It’s hard to bring up female Democratic leaders and not immediately think about Nancy Pelosi and drop to your knees, arms in the air in a “we’re not worthy” pose. That woman is a badass female leader, no doubt about it. But as we gear up for the 2020 election, there’s another impressive name to know — Agatha Bacelar.
It’s time to get to know this 27-year-old (no, it’s not a typo) Latina Democrat from California who is running for election to the U.S. House to represent California’s 12th Congressional District. She is currently on the ballot in the primary election on March 3, 2020.
Just in case you’re not entirely familiar with the voting districts in California, the 12th District seat is currently occupied by Nancy Pelosi, aka the Speaker of the House, aka the most powerful Democrat in the country. It’s a bold move that’s been garnering mixed responses, but it’s safe to say that Bacelar has certainly gotten our attention.
Who Is Agatha Bacelar?
Let’s get to know a bit more about Agatha Bacelar. Bacelar is a 27-year-old Brazilian-American immigrant, who earned a B.S. in product design engineering from Stanford University. She is a social justice advocate. She wants to create a political system that is more responsive to and representative of everyday people. Her slogan is “The Status Quo Must Go.” And clearly, she’s up for a challenge, because she’s challenging Nancy Pelosi, a move many people think is crazy, especially considering that Pelosi has been in government for longer than Bacelar has even been alive. We’ll let you digest that for a moment.
That is, in part, why Bacelar is being pretty careful with her words and her positioning. Some advisors have warned her against blatantly admitting that she is running a primary campaign against one of the most powerful and successful Democrats in our current government. It’s a long shot, that’s for sure, but if we have learned anything from the 2016 election, anything can happen in politics, and in this political climate we need to challenge our leaders to do better and we need future leaders who will fight for what they believe will make this country a better place for ourselves and future generations.
Prior to launching her political campaign, Bacelar worked for Democracy Earth, at what she calls “the intersection of technology and democracy” on her campaign website. She also worked on documentary filmmaking and political advocacy initiatives, a period during which she engaged with indigenous peoples, the incarcerated and paroled, asylum seekers, and the undocumented — groups of people she describes as the least-served by our democracy. “After seeing so much suffering caused by policies written by establishment politicians, I felt a moral imperative to run for office and change how things are done,” said Bacelar.
And so began her run for congress; a campaign launched with a mission to create a government that represents the 100 percent not just the 1 percent, and that will engage and mobilize Millennials by acting on their concerns.
Despite Some Similarities, Don’t Call Her AOC
Sure, a young, Progressive, Latina woman running for Congress with very little political experience… it sounds familiar. But despite those similarities, don’t think of Bacelar as the next Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Though truth be told, if you did, you wouldn’t be the first to group these two bold female powerhouses together. In fact, a two-person film crew started trailing Bacelar, presumably for an upcoming documentary under the working title “Agatha for Congress.” We’re guessing that they hoped to create “Knock Down the House” 2.0 based on Bacelar’s story. But she doesn’t want to be a movie star or the next AOC, she just wants to be herself. “I don’t see anyone else with cameras following them. Like, why me?” she says in a Vice article. “I’m trying to acknowledge certain similarities, but also just be me.”
And one thing that really sets Bacelar apart is her experience as an engineer and in the tech sector, qualities she plans to use to help engage young Millennial, San Francisco voters. In fact, she’s counting on those votes (especially votes from young people who historically didn’t cast their ballots) as her ticket to victory. How, you ask? Well, it’s 2020 and for every problem, there’s an app for that. Bacelar’s father, a software engineer, is actually designing an app which will capitalize on this idea of “liquid democracy” and will allow voters to participate in a collective decision-making process. The app, currently named Referenda (working name), will allow San Francisco district residents to not just cast votes, but also propose the ideas and shape decisions in real-time.
“It’s new ways of amassing power rather than having this professional citizen that has to go through the machinery of politics and only they get to make decisions, and then once they’re in office, all they care about is retaining power rather than being responsive to the people,” Bacelar told Vice. “The pilot would be San Francisco.”
Another point of distinction — Bacelar hopes to raise $1 million in cryptocurrency. She understands blockchain technology thanks to her work with Democracy Earth. If a Congressional candidate wants to speak to younger generations and appeal to those Millennial voters, he or she needs to both walk the walk and talk the talk where technology and fundraising is concerned. And Bacelar seems to be doing both with ease.
Her Road to Success Might Take Time
While Bacelar is certainly ready to take on her competition, she also recognizes that her success is not a guarantee; in fact, it’s pretty unlikely, at least as far as 2020 is concerned. It certainly seems like Pelosi is untouchable in 2020, being that she’s the most powerful Democrat and a liberal icon in this country. But remember, Pelosi is no spring chicken. And Bacelar has her eye on the prize for a post-Pelosi future, likely in 2022.
Think of it this way — if Bacelar is able to be one of the top two candidates for her district in the March primaries, then she’ll advance to the general election. (The top two, regardless of party affiliation, will advance.) While she might not beat Pelosi in that face-off, she would still gain recognition and a following among Progressives, putting her in a prime position to succeed when Pelosi retires. It doesn’t look like Pelosi is hanging up her hat any time soon, but by the end of her next term she’ll be 82 years old, so she might not seek re-election at that point, leaving an opening for a new candidate. And a strong showing in this year’s election could put the Stanford-educated Progressive engineer in an ideal spot as front runner.
“I, frankly, don’t think she can win because Nancy Pelosi is so formidable, lots of money and name recognition,” said Mark Van Landuyt, vice chairman of the California Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus to Vice. “But this is her last term. So, if [Bacelar] does extraordinarily well, then she will be the front-runner for 2022.”
While we’re not expecting Bacelar to take down Pelosi just yet, let’s just say that stranger things have happened in politics, so we’ll be keeping our eye on this up-and-coming Latina candidate.