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Summary:

  • I met an EA aligned candidate for congress.
  • I encourage US citizens to support him via donations to his campaign and volunteering.
  • I encourage people to meet with him, to give him a better understanding of effective altruism.

Introduction
I recently met Amish Shah, a member of the Arizona House of Representatives at the Animal and Vegan Summit. He's announced his campaign for federal congress, and I've been reflecting on how his work for animal rights and public health, especially given his newfound interest in the EA movement, might resonate with people in here. 

I have no direct ties or affiliations with Shah, but I'm genuinely excited about the impact of his work. 

Background on Amish Shah
Shah has been a Democratic member of the Arizona House of Representatives since January, 2023.  He has declared his candidacy for the U.S. Congress in Arizona's 1st congressional district for the 2024 elections. He has been able to move the most bills of anyone in his party: The most number of bill votes in committee, most number of bills passed through the chamber, most number of bills signed into law.

Shah's Advocacy for Animals
His work for animals comes across in the laws he's pushed for:

He has also founded the Arizona Vegetarian Food Festival. In 2020 the HSUS in Arizona named Shah “Legislator of the Year”. In 2022 he was rated “Superstar Legislator” by The Humane Voters of Arizona. 

What you can do
I encourage anyone compelled by this to reach out to Shah, offer resources, share insights, and explore ways to support his campaign.

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I was also excited to meet Amish and he will be attending EAGxNYC this month!

I spent 10 minutes investigating.

  • My credence that he wins the Democratic primary is 45% (pretty unstable) (he seems to be the strongest candidate so far, but there's plenty of time for more to join the race)
  • My credence that he wins the general election (conditional on winning the primary) is 50% (moderately stable)

These numbers are close to 50% (and their product isn’t too far below it), so that's good news for tractability.

I asked a Democratic political consultant (non-EA) friend about Shah and was given similar numbers—he said he thinks there’s a 20-25% chance Shah wins AZ 1 (about 50% chance of winning the Democratic nomination, and slightly lower odds in the general). He was skeptical about the benefits of having just one EA aligned house seat, though.

Before you can get dozens or even several, you need to get the first.

Yes, but if getting dozens is not a realistic goal, then there are questions re: how much you should invest in getting the first.

the not realistic is a debatable assertion

Also I don't really see a strong case for sharp non-linearities here (and if anything there might a stronger case for decreasing than increasing marginal returns). So if 50 is great, naively 1 won't be too far away from 1/50 as great. 

(But maybe I have a failure of imagination).

There, in fact, are sharp non-linearities, and they're quite important. Having 218 Representatives (a simple majority) is much more than 218 times better than having 1. Same for 290 (a supermajority). 

Right, that's a good point. I was imagining that EAs being a simple majority of Congress is just obviously an unrealistic pipe dream, but people who are optimistic about that should factor that in into their calculations.

My sense is that there are also sharp non-linearities even at small numbers. What I was told is: "In the house especially, you need to act in groups. The average member of the house has ~zero control over policy. They might get some oversight responsibilities via their committees... but five backbenchers may be able to extract a promise or two from leadership whereas one would simply lack the clout."

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