Max Ghenis for aDEM district 44
For a pro-environment, anti-poverty Democratic Party
why i'm running
While California leads on progressive issues like the environment, equity, and immigration, one in five Californians live in poverty—the highest rate in the country. In Port Hueneme and Oxnard, where I live, the poverty rate jumps to one in four. As an economist, I have found that poverty is rooted in policy choices: choices to exclude the poorest from assistance programs, to prevent people from moving to economic opportunity, and to raise the cost of living by forbidding the construction of multifamily housing. With better policy choices, California can lift millions out of poverty.
I consider poverty eradication a moral imperative, and if elected, I will vote to endorse candidates and platform language reflecting that urgency. But I will also rigorously study all issues before me as a delegate, ensuring the Democratic Party considers our region's unique challenges, while also addressing the needs of all Californians and promoting the interests of the country and the planet.
I'm a nonprofit leader, policy researcher, and activist, with a singular focus: protecting the most vulnerable among us.
I am the founder and president of the UBI Center, a global research organization that models universal basic income policies—unconditional cash grants to all members of society. I also founded Ventura County YIMBY, a grassroots group that advocates for more abundant, affordable, and sustainable housing. I serve on the legislative committee of the Greater Oxnard Organization of Democrats, and I am a member of Ventura Citizens' Climate Lobby. I have door-knocked, phone banked, text banked, and organized events for over a dozen Democratic political campaigns at all levels of government.
Previously, I worked as a data scientist at Google, where I helped make the company a more inclusive workplace and improve YouTube's accessibility to people in developing countries. I have a BA in Operations Research from UC Berkeley, and a MS in Data, Economics, and Development Policy from MIT.
What is adem?
ADEM (Assembly District Election Meeting) is the California Democratic Party's process for selecting Assembly District delegates. Delegates serve two-year terms, during which they vote on party endorsements for legislation and elected officials, as well as platform and rules, at annual party conventions. In Ventura County, delegates also sit as members of the Democratic Central Committee.
Registered Democrats who requested a ballot can vote for up to 14 candidates in the Assembly District in which they're registered. The 7 candidates who identify as female and 7 other candidates who get the most votes are elected.
Your ballot must be postmarked by January 27 and received by January 30!
The deadline to request a ballot, January 11, has now passed.
California needs bold policy goals, and a path to get there. As a delegate I will support legislation, platform language, and legislators representing these goals:
Legalize apartments. California's poverty epidemic traces primarily to its housing shortage. Without considering housing costs, our poverty rate is about average, but with them, we're number 1—and we're number 50 of 50 in homes per adult. Zoning laws have outlawed multifamily housing in most of cities. California's densest city, San Francisco, bans apartments on three quarters of its land, and it's even more restrictive where I live in Oxnard. Many reforms can spur the housing production we need to get housing costs under control, and VC YIMBY supports many, but making sure homes are legal—especially the most sustainable, affordable homes—should be a first step.
Enact universal basic income, starting with a child allowance. When the California Democratic Party added universal basic income (UBI) to its platform in 2018, it was national news. Assemblymember Evan Low and Senator Scott Wiener have also introduced a bill to enact UBI in California. This is an exciting vision, and we can make progress toward it by creating a child allowance (UBI for kids) and expanding our existing cash assistance programs. We could halve our highest-in-the-nation child poverty rate (20%) with a $300-per-month child allowance, which we could fund with a 3% income tax. I also support reforming other programs like our renter's tax credit--which maxes out at $120 per year and gives $0 to the state's poorest renters--to be more generous and progressive. Cash transfers are proven effective; we should do more of them.
Make polluters pay. California's carbon pricing system has already cut emissions, and we should improve it to cut emissions more and raise more revenue. As a member of Citizens' Climate Lobby, I have supported carbon fee-and-dividends, including as a citizen lobbyist to Nancy Pelosi's office in Washington, DC. This would not only reduce carbon emissions, but also reduce poverty through its universal dividend checks.
Invest in clean technology research. Carbon pricing within California will shift us toward cleaner energy, but to address the existential crisis of climate change, we need to help the rest of the world too. Technology developed in California can reduce emissions within and outside the state.
Enact universal healthcare—especially long-term care. Employer-sponsored insurance should never have happened, and replacing it with universal coverage would save cost and anxiety among people transitioning between insurance, while ensuring nobody has to worry about medical bankruptcy. I've navigated the Medicaid/ACA marketplace for my own coverage, and my brother requires long-term care due to a disability, so I've seen the complexity of the current offerings—it should be a thing of the past.
Tax more, and more fairly. Achieving many of these goals requires more government revenue. When paired with progressive spending, virtually any tax is progressive, but California especially needs fairer property taxation. I supported ballot measures this November that sought to reform our property tax code to reduce nativist tax discounts for longtime incumbents. This issue is sure to persist, and the Democratic Party should be pushing it forward.
Stop letting police unions write the rules. Our reckoning with criminal justice is long overdue. Experts agree that police unions promote policies that excessively shield them from accountability, such as qualified immunity. Research even suggests that police unionization has increased police killings. Weakening, or even disbanding, police unions will enable us to start fresh with rules that rebalance the scales between police and the communities they are sworn to protect.
Improve transit and infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. 41 percent of California's carbon emissions are from transportation, and pedestrian deaths are increasing. We need to invest in infrastructure that reduces vehicle miles traveled and provides people safety, regardless of their means of transportation.
Give people freedom of movement. We must protect the immigrants in California, and also do all we can to welcome new people here, whether from New York, like my maternal grandparents, or Argentina, like my father.
Make endorsements transparent. Neither the California Democratic Party nor the Ventura County Democratic Party publishes candidate questionnaire responses or rationales for their endorsements, nor do they publish endorsements from prior elections. I ran Ventura County YIMBY's November 2020 endorsement process (I recused myself from AD44 ADEM endorsements), where we published all responses, shared rationale, and committed to preserving records of our endorsements. I would vote for the county and state parties to do the same: Democrats rely on us for thorough endorsements, and the party owes them justification for these decisions.
Represent Democrats equally, regardless of location. The Democratic State Central Committee (DSCC) is made up of three parts: Assembly District Delegates (ADEM, what I'm running for), county-assigned delegates, and state-appointed delegates. The first two groups are assigned in a way that disenfranchises certain areas. By electing 14 delegates per Assembly district, regardless of the Democratic representation, ADEMs disenfranchise districts with more Democrats (like AD44). And since each county gets a minimum of four delegates, counties with more Democrats (like Ventura County, but especially Los Angeles) also get disenfranchised. I'd call to reform the delegate apportionment system to represent Democrats equally, regardless of where they live.
Reform the ADEM selection process. Voters are currently limited to 14 votes (the number of seats), which restricts their ability to express preferences. Adopting ranked-choice or approval voting systems would better align the set of elected delegates with voters' preferences.
Want to see more? I've documented every vote I've taken since 2016—including tens of thousands of words of research and explanation, down to school board—at vote.maxghenis.com. I'll continue to do the same as an ADEM delegate, so you can hold me accountable.
Assembly district 44
Oxnard City Councilmember
2020 Democratic-Party-endorsed Camarillo City Council candidate