METRO DETROIT DSA CANDIDATE ENDORSEMENT POLICY
March 14, 2019
This document sets forth the principles and procedures that the Metro-Detroit Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (“Detroit DSA” or the “Chapter”) shall follow when selecting political candidates to endorse.
Note: Candidate questionnaires can be found here.
Part I. General Principles of Chapter Endorsement
Section 1. The Meaning of a Detroit DSA Endorsement
A Detroit DSA endorsement means that the Chapter is committed to supporting the endorsed candidate spread democratic socialist values and win their primary/general election. At a minimum, once an endorsement is issued, the Chapter will (1) publicly announce the endorsement (at general membership meetings, via e-mail, on social media, etc.) and (2) engage in voter canvassing ( i.e. , door knocking and phone banking). In some cases, an endorsement may also entail other material assistance, including but not limited to fundraising through a PAC. The level of support ultimately provided will depend upon Detroit DSA’s available resources, the strategic importance of the race, and enthusiasm for the candidate among the Chapter’s general membership.
Section 2. Race and Candidates
Detroit DSA seeks to endorse one or two candidates per election cycle, assuming suitable candidates are available. Generally, Detroit DSA will seek out races in the Metro-Detroit Area where its involvement has the potential to be outcome determinative. This is often, though not always, in Democratic Party primaries, particularly in state house or senate races. We also seek to support the reelection of candidates we have previously endorsed for the same position, unless there is good reason for reconsidering the endorsement. Endorsement of a candidate for one position does not guarantee subsequent endorsement for a different position.
a) Active Members Favored for Endorsement
Detroit DSA encourages and supports active Chapter members to run for office as open democratic socialists (“Active Member Candidates”). Running as an “open democratic socialist” entails, inter alia, publicly identifying oneself as a democratic socialist, announcing one’s affiliation with DSA, and promoting the Chapter’s values and policy goals, as set forth in Section 3 below.
Our ultimate goal is that most (if not all) endorsed candidates will one day be Active Member Candidates. Any active Chapter member interested in running for office should consult the Electoral Committee well prior to launching. However, there is no guarantee that the Chapter will officially endorse any or all Active Member Candidates. Endorsement decisions will be made on a case-by-base basis, in light of the Chapter’s resource constraints and other strategic considerations.
b) Paper Membership Required
Progressive candidates who are not Detroit DSA members—but who share and promote our values—may also be considered for endorsement. However, all such candidates must first join Detroit DSA and become, at a minimum, paper members.
The Electoral Committee is committed to encouraging a diverse array of candidates, including women, people of color, members of the LGBTQIA community, poor people, immigrants, candidates under 35, and others from groups underrepresented in electoral politics. Diversity will be a major factor in considering which candidates to endorse.
Since our goal is to elect DSA-endorsed candidates, the viability of the campaign will be an important consideration. This includes considering the office sought; the field of candidates; past voting trends in the district; the candidate’s life experience, abilities, and history of local activism; and the campaign’s internal organization, strategy, fundraising plan, etc.
Section 3. Policy Guidelines for Candidates
Detroit DSA will look for candidates who support key aspects of its political platform and vision, as defined by DSA National and the Chapter itself. DSA’s policy goals include—
● A “Green New Deal,” e.g., rapid decarbonization of the economy, a federal jobs guarantee, a just transition;
● Increased Income and Wealth Taxes on the Ultra Wealthy;
● Healthcare as a Right ( i.e. , Medicare for All or state-level single payer proposal);
● Reproductive Rights;
● Enhancing Labor Rights ($15/Hour Minimum Wage, Card Check, Ending Right to Work, etc.);
● Education as a Right ( e.g, , strengthening public schools, pulling the plug on charter school proliferation, free or public colleges);
● Suitable Housing as a Right;
● Clean Water as a Right ( e.g. , ending municipal water shut offs, ending privatization of fresh water);
● Student Debt Relief/Forgiveness;
● Comprehensive Immigration Reform, e.g. , a path to citizenship for all, abolishment of ICE;
● Abolishment of the Death Penalty;
● Abolishment of Private Prisons and an end to mass incarceration;
● Rejection of Corporate Donations/Super PAC Money;
● Ending Wars, U.S. Military Intervention, and Nation-Building;
● Paid Vacation Time, Sick Time, Family Leave, and Childcare;
● No Selling Arms to Human-Rights Violators;
● Extensive Police Reforms ( e.g. , special prosecutors to hold police accountable);
● End the War on Drugs ( e.g. , amnesty for prisoners held on possession charges);
● Justice and national freedom for Palestinians.
This list shall be provided to all candidates seeking Detroit DSA’s endorsement as part of the questionnaire discussed below.
Part II. The Endorsement Process
Section 1. The Electoral Committee
The Electoral Committee (“EC”) shall be the body of Detroit DSA tasked with the process of fact-finding and recommending eligible candidates to the Steering Committee for endorsement by the Chapter.
a) Standing Committee
The Electoral Committee shall be a standing committee. This means it will meet throughout the year, though meeting frequency may vary. Meetings will generally be held in public locations that are accessible to as many Chapter members as possible.
b) Committee Membership
i) General Right to Participate
Any Detroit DSA member may attend Electoral Committee meetings, participate in discussions or debates, suggest races or candidates to consider endorsing, and participate in canvassing or other campaign support efforts.
ii) Voting Rights
In order to obtain voting rights on the Electoral Committee (i.e., to vote for or against endorsement of particular candidates), a member must meet certain requirements. Specifically, in order to have voting rights, a member must (1) be up-to-date on DSA dues; (2) sign up for the Electoral Committee by providing their email address and phone number to one of the EC co-chairs; and (3) have attended at least two in-person meetings of the Electoral Committee in the previous 12 months. Those who complete these steps shall be deemed “Voting Members” of the Electoral Committee.
Any Chapter member who seeks to become an EC Voting Member but is unable to attend meetings of the Electoral Committee in person due to transportation, childcare, or other significant issues may request a waiver from these requirements from one of the co-chairs. Where feasible, those who receive a waiver may be required to meet their “in person” attendance requirements by participating in Electoral Committee meetings via video conference.
iii) Voting in Particular Races
In order to vote in any particular race, Voting Members must also (1) score all candidate questionnaires and (2) timely submit (either in person or online) final scores for each candidate to the Electoral Committee.
c) Leadership of the Electoral Committee
There shall be two (2) co-chairs of the Electoral Committee (the “Leadership”) serving staggered two-year terms. At least one EC co-chair must be a woman or woman-identified; at least one EC co-chair must have already participated on the Electoral Committee in a prior election year.
ii) Selecting Co-Chairs
Co-chairs shall be selected via an in-person election held at the first meeting of the EC of the calendar year, the results of which shall be announced to the general membership. To vote for leadership, members need not yet be Voting Members of the EC, but must be up-to-date on their dues.
iii) Responsibilities of the Co-Chairs
Co-chairs shall be responsible for chairing EC meetings and taking/disseminating minutes on an alternating basis. They shall also be responsible for keeping track of who has voting rights on the committee, setting deadlines, scheduling votes, communicating with campaigns, maintaining contact lists, communicating with the Steering Committee, and generally ensuring that the Electoral Committee functions according to the principles and procedures set forth herein. Co-chairs shall be transparent regarding contacts and communications with campaigns.
Section 2. Voting Procedures
Unless otherwise specified herein, all votes of the Electoral Committee [on candidates] shall be held via e-mail or online survey. All Voting Members can participate, pursuant to the above guidelines, and shall be granted between 24 and 48 hours to submit votes. Late entries shall not be considered.
Section 3. Conflicts of Interest
Any member of the Electoral Committee that has a conflict of interest with respect to any candidate or campaign shall recuse themselves from any and all deliberations and voting with respect to such candidate or campaign. Conflicts of interest include, but are not limited to—
(1) familial, romantic, or other close personal ties to a candidate/campaign; and
(2) financial ties to a candidate/campaign, whether direct or indirect.
Any member who has recused themself from decision-making regarding a particular candidate/campaign shall leave the room when the Electoral Committee is discussing said candidate/campaign. A recused member shall also be removed from any email correspondence discussing said candidate/campaign, and shall not be informed of how any other individual member of the Electoral Committee voted with respect to said candidate/campaign.
Section 4. Issuing Endorsements
This section details the process by which Detroit DSA endorses candidates.
a) Race/Candidate Identification Phase
The first step in the endorsement process is identifying suitable races and candidates, taking into account the principles set forth above. This shall be done with the input of as many Chapter members as possible.
At the outset of each electoral cycle, EC Leadership shall send an email to the General Membership with an online survey soliciting input on candidates and races to consider endorsing in (the “Solicitation Email”). Members will have 48 hours to respond. Any member of the Electoral Committee may also submit a Race for Consideration through the Electoral Committee email list or in person at an Electoral Committee meeting. All races and candidates submitted for consideration will be discussed/debated at an in-person EC meeting. The EC will then cull down the options and create a list of Races & Candidates for Consideration. The list should be submitted to the Steering Committee.
The EC may also consider making a recommendation of endorsement or support of any ballot proposals or initiatives.
b) Questionnaire Phase
Following the finalization of the list of Races & Candidates for Consideration, the Electoral Committee (or a sub-committee thereof) will send out questionnaires via email to candidates involved in races under consideration. If only one candidate in a race is under consideration, the EC may but need not send out questionnaires to the other candidates in that race.
ii) Revising Questionnaires
Prior to each electoral cycle, the Electoral Committee shall review previous versions of Detroit DSA’s candidate questionnaires (federal and state) and discuss what if anything should be changed. Any suggested revisions which are not unanimously agreed to shall be voted upon in person and shall require the support of a majority of those present. The Electoral Committee or a sub-committee thereof shall update the document as required. Separate questionnaires for other races (e.g., school board, city/township, county) will be developed as needed.
iii) Disseminating Questionnaires
Questionnaires should go out to candidates via email no later than five (5) months before election day. A minimum of ten days and a maximum of 20 days should be allowed for the return of the questionnaires. An EC chair has the discretion to grant a short extension of time to any candidate for good cause. Any candidate who does not timely return the questionnaire shall not be eligible for a DSA endorsement, unless 2/3 of the Voting Members vote to grant a waiver to this requirement.
iv) Scoring Questionnaires
Once the questionnaires are returned, members of the Electoral Committee shall score the completed questionnaires. Any Detroit DSA Member Candidate shall receive, automatically, an extra 20 percentage points on his/her questionnaire score provided such candidate--
(1) provides proof that he/she is up-to-date on his/her member dues,
(2) has attended at least one general membership meeting in the preceding six months, and
(3) will be running as an open Democratic Socialist.
All total scores shall be tabulated. The top two scores in each race shall be eligible to proceed to the interview phase. Completed questionnaires shall be made available via email to the Steering Committee, all members of the Electoral Committee, and, upon request, to anyone in the general membership.
c) Interview Phase
Candidates who move to the interview phase shall receive an interview, unless a majority of EC Voting Members vote to dispense with interviews. This shall occur, for example, where--
(1) there is a large disparity between the top two scores;
(2) a Detroit DSA Member Candidate is running and the Electoral Committee is prepared to endorse without an interview;
(3) no candidate in a particular race is worthy of a Detroit DSA endorsement.
Candidates eligible for interviews shall be contacted and interviews shall be scheduled as soon as practicable. Any candidate who refuses to participate in an interview shall not be eligible for a Detroit DSA endorsement. The Electoral Committee shall appoint a panel of between five and seven members to plan and conduct the interviews. Only panelists shall be allowed to ask questions to candidates. In order to serve on a panel, members must have attended in person at least one meeting of the Electoral Committee. At least one member of each panel shall be appointed “secretary” and be responsible for writing a summary of the candidates’ responses. Such summaries shall be made available via email to the Steering Committee, all members of the Electoral Committee, and, upon request, to anyone in the general membership.
d) Voting Phase
After completion of the Interview Phase, the Voting Members of the Electoral Committee shall vote on which candidates to nominate for a Chapter endorsement. The top vote recipient in each race shall receive the “recommendation” of the Electoral Committee so long as at least half of all Voting Members vote to recommend such candidate.
e) Steering Committee Phase
All candidates recommended by the EC shall be presented to the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee will consider the nominations and will vote upon which candidates if any, to endorse, taking into account the principles set forth herein and the Chapter’s available resources. The Steering Committee may also decide to offer messages of support short of endorsement to good progressive candidates whose races are not selected. A two-thirds majority of the Steering Committee in favor of a candidate is required in order to send the decision to the general membership for approval.
f) Ratification by the General Membership Phase
The notice to members of the next general membership meeting will include notice that the meeting will include voting on endorsements. A majority vote of the members attending the general membership meeting is required for approval of Steering Committee endorsement decisions. The members can vote for or against each of the Steering Committee decisions, or may vote to refer a decision back to the Steering Committee for further consideration. However, at-large Chapter members cannot change a Steering Committee decision.
g) Crafting a Strategy to Support Endorsed Candidates
After approval at the general membership meeting by majority vote of those members present and voting, the Electoral Committee will notify the candidates of the outcome. The EC will then craft a strategy for supporting the endorsed candidate and propelling them to victory.
h) Voting Guides
Each electoral cycle, the Electoral Committee shall produce and publish online an official “Detroit DSA Voter Guide.” The purpose of this guide is to (1) inform our members’ -- and the broader progressive community -- about all Metro Detroit races, including those without an endorsed Detroit DSA candidate, and (2) recommend candidates to vote for. Ideally, there will be one set of recommended candidates for primary races, and another for general races.
Recommended candidates should generally be selected on a consensus basis by members of the EC. However, in the event of a disagreement among the EC members regarding which candidate to recommend, the recommended candidate shall be selected by a majority vote unless there is consensus that two recommendations in the race should be issued.
Members of the EC (in conjunction with other Detroit DSA members) may also informally organize to canvass for a candidate that is recommended, but not endorsed. However, campaign such work shall represent individuals personally volunteering their time; it shall not be done under the banner of Detroit DSA or constitute Detroit DSA support.
i) Assessing Results
After the general election, the Electoral Committee will analyze the election results and the effectiveness of Detroit DSA’s electoral work for each endorsed candidate.