Candidate Profile: Meet Ryan Khojasteh, Running for CA-12

Ryan website picWe were fortunate to be able to talk with Ryan and find out what made him decide to run for Congress and how his life experiences have shaped his goals.

Thanks for taking time to talk with us Ryan. What made you decide to run for office?
My decision to get into this race wasn’t one that I was planning for. But after Jon Ossoff lost his race in Georgia 6, the most expensive race in Congressional history, I began to reflect.

This was 4 out of 4 House Special elections that the Democrats lost in 2017.
Our party isn’t necessarily representing the majority of Americans because a sizeable chunk of those in charge never lived these issues to understand these issues.

There is such a growing disdain towards the establishment. Our party likes to consolidate power amongst a very few. So, I went out for 7 months and spoke with
residents, classmates, colleagues, friends, community leaders about their thoughts on the viability of a young, idealistic, stubbornly optimistic, law student and city commissioner who wanted to take that leap of faith for the greater good. Month by month, support started to grow. The incumbent is the leader of the party, a party that is
becoming more and more flawed and comfortable in its ways, instead of fighting for a progressive future.

The party needs to change. Our leaders need to be held accountable. And I believe that if there ever was a time, 2018 would be that time. Changing the party, starts here in CA-12. I see this as a two step equation, while we need to flip red districts blue, we also need to redefine what blue means in these “safe” blue districts. These blue districts need to become more progressive and more representative of the people. This is the approach I believe will allow us to take back the House, Senate, and White House.

That sounds very well thought out! What district are you running in, and who are you running against?

DdM4qb7GI am running as a Democrat in California’s 12th Congressional District, the seat currently occupied by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in order to help redefine the Democratic Party. I hope to empower others to believe that they can and should run for office. If we get second place in the primary (California has an open two top primary) and
move on to the general election, we become the youngest campaign in American history to ever challenge a sitting Member of Congress. Our campaign believes this message will encourage others to see themselves as future candidates for office too. I want to get others involved. This race isn’t about one representative, and it isn’t about one district, it’s about the future of the Democratic Party and the United States of America.

I love that part of your goal is encouraging other young people to run!

I’ve heard women’s rights and women’s equality are important to you. What do you believe it means to be a feminist? 

I believe being a feminist means that you are an individual who advocates for equality no matter what your sex is or what gender you identify with. Our country has a troubled history of inequality, and we must mobilize as much as we can to usher in an era of equality for our daughters, sisters, nieces, aunts, mothers, and grandmothers. I
absolutely consider myself a feminist. I have seen firsthand how my mother wasn’t afforded some of the same opportunities as her male counterparts in her career. This needs to change. I want my future daughter to live in a world where she never has to feel that she is “less than” because she is a woman. And I truly believe in our lifetime
we can make sure that that will be a reality.

teZIxRshIn undergrad, for my honors thesis, I actually analyzed Justice Scalia’s theory of originalism, the theory he used to advocate the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and I turned the theory on its head in order to show that using this same constitutional method of interpretation, the right to an abortion actually is granted within the Constitution.
Currently, I am a staff editor for the Hastings Women’s Law Journal and I volunteer with NARAL Pro-Choice California.

In October, a photo of me went viral (unexpected but really cool), circulating on outlets such as Huffington Post, Huffington Post Women, and Occupy Democrats. Even celebrities posted it. The sign I am holding says “An Assault Weapon is More Heavily Regulated than a Uterus.” It was disheartening to see many individuals thinking this was wrong. So, for my law school journal note, I will be proving that this is in fact true. Stay tuned! I hope it will be published! I also wrote a poem about women’s issues and gun control this past year, and it was published in the last issue of the Hastings Women’s Law Journal.

At NARAL, I have helped phone-bank and canvass small businesses in support of AB 569 – the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act. I am disappointed Governor Brown did not sign this piece of legislation.

That is extremely impressive. Thank you for your dedication to women’s rights and equality Ryan!

Moving on, if elected, what will your legislative priorities be?

My legislative priorities are as follows: affordable housing through expanding Section 8 government subsidized housing, campaign finance reform, combating climate change, criminal justice reform through shifting our system to more of a rehabilitative one rather than punitive, free higher education, common sense gun laws, single-payer
healthcare, pathways to citizenship for all 11 million, reinvesting in American jobs, protecting small businesses, legalizing marijuana on a federal level and using that tax revenue to help rebuild the communities of color the War on Drugs destroyed, raising the minimum wage to a living wage, reforming our tax code, protecting our veterans and
expanding their benefits, ensuring equality for our LGBTQ community, and of course, fighting for equal pay and reproductive justice because it is economic justice.

That is a very thorough list Ryan!

Can you tell us about a few current laws or proposed laws regarding women’s and/or reproductive rights that you feel are wrong, and how you plan to address them?

Proposed H.R. 490 (Heartbeat Protection Act of 2017): makes it a crime to abort a fetus if the heartbeat if detected; Proposed H.R. 36 (Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act): makes it a crime to abort a fetus after 20 weeks; Section 529 of the #GOPTaxScam which allows a fetus the right to save for college. These are just three incredibly recent developments that are deeply, deeply troubling.

I propose that we encourage more women to run for office so that we don’t have white men trying to take away women’s rights or dictate what women can or can’t do with their bodies, and I propose working together as Democrats to push for a federally mandated Right to Choose law. Thiswell-authored bill would codify a woman’s absolute autonomy over her own body so as to also preempt any state law that would infringe on this autonomy, such as restricting access by limiting the number of clinics, mandating unnecessary counseling, or implem enting undue burdens on patients. Let’s get politics out of women’s bodies!

I love that idea, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one!

Are you in favor of amending the U.S. Constitution to include the Equal Rights
Amendment? 

Absolutely! This is part of our policy platform. This past year, Nevada became the 36thOsAcFqfL state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, leaving two more states to reach the 3/4 threshold. The ERA has been introduced in the legislatures of Arizona, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Utah, and Virginia. As members of Congress, we should be
urging our fellow colleagues who represent these states to lobby their state legislatures and use their influence to get these state legislatures to pass the ERA. In fact, on a state level, this issue should be a litmus test for Democrats who wish to have the State Party endorsement in their runs for the state house or senate.

Fantastic! Let’s discuss the economy and the gender pay gap. The gap is even more pronounced between men and women of color. How will you address that?

On January 1, 2018, Iceland became the first country in the world to make it illegal to pay women less than men. Employers in Iceland have to now prove unequivocally that they pay men and women in the same jobs the same amount, and if they fail to do so, they risk being fined around $500 a day in this current piece of legislation.

The time for this has long been overdue. The United States needs to follow Iceland’s example by placing the burden of proof on employers to demonstrate that they do not discriminate. Let’s get this on the books! I will fight for similar legislation (whether that means co-sponsoring an already written bill or if it means authoring one myself) if I
have the honor and privilege of being a member of the United States House of Representatives.

What is your position on the tax reform bill? What do you believe could be done to make it better for the average working class American?
This tax bill is a scam. At the expense of the middle and working class, the corporate elite and 1% will permanently have their taxes cut. This is going to cost our country $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

ljBEirWGOnce we take back Congress, we need to immediately repeal the #GOPTaxScam and implement a progressive tax code like we have laid out on our issue page. We suggest shifting everyone’s marginal tax rate down one from the tax code prior to the GOP bill (granting everyone who makes $418,400 and below a 5% tax break). This will grant
tax relief to millions of Americans that will then be put back into the economy. That’s just the first step. Then, we must create higher tax brackets past $418,400 because right now if you make $50 million a year, your tax rate is the same as someone making $418,400 a year. So annual income over $750,000 per individual will then be taxed at 39.6%, income over $1 million will be taxed at 45%, income over $5 million will be taxed at 50%, income over $10 million will be taxed at 55%, and income over $50 million will be taxed at 60%.

In addition, we need to have capital gains on long term investments and qualified dividends (which are currently taxed at 0 – 20%) to pass through to the federal income tax, so that it can properly be taxed in order to ensure that you no longer have CEOs paying less than secretaries. With this added revenue every year, we can work towards
achieving a single payer healthcare system and free higher 2 year and 4 year public education.

You’ve clearly put a lot of time and though into that topic. 

Moving on to healthcare, what will you do to help make healthcare affordable and accessible to all?

I support Medicare for All and shifting the United States towards a single-payer healthcare system. Healthcare is a human right. I want to see a day where no one goes bankrupt, becomes homeless, or dies because they didn’t have the funds for quality medical care. Achieving single-payer healthcare can be done through addressing two issues: campaign finance reform and the tax code.

We get money out of politics, then insurance companies no longer control the votes of Yy8WsTnjCongress. We fix the tax code and allow for more us to expand our federal budget, we can put that into healthcare. Currently, the government pays approximately $1.3 – 1.4 trillion annually for Medicare, Medicaid, ACA subsidies, Veterans’ Health Benefits, and CHIP. Single-payer healthcare, studies have reported, would cost anywhere between $2.7 – $3.0 trillion a year. Well, in 2015, due to all the tax loopholes and problems in
our tax code, we missed out on $1.168 trillion dollars. Add this to what we already spend our healthcare, and we very well could be on our way to universal coverage.

You’ve clearly done a lot of analysis and planning!

How will you protect funding for Planned Parenthood clinics which provide
women’s and reproductive health services to so many low income women?

There are 3 things we need to do. We first must increase Title X funding for family planning and reproductive healthcare services for low-income patients and the uninsured. We must then repeal the Hyde Amendment, which bars the usage of this Title X funding for abortions, unless the life of a woman is at risk. And we must push for a
well-authored bill in Congress that would codify absolute autonomy over a woman’s body so as to also preempt any state law that would infringe on this autonomy, such as restricting access by limiting the number of clinics, mandating unnecessary counseling, or implementing undue burdens on patients.

Lastly, something I would very much like to work on in Congress is discussing the feasibility of universal birth control for women at no cost and funding research into male birth control. We as men should also play an equal part in birth control.

You are the only candidate I’ve heard suggest that! That is a FANTASTIC idea! *applause*

Gun control – it’s been in the news a lot for tragic reasons.  What is your stance on gun control?

Having lost a member of my family to gun violence, and after the privilege of interning at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (now the Giffords Law Center), I have a large number of specific policy proposals for common sense
gun legislation:

  • Closing loopholes in private transfers and gun shows, universal background checks
  • Banning semi-automatic rifles and modifications for civilian purchases
  • National Firearms Registry with more than 10 guns
  • Increasing Trauma centers in non-metropolitan areas that are capable and equipped to quickly deal with gun wounds
  • Prohibition on the ownership or usage of suppressors
  • Disarming hate, if you are convicted of a hate crime you are prohibited from owning a gun
  • Increasing the classifications of individuals that fall within the scope of Lautenberg Amendment, the law that prohibits convicted domestic abusers from owning firearms.

For example, right now federally the domestic abuse must be between a spouse, or cohabitant, or child; yet does not include partner who you don’t live with, or a sibling, or a parent. We need to expand the definition federally, some states have.

Domestic abuse can take place among more than just what the federal law entails, yet these people can still access firearms in some states.

  • Mandating more comprehensive gun safety classes and having safety exams be taken every certain number of years (maybe every 5 or 10 years)
  • Increased funding for smart gun technology with potential fingerprint recognition to fire so as to prevent suicides and accidental firings
  • Allowing the CDC to study gun violence as a public health issue
  • And, while controversial, mandating that all prospective gun owners watch a video of the effects of gun violence and mass shootings from a victim and victim’s family perspective prior to purchase, in order to fully understand the power of a gun
  • Potentially discussing gun owner’s liability insurance (you have it as a minimum for your car, why shouldn’t gun owners have it?)
  • We need to strengthen regulations regarding those who suffer from mental health issues and access to
    firearms

You’ve done an impressive amount of research on this topic, you’ve listed some ideas I haven’t seen before. 

Moving on to Immigration, another hot topic. Do you believe DACA recipients should be given a path to citizenship? If so, how do you believe that should be achieved?

B8GSKY_p100%, resoundingly YES. As an Immigrant Rights Commissioner for the City and County of San Francisco, I have been advocating for the passage of a CLEAN Dream Act. I authored a resolution that was unanimously passed by the full Commission calling on the Mayor and Board of Supervisors of San Francisco to use their influence and call
on federal lawmakers in the state of California to prioritize the passage of a Dream Act that includes zero concessions or compromises. Any additional security measures must only be in the form of a broader comprehensive immigration reform package.

Do you believe we need immigration reform? If so, what changes would you implement?

Yes, our immigration system is broken and has been for a very long time. We need to create pathways to citizenship for all 11 million. Our undocumented brothers and sisters who are here should be granted status so that they can live and work with dignity and certainty of the law. This would beneficially impact our economy and generate more
revenue for our government through employment taxes. We also need to reform our visa system so it does not take so many years to come into this country. I propose expanding the bureaucracy (creating more jobs in the process) so that we can handle the paperwork and processing more efficiently. Furthermore, we should be protecting TPS as well as pushing for a SOLVE  which would overturn the travel ban. Travel bans have no place in this country.

Education, another system that needs major overhauling. What will you do to ensure every child receives a quality education?

I support universal pre-kindergarten for all and free higher 2 year and 4 year higher education. The American Dream has become so much harder to achieve because of the rising cost of education. I currently have $150,000 in student loans with predatory interest rates. We need to reform the student loan program, lower the interest rates, and expand student loan forgiveness – especially for those who go into government work or the non-profit sector.

I also support raising the wages of teachers, because they create the leaders of tomorrow. In San Francisco specifically, teachers can’t even afford their housing! We should be protecting our teachers, not hurting them.

Ryan, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us! You’re a very impressive candidate! How can people read more on your positions and platform?

Please visit www.khojastehforcongress.com/issues and view our campaign video.

What can people do to support your campaign?

Please spread the word of our campaign and reach out to your friends or family that live in San Francisco to encourage them to vote in the primaries on June 5th! And if you’d like to contribute $12 for CA-12, you can do so here! https://secure.actblue.com/donate/khojastehforcongress

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