DSA Debate Watch Party Doubles as Fundraiser for Local Elections


Prospect Heights is feeling the Bern.

That’s because the Democratic Socialists of America’s (DSA) New York City chapter hosted a Presidential Democratic Nominee debate watch party on Tuesday as a way to support not only U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in his bid for the White House, but also to support local DSA-backed candidates.

The watch party was held at the Branded Saloon, 603 Vanderbilt Avenue, in the pub’s backroom, where chairs were arranged facing a large screen on which the debate was played.

While it was centered around the debate, it wasn’t just an event about national politics. Jabari Brisport and Phara Souffrant Forrest, two candidates for local elections, were being supported as well.

Attendees of the party boo-ed at Democratic nominee candidate, and former NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg and cheered for Bernie Sanders. Photo by Amanda Salazar.

Brisport is running for the State Senate 25th District seat covering Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, Red Hook, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Sunset Park, Gowanus, and Park Slope. Forrest is a candidate for assemblywoman for the 57th State Assembly District covering Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights.

“I’m really excited that the both of them are running,” said DSA volunteer and member Chris Maisano. “These are two homegrown candidates from here in Brooklyn who are running as DSA members and as a part of this growing Democratic Socialist movement.”

Volunteers who put the watch party together used the debate to mask that it was actually a fundraising event, where Brisport merchandise like t-shirts were being sold.

“I wanna’ know right now, who can donate $100 to help us keep going?” Brisport, a public high school teacher, asked in a short speech he gave during one of the debate’s commercial breaks. 

After asking and seeing some hands raise, he told them to speak to one of the volunteers, and then went on to ask who can donate $75, $50 and $27 to his campaign.

He also spoke a little about why he supports Sanders and why he himself is running for office.

“Let me tell you, when there’s 500,000 people that are going to sleep on the streets tonight — 90,000 in New York — that’s a moral crisis that we need to address,” Brisport said. “When there are tens of millions of people without health insurance — a million of them in New York State — that’s a moral crisis we need to address.”

Attendees, largely DSA members and volunteers, snacked on orders of fries while cheering on their candidate. 

Sanders, the only current candidate who self-identifies as a Democratic Socialist, was naturally the recipient of the DSA’s support and approval.

The audience clapped and yelled support often when Sanders spoke at the debate, which was held in Charleston, South Carolina. 

When other candidates spoke, such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, they boo-ed. 

In the case of Bloomberg, one partygoer, in particular, yelled out, “Public schools rule,” as a response to a comment the mayor said about New York charter schools.

Most of the time, however, the audience remained enthralled in the conflicts going on on the screen.

“I think that Bernie is doing well,” said attendee Madi Mornhinweg. “He’s being attacked left and right and holding his ground and making some really good points.”