Eduardo “Lalo” Vargas is a high school science teacher in Highland Park who is running as a Socialist candidate. He is a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and has organized around street vendor issues in El Monte, plus for the passage of rent control under Measure H in Pasadena.

He studied neuroscience and Spanish Literature at a university in rural Ohio on a scholarship. He earned his teaching credentials at Cal State LA, and his first teaching job was at Wilson High School in El Sereno.

He told Boyle Heights Beat that his parents are from Morelia, Mexico, and that he grew up in the Inland Empire.

Vargas is a member of the UTLA, and struck with non-teacher education workers from SEIU Local 99 last year.

You can also find a video statement (transcript) Vargas made on the City Clerk’s website.

Connections. It’s all about who you know:

Vargas says the connections most helpful to the bootstrap campaign are volunteers from groups that he and the Party for Socialism and Liberation have organized with previously on other issues, including tenants’ rights, labor, and Palestine. 

He said his network was built while learning to organize for tenant rights with Union de Vecinos, the eastside local of the Los Angeles Tenants Union. He said they also have connections with the Palestinian Youth movement, labor unions like the UAW, and a coalition of labor groups that are active around the Palestinian issue, called Labor for Palestine.

He said that these connections have helped their campaign to have “boots on the ground” canvassing, which they have been doing since last May.

Fundraising: Who is handing out the cash?

Vargas has raised $35,012.92 for his campaign as of Feb. 17. Most of his fundraising is made up of small dollar donations, but there were four donations that hit the $900 maximum. They came from a homemaker, a project lead at MEND Poverty, a rental coordinator at a film prop company, and a speech language pathologist at a school district. Other donations came from academics, including researchers at Caltech and UCLA, accountants, a driver, a youth coordinator and a software engineer. 

More than $9,000 of the donations were unitemized, which means they were under $100 each and so were lumped together. These types of smaller donations make up about a quarter of his total raised funds. Vargas said that their campaign asked people they met during canvassing to donate amounts of around $5, $10, and $20.

He also received $833 of in-kind contributions, which include a Costco Membership card valued at $60 made from Haydee Vargas, who is Vargas’s mother. At the start of the campaign, Vargas said they did not have any funds, so the Costco membership was a “workaround” to get things started. The campaign lists another in-kind contribution of $267 for food, drink and decorations from his father, Jose Vargas. Plus, $30 of printer paper from Vargas himself. 

Other in-kind contributions came from the Liberation Center of Greater Los Angeles for things like a wooden podium, microphone, banner fabric, speaker system, mailbox rental and paintbrushes. 

Vargas said that they reached their goal of raising $30,000.

Spending inside the Campaign

Vargas’s campaign eventually was able to raise enough money to put into a billboard, which was an expenditure of $8,420 to Outfront Media. Their campaign has also logged 62 campaign communications, which are listed on the city Ethics website. As far as the number, his campaign rivaled that of Miguel Santiago and Ysabel Jurado’s campaigns.

Vargas said they prioritized getting their message out through these types of communications because they knew that they likely would not get very much mainstream press coverage, and the concept of a socialist party was something that voters may not be very familiar with. 

Since the days of using his mother’s Costco membership card, they were eventually able to host some fundraisers to meet their goals. Vargas said that their campaign has been canvassing since last May. They purchased voter data from PDI (a political data firm) around last summer to help them with that. Expenditure records show their campaign spent $3,300 last August on PDI, and another $800 to the same company more recently.

Gifts and income

Vargas had no reportable interest on his Form 700 Statement of Economic Interest, filed for the City Council election.

Endorsements and what’s being said about them

Vargas is endorsed by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee. The union represents 100,000 registered nurses nationwide and has been organizing to pass a single-payer healthcare program, CalCare. He is also endorsed by a couple of UAW locals, both for graduate students, as well as the Peace and Freedom Party. 

Elizabeth Blaney, who is a member of the Union de Vecinos, has endorsed Vargas.

Elizabeth has been on the local government beat since 2006, and likes making her friends take public transportation for her birthday.