Story: The 2022 Democratic Primary for NY Assembly District 103 was won by a grassroots campaign supported by community groups


Backstory: The 2022 NYS Assembly Primary won by the Democratic Socialist political machine candidate cost at least $1 million 

Concern: Did Sarahana Shrestha, DSA and For the Many run a coordinated Assembly 103 campaign & buy her election?
(you can go to the bottom of this page to see the NY Times verdict)

A formal complaint has been filed with the NY State Board of Election. It states: “ ‘D [emocratic] S [ocialists] of A[merica] For The Many' via its Mid-Hudson Valley chapter (MHVDSA) illegally coordinated with ‘Sarahana For Assembly' and were de facto extensions of Ms. Shrestha’s  campaign committee."

DSA Candidate Sarahana Shrestha
DSA For the Many Executive Director Jonathan Bix
Follow the Money 

Why there is Concern about the 2022 Assembly Primary

America's Socialist party ran Sarahana Shrestha for NYS legislature as a Democrat while gaming the campaign system

Less than a week before the June 2022 Democratic primary for Assembly District 103, challenger Sarahana Shrestha spoke to a newspaper about running as a Democratic Socialist against an incumbent progressive Democrat in the Hudson Valley.

"We got our Democratic supermajority, we kicked a lot of the fake Democrats out and what we expected did not happen. So we [decided] we need to take it to the next level, where we put our own people in office.”

Shrestha is co-chair of the Mid-Hudson Valley arm of the Democratic Socialists of America [DSA]. For her, "our own people" are those in the DSA movement. The Democratic Party is both the means and the target.

A self-described "ecosocialist" and climate activist, she was unknown in the 103rd Assembly district outside the DSA movement. When her history and her DSA reinvention as an organizer and eco-activist is examined, it becomes clear that she was a candidate manufactured by, and for, the Mid-Hudson Valley DSA to run for statewide office.

Her connection, and path to the NYS Assembly, was through the Mid-Hudson DSA chapter and its affiliated group For the Many -- formerly Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson. For the Many is an "independent expenditure" political group and partner to the DSA, but also a registered SuperPAC with links to a West Coast dark-money umbrella group, The Tides Foundation. 

Together, the DSA and For the Many funded an account -- separate from the candidate's Sarahana for Assembly account -- and provided material support to Shrestha’s campaign. This included social media advertising (posts substantially match from both groups), financial donations, joint events, canvassing, phone banking and strategizing. There are indications that For the Many's office at 13 Grand Street in Kingston effectively functioned as Shrestha's campaign headquarters. There is little evidence it was housed anywhere else. 

Concern: Coordinated actions by the candidate's campaign and the DSA-affiliated groups 

In March 2020, DSA set up their multi-candidate account “DSA For the Many,” which supported Shrestha as well as candidates running in other parts of New York. 

In September 2021, the local Political Action Committee “Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson” rebranded as “For The Many” which includes For the Many Action (the super PAC).

In November 2021, Sarahana Shrestha launched her campaign and received endorsements from For the Many Action and the Mid-Hudson Valley DSA chapter on the same day. Both used the same photo of the candidate not publicly available at the time. Shrestha’s Democratic opponent, incumbent Kevin Cahill, was not interviewed for endorsement by either group. As a Democrat -- not a Socialist -- he was the target of their attacks.

In a post-primary interview with The Daily Catch publication, Sarahana Shrestha acknowledged her reliance on the DSA. "I knew I would have 10 dedicated colleagues from DSA, and those people completely suspended their lives to help me run.” The Ulster County Democratic Committee had voted to endorse Cahill and the County Committee Vice Chair, Jeff Collins, ran the Cahill campaign.

Prohibited Coordination with a Super PAC

For The Many’s full name is actually “For The Many Action,” a federally-registered Super Political Action Committee (Super PAC #C00740415). The Federal Election Commission's website states: Super PACs are “independent expenditure only political committees… that may receive unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, labor unions and other PACs for the purpose of financing independent expenditures and other independent political activity.” 

In the case of a Super PAC the emphasis is on "independent" expenditures and political activity -- not coordination directly with candidates. In fact, Super PACs may not “coordinate” directly with political parties or candidates.

Concern: The rule against Super PAC coordination with candidates likely was violated by For the Many Action in the June 2022 Primary election. 

In fact, For The Many Action’s Political Coordinator, Daniel Atonna, wrote on Instagram [below] that the group's endorsement of DSA candidate Sarahana Shrestha was "the greatest crossover event in history."  How could a "crossover event" be anything but coordinated? The Campaign Legal Center cites weak enforcement of campaign finance laws which is why this should be of concern to the New York State Board of Elections Enforcement Division. 

The Great Crossover Event

On an Instagram post, For the Many Action's political director, Daniel Atonna, commented to @mhvdsa that Shrestha's campaign is the "greatest crossover event in history," which is a For the Many SuperPAC employee praising coordination with the candidate. Less noticeable was the mdvdsa comment, above, which stated that Sarahana "has dedicated her whole life to fighting for working class people..."   That was an attempted to embellish the credibility of their candidate who was unknown in the Assembly district and had no record of fighting for working people. 

For the Many SuperPAC Coordination

Canvasses, joint appearances and star turns at For the Many's SuperPAC events and rallies were standard procedure in the June 2022 Assembly 103 Democratic primary in spite of New York State Board of Election and Federal Election Commission rules prohibiting coordination between candidates and SuperPACs.

Social Media

On the same day Shrestha's campaign launched it was endorsed by For the Many Action and the Mid-Hudson Valley DSA. Both used the same photo as the candidate's campaign. The head shot was not publicly available at the time.

Same head shot, different background on same-day Instagram announcements. Between the campaign launch and the primary election, the candidate reposted For the Many Action and/or Mid-Hudson Valley DSA posts at least 9 times. 

 Joint Events and Other Coordination


Candidate Shrestha appears on Spectrum news with community organizers from For the Many and Citizen Action.


From January through May events and appearances were coordinated between the candidate and/or Mid-Hudson Valley DSA, For the Many Action, and MHVDSA co-sponsoring with For the Many Action. For the Many's Kingston office was the location of at least two events.

Negative Mailers

Practically speaking, voters were unable to distinguish between the Sarahana for Assembly campaign, DSA, DSA For the Many, and For the Many Action PAC. When For the Many produced negative mailers about Shrestha's opponent, she was asked to disavow any involvement with those.  She did not, even though the mailers often contained distortions and half-truths. In contrast, Kevin Cahill disavowed any involvement with negative mailers about Shrestha that had been produced by an outside group unconnected with any campaign.

Concern: DSA, For the Many Action, and the Sarahana for Assembly campaign brought hard-right tactics to the Mid-Hudson Valley Democratic party primary, creating division they exploited.

DSA Official

While running for office as a candidate in a Democratic primary, Ms. Shrestha was a chair of the Mid-Hudson chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. She routinely criticized Democrats, especially in Albany. 

The Democratic Socialist "Octopus" 
One body, Many arms, Multiple Names

1. DSA
2. Mid-Hudson Valley DSA
3. DSA/For the Many
4. For the Many Action
5. For the Many Educational Fund 
6. Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson (now For the Many Action)

In the months leading up to the June 28th New York Assembly District 103 Primary Election, and in the weeks after, voters were sold a well-crafted lie in press reports: That the election was won by “grassroots” organizing and door-knocking. Left out of the one-sided narrative was the single organization, with multiple names, that flooded the district with a massive amount of dark money.  Democratic Socialists were raking in funding through out-of-district donors and groups with anonymous donors.

The Mid-Hudson chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America played a key role in the outcome of the June 2022 Democratic primary. This is an off-the-ballot political party that conveniently runs its own candidates on the Democratic line while criticizing Democratic Party policies and elected officials. 

While Democratic Socialists are not a separate political party, they function that way. Like an octopus, DSA and their ideological affiliates (listed above) they have one head and body but many arms. 

Each arm has a different set-up along campaign finance rules. First, Sarahana has her own single-candidate campaign account (Sarahana for Assembly - 216483). DSA has a multi-candidate account (DSA/For the Many NYS-6752) which raises funds for all their candidates. The Sarahana for Assembly section has a separate number (NYS-216484). For the Many Action is a federally-registered Super PAC (C00740415) that must operate independently and not coordinate with political parties or individual campaigns though it may act on behalf of a campaign. For the Many also has a New York State independent expenditure committee/PAC (NYS-2433). For the Many also has a tax-exempt education fund. 

Yet each arm of the DSA and For the Many displays the same aggressive fund-raising and power-seeking agenda. And, while they criticize others for receiving corporate contributions, they accept them. The 2022 report on For the Many Action includes a $20,000 contribution from corporate finance giant Goldman Sachs, and smaller amounts from HP Inc, as well as political and medical consulting firms. 

How they Game the System: For The Many/Para Todos claims to have a political action arm and an education arm. This arrangement allows the organization to receive donations that influence elections (non-tax deductible) and receive donations which are tax-deductible "grants" made via a specific link to the Education Fund on For the Many's website.

The Reason: The goals of DSA and For the Many is to finance their Socialist candidates in Democratic primaries and replace mainstream Democrats who they view as vulnerable. What appears important to DSA is pushing their party and agenda with candidates who lack government experience but who believe in the DSA talking points, ideology and issues.

Concern: When is For The Many engaging in political action? And how is that separate that from “education” ? Or is it?

Tactics on Display 

The DSA Octopus at Work

For the Many Political Director, Daniel Atonna [left in the photo on the right and in the bottom, right, photo], is employed by the PAC but doubles as a DSA operative, Sarahana volunteer and contributor. He overstates [right] Shrestha's primary win as the "first socialist in history ever elected to NYS government from outside NYC." For the Many does not tag itself as openly Socialist, however Atonna's activities and social media content shows some of the ways DSA and For the Many intertwine and brazenly ignore election rules. The Facebook grab [below, center] details who spent what on ads. The negative ad [below, left] displays how Shrestha's opponent was trolled. 

Behind the Scenes DSA Tactics

How DSA and For the Many interacted as partners of the Shrestha Campaign

Overlapping Staff

Volunteers and campaign materials crossed over between Ms. Shrestha’s campaign and For The Many’s organizational and campaign work. A February 1, 2022 Instagram post showed For the Many Action's Political Director, Brahvan Ranga, and DSA candidate Sarahana Shrestha photographed together at an exclusive Good Cause Eviction event at the Kingston Courthouse organized by Ranga. Also, Daniel Atonna, FTM's Political Coordinator, accompanied the DSA candidate to SUNY New Paltz on November 18, 2021 to discuss her campaign with the College Democrats. That visit was memorialized on Instagram with a photo posted by the Mid-Hudson Valley DSA which described Atonna as "our Electoral co-chair." 

Weaponizing Facebook

Facebook maintains at "Ad Library" that shows advertiser spending. Between April and June 2022, For The Many spent over $6,600 on Facebook Ads mostly promoting Ms. Shrestha’s campaign. Conversely, Ms. Shrestha spent only $2.,200 in social media ads during the same period. [A screen grab is shown, below]. The organization published over 40 Facebook ads promoting the election of Ms. Shrestha and disparaging her opponent, incumbent Democrat Kevin Cahill, with misleading phrases like "Cahill Pretends to be Progressive (May 5-7, 2022).

DSA For the Many also ran ads promoting Shrestha on its slate of candidates.

Gaming Campaign Finance

Campaign staffs are normally paid by campaigns and remain separate from donors. For the Many Action staff, including founder, Executive Director and Treasurer Jonathan Bix, as well as political operatives Daniel Atonna and Brahvan Ranga contributed small amounts to the Shrestha campaign. More notably, a Kingston-based For the Many current staffer contributed $35,000 to the Super PAC in 2020 while being also listed as a Tides Foundation employee. The same staffer's wife contributed $35,000 for a total of $70,000 in 2020 (though not disclosed until 2021). The same employee and his wife each donated $4700 to Shrestha's campaign. 

A Mysterious Campaign Office

The location  of Ms. Shrestha’s campaign  office was something of a mystery and never publicly  disclosed. Indications -- never disproven --  are that it was a room or rooms inside For The Many's Kingston  office at 13 Grand Street. For the Many Action -- a SuperPAC -- was based in the Grand Street office. It would be a violation of campaign finance rules for the Shrestha campaign to be housed in the same location. The only written reference to the office was in a post-primary news interview where Shrestha stated her campaign"…also spent some of the money renting out a small office in Kingston..." Common knowledge remains that Shrestha's campaign was run out of For the Many's Kingston office. Where's the proof it was not?

Follow the Money

Coordination and murky finances turned the 103 Assembly race into a million-dollar gamble

Claims about the true cost of the Assembly 103 Democratic primary have never been fully examined until now that post-primary campaign finance disclosures have been filed.

While The Red Hook Daily Catch reported that Shrestha said her "...campaign spent a mere $100,000 in the primary race, roughly half of what Cahill spent," the truth is very different.

Sarahana for Assembly hauled in $171,205.97 (from January to July 2022) by our calculations from the New York State Board of Elections reporting system.

But funds raised by the DSA/For the Money (multi-candidate) account for Sarahana Shrestha came to $682,770.54

That totals: $853,976.51

Not included are "non-federal" payments made for various services by For the Many Action [details below]. Those appear to be in the range of $33,000.

When all the pieces are put together, the funds raised to make Sarahana Shrestha a member of the New York State Assembly from District 103 come to $886,976.51. 

Add in the $150,000 or so raised by incumbent Cahill's campaign and the money raised soars past $1 million.

State and Federal financial disclosure reports tell the story.

DSA $$$

DSA/For the Many Raised $682,770.54 for Sarahana

According to the New York State Board of Elections campaign contribution reporting, as of July 2022 total contributions in the DSA/ For The Many Sarahana for Assembly account were $682,770.54. We found this by choosing Sarahana for Assembly from the twin drop down list on the account [left]. Again -- this is in addition to the $143,570.07 Shrestha's separate Assembly campaign raised according to her 32-day pre-primary filing. 

DSA/For the Many Spending Loophole Account

Multi-candidate committees' sister accounts can spend unlimited amounts for their candidate’s benefit. 
Concern: Why did the candidate, a DSA officer, pretend an extra $682,770 was not raised in her name?

Shrestha is a Mid-Hudson DSA Officer

Remember: Sarahana Shrestha is co-chair of the Mid-Hudson Valley DSA. So it is difficult to believe that she would not be aware of how much DSA raised via their multi-candidate account. However, she continued to distance herself from this information and claimed that her victory was done on a small budget and resulted from organizing and grassroots door-knocking. 

Open-Secret Campaign Fund

The DSA /For The Many multi-candidate committee also contributed $4700 to Shrestha's campaign. Shrestha was also the recipient of the DSA/FTM funds which paid for mailers and social media advertising on her behalf. The precise amount DSA/For The Many expended on Shrestha’s campaign is unknown, since multi-candidate committees like these do not need to disclose exactly how much was spent per candidate. Convenient. Multi-candidate committees can only directly contribute the legal amount to a candidate but the loophole is that they can spend unlimited amounts for their candidate’s benefit. 

Follow For the Many's Murky Money

Concern: Speaking out against greedy corporations and billionaires while taking funds from them 

For the Many: Two Faces

For The Many Action -- as Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson Action -- is a registered Independent Expenditure Committee with the Federal Elections Commission, and claims to be non-profit.

For The Many has two arms. One is the  non-profit political (501 (c) 4) and the other a tax-deductible education fund (501 (c) 3) under the Tides Foundation umbrella. 

In April 2021, the group -- number 4172 on the sheet -- received a failure to file timely financial disclosures, receiving an FEC “Reason To Believe” notice detailing “evidence sufficient to warrant an investigation.” 

In January 2022, For The Many also filed an un-itemized 2021 financial disclosure for $161,000 with the New York State Board of Elections, a year late and un-itemized.  

For the Many was co-founded by Jonathan Bix, a Vassar grad, as Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson in 2012. He is now Executive Director and Treasurer.

The "Tides" Umbrella

For The Many is also a “project” funded by the Tides Foundation, which some consider is a “Dark Money” source. 

The Tides Foundation was founded in 1976 by millionaire Drummond Pike with start-up capital also provided by Jane Bagley Lehman, an heir to the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company fortune.

Tides is frequently used as a pass-through for donor advised-funds. That allows individuals or organizations -- who may not want to be identified -- to give to Tides, which, in turn, gives a grant directly to an organization. 

Donor-advised funds amount to masking -- or washing -- donated money since grants from Tides do not reveal which donor provided the funds. 

Nor does the IRS require 501(c)(3) nonprofits, such as Tides, to disclose its donors. 

Awash in Donor Money

In 2020, the Tides Foundation reported $1,066,458,024 in total revenues and $619,024,976 in total expenditures. 

Major donors to Tides include George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The David & Lucile Packard Foundation, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Novo Foundation. 

Between 2013-2020 Peter Buffet’s Novo Foundation contributed over $40 Million to Tides. 

Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson received at least $200,000 in 2019. As For the Many Action, they appear to have returned the $200,000 to Tides Advocacy in June 2022 as "prepayment of anticipated staff costs." 

An list of top donors to For the Many [below] included $20,000 from Goldman Sachs.

60 Interns Fired

In 2020, 60 undergraduate interns, who spent a good deal of their time fundraising for Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, raised questions about the money.

In an article for the Vassar student newspaper intern Helen Johnson explains the students' desire to support Black Lives Matter and their demands for "structural transparency" to provide greater clarity in their work for NLMH. 

Interns wanted to know:

1.) “NLMH’s specific ties to the Tides Advocacy Group, ActBlue Charities, and others that may affect the financial inner workings of NLMH or the organization’s motivations and goals…”

2.) An explanation of the differences, similarities and overlaps between NLMH Education Fund (501 (c) 3) and NLMH Action Fund (501 (c) 4). This includes a breakdown of how funds are processed and used for each.

NLMH fired all the interns.

FTM $$$

For the Many Spending

For The Many claimed $497,542.11 cash on hand in the FEC Filing as of June 30, 2022. The FEC spending summary totaled $275,404.11 with $200,000 off the top to Tides Advocacy in June. The 100+ spending items  included dialer service, accounting, branding, online ads, polling, door-hangers, printing, canvasser expenses, voter database fees, and $6541.63 in postage. Some were labeled "(non-federal)." Text on the Pre-Primary report filing [below] says "For election on 6/28/2022 in the State of New York." Additionally, we found that Jonathan Bix, For the Many’s Executive Director, doubles as PAC treasurer. Based on the July post-primary report, about $33,000 may have been spent on Shrestha's campaign by For The Many Action SuperPAC -- never acknowledged by the candidate or any of the associated groups.

Meet the 2020 Mid-Hudson DSA's New Member

In 2020, Sarahana Shrestha was listed as a "DSA comrade" and new member of the Mid-Hudson Valley DSA and an "integral organizer on our ecosocialism and design committees." This explains her re-invention and identification as an eco-socialist ahead of becoming a DSA candidate. For the Many Action's Political Director Daniel Atonna also was a member of the eco-socialism working group. Less clear are the activities of the working group or any concrete accomplishments by Shrestha as a climate organizer. In the numerous press narratives Shrestha offered since her announcement, her actual role and any real accomplishments are absent. 

Anatomy of an Eco-Socialist Candidate 

Who is Sarahana Shrestha and why had her hometown Esopus Democrats never heard of her?

November 8, 2021 was the first time many voters heard the name Sarahana Shrestha, when she announced a primary challenge to 13-term Assembly member Kevin Cahill for the 103rd Assembly District seat. A resident of the Town of Esopus (and a U.S. citizen since 2019, taking her oath at the Ulster County Courthouse) the 41-year old self-described "first-generation immigrant" and "organizer" presented a candidate's fact sheet that was long on issues and short on qualifications. Who was Cahill's challenger and what were her qualifications for Assembly as a Democrat? 

Concern: Shrestha’s campaign website gave little biographical information and did not include the usual resume. 

Even before the primary, Democrats in Esopus had concerns about her campaign claims. There was so much concern, representatives of the Town of Esopus took out a half-page advertisement in local a newspaper questioning Shrestha's motives. 

Three 3-term Esopus Council member Kathie Quick said: "I don’t know of any accomplishments she has achieved in our community. The web is devoid of biographical information on this person. What employment has she had? Does she work now? Where was she living before? I’ve known Kevin Cahill for a long time. I know he delivers legislation that benefits our entire district. He has been especially helpful to the Town of Esopus.”

Town Council Member Evelyn Clarke said: “I don’t know anything about her. But people’s mailboxes are filling up with costly, unsubstantiated half-truths, and accusations about [her primary opponent] Assemblyman Cahill. Kevin Cahill has been a supporter of Esopus for many years. We wouldn’t even have the Sojourner Truth memorial were it not for his support. Bottom line, nobody in Esopus has ever worked with or knows anything about Sarahana Shrestha.”

Esopus Councilwoman Laura Robinson said: “There is nothing like the threat of a Socialist operative at the State level to sow more discord and chaos in Albany.”

Why was Shrestha's real work history not provided by the campaign?

According to Shrestha's campaign biography, she emigrated to New York from Nepal in 2001 to study computer graphics. Then, after her employment as a graphic designer she says she “found her bearings among those who believed in the possibility of another world, one where a system of peace, sustainability, and camaraderie keep everyone safe and nourished…” Shrestha’s bio also states she “...remained an active advocate of this belief, founding a literary online journal that published political writings, banned by Nepal’s new King who seized powers through a coup."

Research indicates that Shrestha arrived in Long Island to attend the New York Institute of Technology-Old Westbury and study computer graphics between 2001-2004. In 2005, she either founded or co-founded (this account varies by publication) “an online platform for Nepalis to express their views”. The website, along with other pro-democracy platforms, was later blocked in Nepal following a coup a few months later, though the website was still accessible via a “mirror” website. From 2004-2009 Shrestha worked as a Senior Multimedia Designer for Greater Than One, a private healthcare content creation and marketing firm. 

By 2009, Shrestha was working as a writer, photographer and web designer for Impose Magazine, then a trendy Brooklyn-based Indie music and culture publication. Then she moved to Flash Designer as a designer using multimedia software used to create interactive web content, animation and videos. Shrestha also had a day job at Hugo and Marie, an independent artist management firm and creative agency based in New York City. From 2012-2017, she and her companion/husband, Peter Cavanaugh, also ran an online literary magazine, The Short Form, dedicated to short stories from writers around the globe. 

Concern: Nothing in Shrestha’s background as a creative person is unusual. So why did she not provide a professional bio for the campaign as most candidates do?

One possible answer: Her real background did not fit the new image/narrative DSA and Shrestha planned to craft for her campaign as a “eco-socialist”/climate organizer who took on the gas-fracking Danskammer Energy Plant in Newburgh and stopped it. It was in the DSA's interest for her to be described as a community organizer rather than as a photographer who snapped fashion pictures at New York Fashion Week in 2014.

Self-endorsed DSA co-chair to Assembly candidate

It was made clear in this post by the candidate's campaign that Ms. Shrestha serves as an officer of the Democratic Socialists of America by signing a post [right] "Sarahana, Ulster County co-chair, Mid-Hudson Valley DSA." While the DSA has begun a take-over of the Working Families Party -- which is on the ballot  -- the DSA is not yet a separate political  party.  Shrestha ran as a Democrat to try to expand the aggressive DSA faction in the New York State Assembly. Meanwhile, the Ulster County Democrats and labor endorsed the incumbent, Kevin Cahill.  

Concern: Despite promoting herself as a candidate "for the people" Shrestha received no labor union endorsements.

Reinvention as a Climate Organizer

In a post-primary City & State interview Shrestha admits "You know this was mostly a DSA built campaign, specifically Mid-Hudson Valley DSA."

Some media stories identify Shrestha as a lead organizer of the NY Public Power Coalition, others list her a "a leader" while others call her an "organizer.

The NY Public Power Coalition started in 2020 as a New York City-DSA campaign to support two pieces of legislation: the New York Build Public Renewables Act (NYBPRA) and the New York Utility Democracy Act (NYUDA,) both of which failed to pass the state legislature that year. The statewide coalition was founded in the Spring of 2021 and lists For the Many as one of 22 partners -- nine of which are DSA chapters around the state. No individual names are given.

The Mid-Hudson community fight against the proposed gas-fracking Danskammer Energy plant began in 2018, leading to a 2021 determination by the New York State Department of Environment Conservation that effectively stopped the plant. Shrestha's involvement with the Danskammer fight seems to only appear in 2021 towards the end of the years-long fight while DSA was looking to gain statewide support for its two failed pieces of legislation. 

Despite her brief involvement, DSA stated in its endorsement that Shrestha "successfully organized against the Danskammer fracked gas plant..."  In most of Shrestha's campaign materials, including her bio, Danskammer is mentioned as an example of her organizing. However, apart from the Sumudaya platform of 2005 and her brief environmental advocacy, there appears to be little, if any, evidence of Shrestha's involvement in advocacy—let alone for “working families." 

Concern: Except for her role as an officer of Mid-Hudson Valley DSA, the name Sarahana Shrestha did not appear connected to any other community groups before her campaign. 

Former Esopus Supervisor Shannon Harris put it bluntly: "Until earlier this year, no one in the Esopus community heard of her.”

Navigating local groups with a new image

Less than a week before the June primary, Albany Times Union quoted Shrestha clearly stating her intent and that of the DSA and its affiliates in Albany:

“We got our Democratic supermajority, we kicked a lot of the fake Democrats out and what we expected did not happen. So we [decided] we need to take it to the next level, where we put our own people in office.”

This is consistent with what Shrestha said during a Saugerties Democratic Committee Candidates Forum in May. “I will be the first to admit that my interest... has never been local organizing. My interest is state legislation and I have always done my organizing on state legislation…” 

Following Shrestha’s campaign announcement -- and simultaneous endorsement by DSA and For the Many -- Shrestha actively sought support from trusted community groups, unions, and the Working Families party. This is standard in elections.

She and a few MHV-DSA supporters began to show up at progressive events, notably protests organized by the New York State Nurses Union fighting for the return of mental health beds in Kingston, and against cuts and layoffs by the HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley. Members later found that their protests were being used as a photo ops for the candidate and DSA, one saying they felt “used”.

The impression was that an unknown candidate and her campaign were attempting to suddenly join local groups to manufacture the appearance of broad support.

High stakes move on the Working Families Party

To Shrestha and the Mid-Hudson Valley DSA,The Working Families party looked like a logical target. It also has long been a path to a second ballot line for Democrats who regularly seek that endorsement. The Working Families Party Mid-Hudson Valley Regional body met to discuss the Assembly race. Yet certain members were told “it would not be an endorsement call.” With no vote scheduled, some members (mostly unions) were told by a regional officer and DSA member it wasn't necessary to be on the call, and that any discussion would be last on the agenda. During the meeting, the committee’s new members -- Shrestha supporters -- demanded a change to the agenda to move the discussion forward, and then forced a vote to endorse Shrestha, after which they left the call. Whether or not Union members were intentionally excluded (they later endorsed Kevin Cahill) is disputed. Nevertheless, by manipulation, Shrestha secured the Working Families Party endorsement and a second ballot line which was Cahill's in the past. 

Concern: Strongarm tactics secured the Working Families Party endorsement for Sarahana and a second line on the primary ballot.

The Citizen Action endorsement for Shrestha unfolded in a similar way. Experienced endorsement committee members were not called while new members  -- now veterans of the Working Families Party endorsement moves -- joined the call with a similar result. Dividing the Hudson Valley’s Progressive Democrats was later described as "disgusting," especially when abusive language from Shrestha's campaign and its supporters was directed against anyone who dared to speak out. 

And Finally

Concern: Voters in the 103rd Assembly district deserve a full, factual picture of this primary race, the character of the candidates, and the amounts of money provided by actors who helped shape it. Money equals influence. We raise these concerns because we believe in Democracy and feel that acts detailed here have affected our district's right to election transparency. We strongly urge an official, thorough investigation into the groups and concerns described to be sure no illegal coordination took place and to prevent murky money from buying a New York State Assembly seat in the Mid-Hudson Valley or any other New York State community.

Are You Also Concerned?

As citizens concerned about irregularities and a flood of money in the June 2022 Democratic Primary for Assembly District 103, we welcome support of others who want to ensure transparent elections and law-abiding fund-raising and financial results. 

We are wary of organizations that proclaim:  “For too long, greedy corporations, billionaires, and political elites have used their wealth and power to rig our country against us. We’re fighting to put power back in our hands…” When the sources of these organizations' money are murky, the organizations skirt election rules, and the power turns out to be the very billionaires an upstart group claims to be fighting. When these groups pretend to be Democrats but talk about "fake Democrats" and "electing their own people"  it's logical to feel concerned. 

Which is why we are Concerned AD 103 New York


2022 © Copyright Concerned 103 AD NY. All rights reserved. 

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