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June 5, 2018 — California Primary Election
United States

U.S. House of RepresentativesCandidate for District 12

Photo of Ryan A. Khojasteh

Ryan A. Khojasteh

Democratic
Immigrant Rights Commissioner
9,498 votes (4.6%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • If elected, I pledge to support legislation expanding Medicare eligibility to all Americans while allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and banning advertisement of prescription drugs and cash bonuses for doctors who prescribe certain drugs.
  • If elected, I pledge to support comprehensive immigration reform grants citizenship to those who already contribute so much to our economy and communities, and creates a pathway to citizenship for ALL people who wish to build lives here.
  • If elected, I pledge to support legislation to strengthen campaign finance laws, ban any former elected officials or their staff from working as lobbyists within ten years of leaving their public positions, and implement Congressional term-limits.

Experience

Experience

Profession:Immigrants Rights Commissioner
Commissioner, Immigrants Rights Commission — Appointed position (2017–current)
Server, Taka Ramen (2016–2016)
Caterer/Bartender/Cashier, Teacher's Lounge, Santa Clara University (2013–2016)

Education

Santa Clara University Bachelor's Degree, Political Science, minor in French (2016)

Community Activities

Volunteer, Curry Without Worry (2016–current)
Volunteer, NARAL Pro-Choice America (2017–2018)
Intern, SF Public Defender (2017–2017)
Citizenship Tutor, Pars Equality Center (2014–2016)
Intern, District Office, Congressman Honda (2015–2016)

Biography

I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. The son of Iranian immigrants, I was the first in my extended family to be born in the United States of America. 

 

As a kid, I loved reading books about U.S. presidents and American history. I grew up appreciating how much my parents sacrificed for me to be born in this country, and I carry their faith in the American dream with me to this day. After working throughout high school to attend Bellarmine College Preparatory, an all-boys Catholic High School in San Jose, I then attended Santa Clara University on a full-tuition scholarship and took out student loans for housing, graduating with a degree in Political Science and a minor in French. 

 

While in college, I worked as a caterer, an orientation leader, a cashier in the teacher’s lounge, and as a waiter at a Ramen shop. In my senior honors thesis, I analyzed the late Justice Scalia’s constitutional interpretive theory of originalism. I argued, among other things, that under the Justice’s own theory, the right to an abortion is actually granted within the Constitution. Shortly after the election of Donald Trump, I was appointed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to the Immigrant Rights Commission. I currently serves on the Executive Committee and as the Chair of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Task Force. As a board member of the San Francisco Young Democrats, I work alongside an amazing group of young people to encourage the community to get involved in politics.

 

I have had the privilege of holding internships and fellowships at the District Office of Congressman Mike Honda, San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (now the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence), and the Immigration Defense Unit at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.

 

In addition, I enjoy spending my time involved in volunteer work. I have helped immigrants obtain citizenship status and learn English at Pars Equality Center, where I was awarded student volunteer of the year. I have helped teach kindergarteners English in Costa Rica and served as a Farsi interpreter at SFO International Airport during the initial travel ban. While serving meals with Curry Without Worry, I have had the opportunity to interact and learn from my Tenderloin neighbors.  I am also involved with 826 Valencia and the efforts of NARAL Pro-Choice California.

 

Currently at UC Hastings College of the Law on scholarship and student loans,I am a staff editor for the Hastings’ Women’s Law Journal and the Vice-Chair of the Tenderloin Community Outreach Board. I am on track to graduate law school early – I will receive my Juris Doctor degree in December 2018. 

Questions & Answers

Questions from League of Women Voters of California Education Fund (5)

What financing method(s) would you support to repair or improve roads, rails, ports, airports, the electrical grid and other infrastructure in the U.S.?
Answer from Ryan A. Khojasteh:

I am proposing comprehensive tax reform that would create five new income tax brackets above the existing ones - separating those who make $418,400 a year from those who make over $750,000 a year, $1 million a year, $5 million, $10 million, and $50 million (with slight variations for couples and heads of household.) Additionally, we need to lower the taxable income percentage to 5% for the lowest bracket and move upwards, providing tax relief to millions who need it most. 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%. We also need to end tax relief and exemptions for capital gains on long-term investmends and qualified dividends.

These should be taxed at the standard federal income tax rate. We must also reaffirm our commitment to the estate tax. With this restructuring of our tax code, not only will we be able to ease the burden of taxes on millions of Americans, we will also begin to generate revenue we have missed out on for decades for desperately needed programs such as infrastructure, education, and much more. Of course, to make a more progressive tax code effective, it must be backed up with a serious enforcement mechanism. That's why as part of tax reform, Congress must implement air-tight anti-money laundering laws that allocate additional funding to IRS investigators and give the agency the authority to freeze the assets of any individual hiding over $1 million in offshore tax havens until they fully comply with all audit requests.

If we want to maintain our position as a global economic superpower, we need to pass the largest infrastructure bill since the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. We need to build out a network of solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources connecting counties across the country. We need to repair and modernize our transportation indrastructure by repairing national highways and providing local grants for road and transportation improvements. Additionally, we must design a national transportation network of high speed railways that connect urban centers and enable economic opportunity for those left behind by our 20th century infrastructure. 

 

By building out a new national infrastructure, we will create a host of benefits that strengthen the economy in several ways. First, it will ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of our economy in a world where our major competitors, China and the E.U., are pivoting towards renewable energy. Second, it will provide significant job opportunities for manufacturing employees who have been displaced or are otherwise out of work, who will be needed to take on these projects. Finally, by reinvesting in the employees who literally build our country, we will infuse a large amount of income into our middle class, increasing their spending power and the overall health of the economy.    

 

 

What programs or legislation, if any, would you support to help Americans of all ages secure affordable health care?
Answer from Ryan A. Khojasteh:

I support the expansion of medicare and medicaid into a single-payer health care system that guarantees universal coverage, and I believe this should be Democratic voters’ litmus test for candidates in 2018. If we are going to do something meaningful when we take back Congress, we need a real alternative to the havoc Republicans are wreaking, and that alternative needs to be single payer.

 

The ACA set us on a course towards universal coverage by expanding our existing single payer programs, and it’s time for Democrats to step up and finish the job President Obama started. Senator Sanders has continued to engage in a nationwide tour of rallies that show there is massive, growing grassroots support for medicare-for-all throughout the country. It’s time for the Democratic party to get on board - for our own good and the good of our country.

 

We must also introduce common sense cost-cutting regulations as part of health care reform. Most importantly, medicare must be allowed to negotiate prescription drug prices with companies to get the best deal possible for patients. Additionally, international purchase of prescription drugs and medical devices should be legalized, advertising of all prescription drugs should be banned, and cash bonuses for doctors from drug companies should be banned.

 

Describe an immigration policy that you would support if presented to the House.
Answer from Ryan A. Khojasteh:

 

Immigration is an issue on which we can no longer afford to compromise, because DACA was the compromise. Making deals that empower a destructive administration should not be part of the Democratic platform. This appears obvious to everyone but our Congressional leadership, who fail to realize that their complicity at this pivotal moment will not be forgotten. Now is the time to stand in solidarity and organize to elect a Congress and President who will pass legislation to protect all immigrants, instead of conceding to Trump and furthering a divisive “good immigrant/bad immigrant” narrative.

 

Saving DACA would be a start, but doubling down on a stop-gap solution is not sustainable. In reality, the answer is quite simple: we need comprehensive reform that grants citizenship to those who already contribute so much to our economy and communities, and creates a pathway to citizenship for ALL people who wish to live, work, and build families in the United States.

What programs or legislation would you support to meet the water needs of Californians and the federal water project infrastructure in California?
Answer from Ryan A. Khojasteh:

With recent droughts, California has learned an important lesson that must serve as the impetus for significant policy reforms if we want to avoid the further economic degredation of central valley farmlands while securing sufficient water supply for all residents. I believe that the state legislature should take up legislation expanding on the legislation Governor Brown signed into law in 2015 increasing local regulatory agencies and water boards power to manage groundwater resources. State law should mandate much stricter plans for sustainability from all regions in the state, not just the worst affected regions, and a clearer definition as to what qualifies as "sustainable" in a local water plan should be implemented. 

At a federal level, we must address the reality that California has developed what seems to have become a too big to fail agriculture industry. According to NASA research, more unprecedented droughts will hit California within the century and while farmers have managed to sustain their high levels of production in recent years by drilling deeper wells in order to drain aquifers, the scientific consensus seems to be that this is an unsustainable solution. Conditions are only going to get worse in the future for California, and we need to have a serious policy conversation about how we will mitigate the human impact of our changing climate now. 

 

If elected, I would work with stakeholders at all levels, listen to their concerns, and ultimately support the policies I believe provide the best path forward. Whether that involves federal regulations regarding what crops can be grown in specific regions, new water projects, or economic incentives for farmers to relocate to areas with higher levels of precipitation remains to be seen. Additionally, I would support a federal regulation banning groundwater drilling beyond a certain depth to preserve crucial freshwater resources and prevent contamination. 

According to a "Civility In America” survey, 75% of Americans believe that the U.S. has a major civility problem. If you are elected what will do to address this?
Answer from Ryan A. Khojasteh:

The key to a functional democracy is participation by the public. This is not achieved solely in the form of voting, but by civic engagement and the opportunity to interact with one’s representative. Unfortunately, we are living in a time where townhalls and constituent interaction in the district have become less common. This may play a large part as to why the current approval rating of Congress is only 13%.

 

And if there are townhalls, we can expect that many of them aren’t truly as “open” as we would like. Most upsetting however, is that time and time again we learn of fundraisers where a Member of Congress will attend, with tickets in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. We the people, who elected our representatives, deserve to have more interaction and accessibility to our Members of Congress, so that they can learn about the struggles we face and our opinions on policies, so that they can adequately represent us in Washington.

 

While I know that in the world of politics, many have become disillusioned with campaign “promises”, I’d like to make an unequivocal pledge. As a student my whole life, I yearn to continually educate myself on all matters and I am eager to learn from all perspectives. I admit that I don’t have all the answers. That is why I want to work with you all so that we can collectively tackle the pressing issues of today. This is a team effort.

 

I pledge to you all, that beginning on January 3, 2019, if I am honored to have the most sacred privilege of representing the people of San Francisco, that I will spend every weekend in the district. At the close of business on Friday in Washington, I will take a red-eye flight (with my own salary and not on the taxpayer dime through the Members Representational Allowance) to SFO to spend all day Saturday and Sunday with my fellow San Franciscans.

 

I will hold open meeting town halls every weekend, with questions taken directly from the audience at community centers, public schools, and libraries. I’d also like to begin an educational program, called “This Week in Congress with Ryan” - where I would go through all legislation that was proposed that week and all votes that took place that week, to ask for your thoughts and opinions. Furthermore, I hope to create facebook polling before a vote, so that I know exactly where you all stand before I vote “Yea or Nay.”

 

We’re all in this together. We need to restore trust in our government, after all, the Constitution refers to these roles as an “Office of Public Trust.” I look forward to learning from and working with you all so that we can restore trust in our institutions and bring Congress back to the people.

 

Who gave money to this candidate?

Contributions

Total money raised: $52,574

Top contributors that gave money to support the candidate, by organization:

1
Employees of Cardiosolution
$3,700
2
Employees of Nooshin Ansarinia
$2,000
3
Ryan A. Khojasteh
$1,300
4
Employees of Shoebiz Sf
$1,203
5
Employees of Roya Ansari
$1,200

More information about contributions

By State:

California 78.84%
Virginia 12.05%
Florida 5.39%
Washington 1.97%
Other 1.74%
78.84%12.05%

By Size:

Large contributions (69.50%)
Small contributions (30.50%)
69.50%30.50%

By Type:

From organizations (0.00%)
From individuals (100.00%)
100.00%
Source: MapLight analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission.

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

My political philosophy can best be defined as stubborn optimism. I believe government is a place where diverse individuals and groups from within a society can come together and expand their capacity to deal with the issues that they all face. Our potential is limitless, so long as we believe it is. That is why it's crucial to elect bold leaders who are willing to champion a vision for a future of our own making, and take steps to make that vision a reality. 

Position Papers

National Security

Summary

Tragically, the phrase national security has been almost entirely co-opted by an overly militaristic faction of our government and warped until it no longer remotely represents the literal security of our nation, but the strength and size of our military industrial complex. I believe we need to reframe how we view national security, and what policies we ought to pursue to increase our security. 

Before any candidate that runs a campaign on fear and paranoia deceptively calls for increased national security, they should first be asked to clarify specifically what the term means to them. Tragically, the phrase national security has been almost entirely co-opted by an overly militaristic faction of our government and warped until it no longer remotely represents the literal security of our nation, but the strength and size of our military industrial complex.

 

To be clear, the United States ought to continue to maintain a strong standing military, however we are in desperate need of a massive policy shift aimed at truly improving the security of our nation - which will have to include reigning in our military’s autonomy within government and immunity from the Constitution. Despite what most Republicans and some hawkish Democrats would have us believe, blindly throwing money at our already massive military-surveillance state is not the solution to our nation’s anxieties.

 

The reason people in this country feel less secure than they did a half century ago isn’t because radical Islam poses a genuine existential threat to our union, nor is it because we have failed to project adequate power on the global stage in the post-Cold War order. In fact, the opposite is true: as a result of a hyper-focus on our military, our politicians have neglected key domestic factors that have greatly diminished the security of our union and create a collective sense of anxiety.

 

Rather than putting forward practical, innovative solutions to curb the trends of opioid addiction which has killed over half a million Americans since 2000, gun violence which kills almost 12,000 Americans a year, or automobile deaths which kill over 35,000 Americans a year, Republicans came to power scapegoating foreign nationals as an excuse to maintain a state of perpetual war in the Middle East.

 

It’s time for the Democratic Party to take an uncompromising, progressive position when it comes to protecting the security of our nation. We cannot compromise on our values, and we owe it to the people who employ us to defend their security from all threats based on an accurate analysis of actual risk level. Congress has the power to make the military work for the people, if they have the courage to stand up and refuse to fund wars the American people don’t support and use their Constitutional authority to demand increased transparency.

 

As the extent of military and surveillance state’s capabilities have expanded exponentially with the rise of the internet and the proliferation of personal digital devices, various leaks and news reports have revealed the gross violations of human and Constitutional rights our tax dollars are funding both abroad and domestically. In an embarrassing chapter of our history, we have been caught spying on allies, citizens, and everyone in between, revealing an astonishing degree of both paranoid insecurity and perceived immunity within our military and surveillance state.

 

This is not only legally unacceptable, it is an unacceptable precedent to set that grants the President dangerous and unconstitutional authorities. If Congress wants to ensure that these troubling trends don’t continue, they will need to repeal the Patriot Act and pass air-tight whistleblower protections that provide proper channels and protection for individuals who wish to report violations of the Constitution, like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. Additionally, they will need to stop approving completely opaque military “black budgets,” which have given intelligence agencies hundreds of billions in blank checks with no accountability since 9/11.

 

Further, we need to reframe the entire issue and put an appropriate emphasis on the degree to which domestic policy is essential to creating a secure nation. We need to tell people in the clearest terms possible that there are, in fact, numerous threats to their well-being, many of which have been exacerbated by Republican policies.

 

Only once we are willing to invest in federally guaranteed, locally accessible drug rehabilitation services will we see fewer than 91 people die of an opioid overdose every day. Only when we commit to pursuing creative, effective, common-sense gun safety legislation will we finally see fewer than 93 people shot and killed every day. Only by guaranteeing health care as a right, not a privilege, can we catch up to the rest of the developed world and achieve universal coverage.

 

Sadly, some of the most well-established common denominators that determine the security of a society have been neglected by our politicians for the better part of a century. It has always been the case that access to education, employment, and transportation are some of the most significant determining factors in assessing a country’s overall health. As Senator Sanders described it, our, “crumbling infrastructure,” is more than just a logistical hassle, it hinders our ability to live happy, secure, free lives.

 

It’s time to shave a chunk off the top of the money Congress sends overseas, and start spending it here at home to invest in a quality education system and a modern infrastructure. The jobs necessary to build out a 21st century infrastructure of renewable energy sources, high speed railways, and autonomous vehicle networks will employ a significant sector of the American workforce left behind by today’s top-heavy economy. With more money invested in our families, we can increase the financial security of a generation and open up countless opportunities for the next. If our goal is a free, peaceful world, the only way to lead is by example, and it’s up to Congress to take these crucial first steps toward a healthier, more secure nation.

 

Of course, many of the threats to our security come not from structural flaws or foreign threats, but from an increasingly erratic climate which we’ve irreversibly altered after decades of polluting the planet and spewing emissions into the atmosphere. As an altered atmosphere exacerbates existing weather patterns, we learn the hard way just how unprepared we are. With families uprooted in Houston struggling to rebuild and most in Puerto Rico still without power, we are finally coming to appreciate the scale, and unpredictability of the threat we face. These disasters will continue to catch us off guard and cripple us for years unless we divert large amounts of funding into FEMA and greatly expand our response capabilities.

 

Climate Change

Summary

Along with nuclear proliferation, climate change is one of the most serious existential threats facing humanity today. We need to take decisive, bold action as a nation and as a global community to mitigate the human effects of climate change now.

After several centuries of burning coal, emitting fossil fuel fumes, mining limited minerals, and permanently polluting the water and air of our Earth, we are beginning to feel the effects of the climate change that we have brought upon ourselves. Deadly hurricanes that strike land, destroy communities, and take lives have historically been fewer and farther between compared to recent storms, which have killed scores of Americans in 2017 alone.

 

Wildfires have burned out of control around the world from California to Italy, and historic droughts have left tens of millions starving in East Africa. We are currently confronting the brutal reality of the ways in which our unsustainable industrialization has permanently altered our biosphere. According to new research, we are living in the sixth mass extinction event in the history of the planet. Species that have lived on this Earth far longer than humans are going extinct at alarming rates, and if we are going to survive we will have to learn to live in a world without many of the resources or much of the stability we take for granted.

 

Thanks to a coordinated, well-funded misinformation campaign that persists to this day in the form of a president who undermined the only meaningful international effort to reduce global emissions, the United States has failed to take leadership on the single most important issue for the future of humanity. Climate change and mass extinction pose nothing short of an existential threat to humanity, and unless we can work together to build a future of sustainable development, we may not survive the consequences of our actions.

 

Proposal: If we want to minimize the harm climate change has already done to humanity, we need to invest in local food and water sustainability, flood and fire protection, and seawalls to protect low lying population centers from rising seas. Though it will be a difficult undertaking, we are also long overdue for an underground electrical grid that will be safer and more resistant to the elements. As one of the first nations to benefit from the power of coal and fossil fuels and one of the world’s leading carbon emitters, we have a moral obligation to lead the charge to save our planet.

 

By investing in an entirely renewable national energy infrastructure, we will create green jobs and revitalize American manufacturing. It’s time to return to the table and lead the international community by example, reducing emissions domestically via a national carbon tax and incentivizing other nations to reduce their emissions. The national carbon tax will fund job training programs that prioritize Americans working in the non-renewable energy sector by helping develop new skills to gain employment in the renewable energy sector.

 

It’s time to have another great international race with China, Russia, India, the E.U., and every other nation: a race to zero net carbon emissions.

Education

Summary

Educating future generations is one of our greatest obligations as a society, one that we have shamefully abdicated in the richest country in the world. It’s time for a massive overhaul of our public education funding mechanisms.  

Of all the undervalued public goods in the United States, there is no question that none have been as thoroughly hollowed out, ignored, and abandoned as our public education system. Today, we live in a country where the quality of a child’s education is determined by where they’re born, and an immeasurable amount of human potential is lost in a tragic, unnecessary cycle of poverty. Public schools are funded largely based on local property taxes, and different states spend drastically different amounts per student.

 

This rigged system was created by the rich, for the rich, who send their children to private schools and publicly funded, privately operated charter schools that are unavailable to the vast majority of American students. The result is that despite desegregating our laws, we have not desegregated our classrooms - a student’s ethnicity and their income are still the two largest factors that determine the quality of education they receive. On average, California, Oklahoma, and Nevada spend only half as much money per student as New York, Alaska and Wyoming. In roughly half of America’s 100 largest cities, the majority of Latino and African American students attend schools where over three-quarters of students live in poverty. Currently, the United States students rank 23rd in science, 24th in reading, and 37th in math among the international community.

 

Upward mobility has stalled so severely, that for the first time in our country’s history, children are less likely to earn more money than their parents. Now, Trump’s proposed budget would cut the Department of Education’s budget by about $9 billion, eliminate funding for afterschool and summer programs, and training for teachers. Besides using the money they’d save to give tax breaks to the rich and increase military spending, our Secretary of Education would also like to spend another $250 million subsidizing private schools, and $168 million funding privately operated charter schools.

 

Proposal: In order to ensure that all children have access to quality education, we need a massive overhaul of our public funding mechanisms. We need to set a standard goal for every state to spend per student, and commit to desegregating classrooms by federally subsidizing public schools in districts with the lowest property values, and lowest spending per student. We need to allocate more funding in our budget to not only pay our teachers more, but to hire more of them so we can decrease the average classroom size. Teachers are tasked with one of the most important jobs in our country, that of building our future leaders. Our government does them a disservice by the way they treat them.

 

Further, we need public education to begin at a younger age, and end at a later age. Research shows that children who receive a pre-k education are better prepared for the rest of their educational careers, and that students who graduate from community college earn more than those with a high school diploma alone. If the United States is going to catch up to the rest of the world, we need to level the playing field for those who have been left behind by guaranteeing two years of pre-k education and two years of community college to every citizen, free of charge, regardless of their income.

 

Only once we provide a generation with the tools they need to contribute to our economy can we increase upward mobility and recapture the American dream for every student. Additionally, Congress needs to pass a comprehensive student loan reform and forgiveness bill. Graduates need the flexibility and freedom to find the job that is right for them in today’s rapidly changing economy, and our student loan system is hopelessly out of date. Loan payments should only kick in once graduates begin earning over a particular salary, and predatory interest rates on federal loans should be lowered.

 

Additionally, those who decide to commit to lifelong careers in government or the nonprofit sector should have their loans completely forgiven by a certain date, after a series of low interest payments adjusted to their salaries. By guaranteeing schools and students the tools they need to succeed, we can pave the way for the next step in this vision - four years of public college for all.

 

Videos (2)

— May 8, 2018 Khojasteh for Congress

Announcement video introducing Ryan and his candidacy. 

Gun Safety — May 8, 2018 Khojasteh for Congress

Ryan Khojasteh explaining the gun safety reform policies he will pursue if elected. 

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