Karina Kaye grew up in the United Kingdom with progressive parents and socialist grandparents. Her family’s political influence motivated her to move the Democratic party towards more progressive ideals.
“My grandmother was a hardcore socialist and an activist,” Kaye said. “My father always voted for the British Labour Party and my mother is Mexican-American. They all have very progressive political views which has been a huge influence.”
Kaye, who graduated from UCLA in 2015, was elected January as a delegate for the California Democratic Party for Assembly District 37, which includes parts of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Kaye said she never saw herself getting into politics, despite her political upbringing. But after the 2016 election, Kaye said she could not stay idle.
Kaye worked as a volunteer for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign because she was inspired by his promises of free education, health care and taxing Wall Street.
“People are literally dying on the streets in this country because they cannot afford health care,” Kaye said. “Meanwhile, the corporations are profiting and we need to keep them accountable.”
Kaye said she was heartbroken after the result of the election because she realized how corrupt the Democratic Party was.
“I feel like there is only one party in the (United States): the corporate party,” Kaye said. “However (the Democratic party) is the best party for leftists who can only hope to push it more to the progressive side.”
When one of her friends asked her to run on a slate to represent parts of Ventura County as a delegate for the state Democratic party, she said she saw it as a perfect opportunity to make a difference.
State party delegates vote on the state party platform and endorse Democratic candidates running for office. They also plan and attend informational meetings throughout the region and work with other delegates to represent their community.
Kaye made calls, wrote emails and joined as many formal Democratic groups as she could to get her name across to voters before the election.
“The Democratic party intentionally makes the process to get involved so inaccessible,” Kaye said. “They don’t want people to get involved so the corporations can buy and control everyone.”
Kaye added she wants to address corporate ownership first as a delegate by putting forth a proposal to reduce the amount of donations that can be given.
Kaye also said she wants to encourage more young people to participate in community politics instead of just voting in general elections.
“There really needs to be more energy at these local meetings, so they don’t become so boring,” Kaye said. “Most of the people there are over 50 years old and these are the people who are involved and actually vote.”
Kaye added that while many people think that they won’t be able to make any difference if they try to get involved, she really believes that becoming a delegate has given her leverage to make some changes.
Arthur Valenzuela, one of Kaye’s fellow delegates representing Assembly District 37, said he was very excited to hear Kaye was joining his slate.
“She has a unique global perspective,” Valenzuela said. “She brings diversity to the group because she grew up in Britain and has an understanding on European politics that will be effective in bringing change to Ventura County.”
Valenzuela added he thinks the wave of enthusiasm the Sanders campaign brought to young voters helped bring down the average age of delegates and diversify delegates.
“It is important to have a diverse group of people representing the community,” Valenzuela said. “Last year the average age of the Ventura delegates was probably like 60 and we only had four people of color. This year we have 11 people of color and the average age is about 40.”
Vanessa Moreno, who worked with Kaye in the UCLA Labor Center, said she saw Kaye’s passion for those less fortunate than her in their work on wage theft.
“(Kaye) feels very strongly about social justice,” Moreno said. “She was extremely bothered by the diminishing wages in this country and was passionate about doing something about it.”
Moreno also said she was not surprised when she heard Kaye get involved in the state party.
“She has always been very opinionated,” Moreno said. “Her perseverance and good way with people will serve her well in a political climate. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if she ran for something bigger after she finishes the two years of being a delegate.”