent. Twice, in a little over a year, Mid-Hudson Valley DSA has defeated the Democratic establishment and Republican opposition.
Shrestha will serve alongside her DSA slatemates from New York City. Together they will be part of the historic Socialists in Office committee which represents a shared commitment to legislation that improves the lives of working class people. They will act collectively to wield power together. They will fight for the New York Health Act, Good Cause Eviction, the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, the Build Public Renewables Act, the Clean Slate Act, the New York For All Act, expanding abortion rights, universal childcare, fully funding our public schools and universities, raising the minimum wage, taxing the rich, adding the right to strike to the New York State Constitution, and more.
For Mid-Hudson Valley DSA, Election Day was not the end, but just the beginning. We run elections because they can be an important way to build power, and to contest the influence of corporate money and the far right. But elected officials can never alone deliver the transformative change we need. Alongside our electeds, DSA works to build power in the streets and in workplaces to grow a mass movement that can take back power from the capitalist class and bring it back to working class people.
In this election cycle, many Democrats have chosen caution and moderation, ceding the narrative to a right-wing movement that whips up fear without providing real solutions to violence or social decay. Our victory proved that the people of Assembly District 103 were ready for a politics that speaks to hope over fear, one that demands the beautiful future the working people of the Hudson Valley and New York state deserve. Our momentum continues to grow as more of our friends and neighbors join the fight for a better world, and as democratic socialists, we will continue organizing and agitating to make that future a reality for all.
We are a member-led and member-funded, democratic political and activist organization, but we are not a political party. While we recognize the importance of electoral politics, we know that the multiracial working mass movement we need won’t be built solely by electing better candidates, but by building power through labor organizing, mutual aid networks, tenant organizing, and much more. We fight for systemic change that empowers working people. Our chapter covers Dutchess, Orange, and Ulster Counties in Mid-Hudson Valley, New York.