The leader we need
for the party we want!
My name is Daraka Larimore-Hall, and I’m running to be the next chair of the California Democratic Party.
I was raised a politically active household, where marching, voting and arguing the world were family values. I want to continue to put my experience, passion for progressive social change and love of organizing to work for California Democrats. I hope you will join me.
I live in my home town of Santa Barbara with my partner Hillary, just a few blocks from the apartment building I grew up in. For a decade, I was chair of our County Democratic Party, and helped build it from an irrelevant body that fought over small items into a powerful electoral force, allied with our friends in labor, environmentalist and community organizing. We were among the first counties to write our own platform on local policy, and use this as a guide for endorsing candidates and holding elected officials accountable.
Professionally, I have worked as a Sociology instructor and professor at UCSB and Santa Barbara City College, beginning as a student employee while working on my Doctorate. For many years, I was an activist, organizer and staff member for the United Auto Workers union at the University of California, where I helped start the nation’s first and largest union for postdoctoral researchers. For the past few years, I have also worked as an advisor and consultant for progressive ballot measure campaigns, as well as Social Democratic parties and unions around the world, including Norway, Sweden, Germany, France and Australia.
I am the only candidate for Chair who came up from the Party’s grassroots- from club activist to County Committee member and chair, to State Party Secretary and now Vice Chair. I believe that the Party can and should produce its own leaders.
A Party for the People
The Democratic Party is a coalition. It brings together grassroots activists, elected officials, allies from the unions and social movements, political professionals and neighborhood advocates. We are as diverse in our thinking as we are in our backgrounds and identities. The California Democratic Party must be a space for all of these elements to come together and make decisions as a group. Nobody should be allowed to dominate or go around collective decisions. That’s why I took the lead in opposing AB 84, which would have given too much power to Legislative leadership, while also supporting constructive engagement with our elected officials to move our common agenda.
Our Party should be a kind of “one stop shopping” experience for activists. By joining a club and getting involved, people should be able to work to elect candidates, hold them accountable to our values, advocate for issues, empower their communities and take direct action against the Trump agenda. This is a vision of party-building that goes beyond the crucial step of winning elections. It means increased attention to the capacities, tools and resources of our County committees and clubs, it means building on recent Party reforms allowing us to lobby and advocate for more legislation, and it means building a bridge between State and local level policy-making. We need to make the switch to “big organizing” at all levels.
A New Benchmark of Success
I love winning elections, and now more than ever, as the GOP slides further toward fascism, all Republicans are worth beating at the ballot-box. But we need to start holding ourselves to a political as well as electoral standard. California leads the country in resistance to Trump’s racist immigration policies, but it also leads the country in income inequality and poverty rates. Working all angles and using all the tools in our activist toolkit, we must view our job as moving an agenda, not just numbers on a scoreboard.
Our platform, resolutions and the energy of our base are all clear: We can and must pass the nation’s first Medicare for All program. We can and must end the Prison Industrial Complex and the pipeline of criminalization. We must raise wages and reign in corporate power. We must protect renters from unfair rent increases AND increase the supply of affordable housing, both public and private. We have the political power to accomplish these things, so long as we can find ways to work together in solidarity without papering over our honest differences.
Our Party has failed to be the safe space our activists and staff deserve. The reason I took immediate and decisive action alongside victims of harassment and abuse was the principle of solidarity I learned growing up and working in the union movement. An injury to one, I believe, is an injury to all. I’m calling on our Party to make swift and serious changes to its policies and practices to ensure that such abuse never happens again, and if it does, that there are clear and safe procedures for addressing it. We must provide counseling and support to all those who need it. We need to expand the conversation about personal boundaries and rights to include situations and behavior that doesn’t fit everyday social assumptions. Our leaders in the Democratic LGBTQ community should guide a culturally competent conversation that does not indulge in homophobia, transphobia and lazy stereotypes.
Solidarity must also guide our organizing and advocacy work. Whether the attacks come against union workers and their pensions, or women’s access to health care, or a trans student’s rights to safety on campus, Democrats must be front and center in the fight-back. Conservatives and their allies will always seek to divide us- along racial lines, homeowner vs renter, North vs South, rural vs urban, worker vs. environmentalist. The fact is that everyone does better when everyone does better, and only when we stand undivided do we all win.