DSA-Backed Progressives Take Control of Nevada Democratic Party In Upset Election

By H. Harrison Coleman IV

Leavenworth, Kansas

In Nevada, the Progressive Socialist faction of the Democratic Party had been gaining steam for years (Photo Credit: The Intercept)

On March 6, the Nevada State Democratic Party held its elections. All incumbents––the chair, the first and second vice presidents, the secretary and the treasurer of the state party––were voted out, and their replacements are socialists.


Both the Democratic and Republicans have affiliate parties in every state. Since they are big-tent organizations with broad spectrums of ideology among their members, there is bound to be some distinction in the state parties. This is especially true among the political left, which many believe is more fractious. Consider the Georgia Democratic Party, which many liberals view as as a gold standard for the rest of the country, while the Florida Democratic Party is generally recognized as a disorganized mess among liberals.


There are even more disparities between state Democratic Parties when it comes to ideology. For instance, the Kansas and Michigan Democratic Parties endorse Medicare For All, a single-payer system of healthcare common in most other nations besides the U.S., whereas the Arkansas Democratic Party is more conservative.


In Nevada, the Progressive Socialist faction of the Democratic Party had been gaining steam for years. In the 2016 Democratic Presidential primary, Secretary Hillary Clinton narrowly won the Nevada caucus. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the self-described Democratic Socialist, finished about five points behind Clinton, who would go on to win the nomination that year.


In 2020, after four years of fervent Progressive organizing and coalition-building, Sanders, who ran Democratic Presidential Primary again, won the lion’s share of delegates, ending with a 26-point lead over the second closest candidate, President Joe Biden.


The recent Democratic Party elections in Nevada were perhaps the most extreme example of a state party shifting to the left. All five incumbent centrist Democratic executive officers were up for re-election on the night of March sixth, and all five were voted out. Their replacements are members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the largest socialist organization in the U.S. today.


The new Chairwoman of the Nevada Democratic Party, Judith Whitmer, had served as the Chairwoman of the Clark County Democratic Party and served as the electoral Chair of the Las Vegas branch of the DSA during Sander’s 2020 primary win in Nevada. Whitmer has since been replaced by another DSA member as the Chair of the Clark County Democrats.


The new First and Second Vice Presidents, Jacob Allen, another veteran of Sanders’ 2020 campaign, and Dr. Zaffar Iqbal, the founder of Muslims For Bernie, were DSA nominees. Completing the DSA’s clean sweep of Nevada’s Executive Board were the nominees for the positions of Secretary––Ahmad Adé, a former Black Panther who organized and protested alongside Fred Hampton, and Treasurer Howard Beckerman, a longtime member of the Nevada Democratic Party. All of these candidates were DSA nominees and won their positions on March 6.


The Democratic Socialists of America, founded in the 1980s, gained momentum within the Democratic Party in the Trump years, when two of their own were elected to the House of Representatives: Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). In 2020, they increased their membership in the House to five total DSA members and gained over a hundred total state legislative positions.


The DSA has shown no signs of stopping in the Biden Era; they have grown to a membership of over 92,000 as of January 2021. The Nevada Democratic Party is the first state party to have officially been taken over by DSA members. The Las Vegas DSA is the fastest-growing DSA chapter—its membership has increased by 150% since 2019.


Not all was well for the new Nevada Democratic Party. Shortly after the new Socialist slate of executives were sworn in, the entire staff of the Nevada Democratic Party quit, taking some $400,000 and transferring it to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee before the new executives had been in office for too long. The Nevada Democratic Party, however, has embraced this as a chance to start anew, according to an interview with Progressive news outlet The Intercept.


Since then, the new Nevada Democratic Party have dedicated taken action. They banned the death penalty in Nevada, expanded access to the ballot box, and some have turned an eye towards repealing Nevada’s right-to-work laws.


The real test for the new party, however, is the 2022 midterm elections. Though Nevada has generally been regarded as a lean-blue state, the Nevada Republican Party has decried the takeover, and 2022, which will see Nevada’s governor, Democrat Steve Sisolak, and incumbent U.S. senator, Democrat Catherine Cortez-Masto face re-election, may prove a challenge for the new socialist party.