Nancy Pelosi Has Another Challenger: Ryan Khojasteh
Ryan Khojasteh, a San Francisco Bay area native, has big plans for California’s 12th congressional district. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has represented this district since January, 2013, and served in House of Representatives almost continuously since 1987. Inquisitr previously reported that Progressive Stephen Jaffe is challenging Pelosi for her House seat. Now, it looks like the San Francisco Bay area voters have a second Progressive to choose from. Like Jaffe, Ryan Khojasteh is a Progressive. Like Jaffe, he supported Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary of 2016 and says that his campaign will not accept PAC or Super-PAC donations.
In an exclusive interview, Khojasteh told Inquisitr that he believes he can better represent the 12th congressional district than both Pelosi and Jaffe. Khojasteh says that, like many in his district, he knows what it’s like to grow up in middle class America without an extended family support system as the result of immigration policies.
“My family is currently affected by the travel ban too. I know what it’s like from a young age to be a part of these late night kitchen table conversations about whether my parents needed to take out a second mortgage on the home, how they would send the kids to college, or how would they be able to pay the bills for the month. My dad is a small business owner, and I worked for him during high school. I have seen firsthand how hard it is for small businesses to keep their doors open and stay in business.”
Pelosi’s newest challenger is a staff editor for the Hastings Women’s Law Journal. Ryan will graduate law school early and receive his Juris Doctorate degree in December, 2018, a mere three weeks before congressional inauguration day.
He is the son of Iranian immigrants and the first member of his extended family born in the United States. He has $150,000 in student loans, and that is after accounting for his scholarship award.
Ryan Khojasteh’s View Of The Democratic Party
Ryan says that a light bulb went off in his head when Jon Ossoff lost his race, which was one of the most expensive congressional races in history. He says that he saw a headline the next morning that said that Handel beat Ossoff “after being linked to Pelosi.”
“I really began to reflect. Our party isn’t necessarily representing the majority of Americans because a sizable chunk of those in charge never lived these issues to understand these issues,” Ryan told Inquisitr. “There is such a growing disdain towards the establishment.”
Ryan says that Pelosi is leading a party that is becoming more flawed and more comfortable in its flawed ways at a time when it should be striving 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.”
Ryan says that he’s not just thinking about a personal victory. He says that if he places in one of the top two spots during the primary election, his campaign will use that national stage to convince other people that they can and should run for office.
He also wants to prove that no incumbent is invincible. Unseating Pelosi would do just that, he says.
Ryan Khojasteh On Immigration Reform
Ryan Khojasteh currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Immigrant Rights Commission, appointed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors after a unanimous recommendation. On that commission, he also serves as the Chair of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Task Force. He works closely with the Chair of the Commission, Vice-Chair, and Executive Director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs and Civic Engagement to shape the commission’s agenda.
He says that he was invited to Congresswoman Pelosi’s press conference about the DREAM Act in September. He says that he witnessed undocumented youth protesting, at which point Pelosi left. He said that the protesters stressed the need for comprehensive immigration reform. He says that the protesters said that they tried to get a meeting with Pelosi for years, but that they were “repeatedly turned down.”
“This was unacceptable, and so at our midyear leadership retreat, I was inspired to fight for a clean DREAM Act and a broader comprehensive immigration reform package,” Ryan told Inquisitr. “As the chair, I authored two resolutions, unanimously approved by the Commission, that were presented to the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors.”
The first resolution called for the Board of Supervisors and the mayor’s office to utilize their positions to influence federal lawmakers in an attempt to make a clean DREAM Act a legislative priority. The second resolution called for San Francisco to refrain from using the word “DREAMER.” Ryan says that the word “perpetuates the divisive good vs. bad immigrant narrative.”
“I learned firsthand that undocumented youth and DACA recipients do not like this word because the true dreamers are all immigrants who came here in pursuit of the American dream, including their parents. All 11 million undocumented immigrants should be granted status. The more we use the word ‘DREAMER’ the more we inherently demonize everyone else.”
Ryan Khojasteh’s Political Connections And Inspiration
Ryan says that he never had any political connections. The first time he ever met an elected official was when he interned for Congressman Honda during his senior year of college which he called an “incredibly formative experience.” He said he was inspired to become involved in politics by the actions of Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress and the first woman to seek the Democratic nomination for the presidency, Harvey Milk, who ran a campaign against what Ryan calls “The Machine” and was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and Bernie Sanders. On a personal note, he says he was also inspired by his father.
“When you come from an Iranian-American family, your existence is inherently political. My dad always talked to me about the revolution, how hard it was to leave, how hard it was to plant roots here,” Ryan told Inquisitr. “My dad is potentially alive today because America exists. I have such deep respect for the American Dream that I am going to dedicate the rest of my life protecting it and preserving it for future generations.”
Ryan says that he is not worried about splitting the Progressive vote during the primary. He says that with California’s “top two” primary system, the two candidates with the most votes will progress to the election in November, regardless of party.
Ryan Khojasteh On Public Health Issues
Ryan Khojasteh is a staunch advocate for single-payer healthcare.
He also has plenty of ideas for changes in gun control laws. In addition to universal background checks, he’d like to ban semi-automatic rifles and modifications for all civilians, create a registry for anyone who owns more than 10 guns, increase trauma centers in non-metropolitan areas, prohibit anyone convicted of a hate crime from owning a gun, create more comprehensive gun safety classes, expand the definition of domestic abuse in relation to gun ownership, allow the CDC to study gun violence as a public health issue, consider gun owners’ liability insurance, and strengthen regulations regarding firearms and mental health.
In California, vaccines have been a hot public health topic for years. Philosophical and religious vaccine waivers are no longer accepted for entry into schools, preschools, and daycare centers as part of state law. Ryan says that if he were a member of Congress, he would vote for federal legislation removing non-medical vaccine exemptions across the country, though he believes that such legislation would be challenged on Tenth Amendment grounds for infringing on state sovereignty.
Ryan Khojasteh On GMOs, Labeling, Subsidizing, And Farming
He was disappointed in President Obama for signing S. 764 into law. The industry-backed bill overturned Vermont’s GMO label law. He says that it could allow the national labeling standard to become incredibly weak and “provide almost no information to the consumers.”
While on the topic of GMOs, it should also be noted that Ryan believes that the heavy subsidization of corn and soy to facilitate meat production and processed foods is backwards to public health. He thinks it makes more sense to subsidize fruit and vegetable production from the standpoint of public health and public health associated costs.
Ryan says would also support a federal Right to Farm act protecting farmers from nuisance lawsuits, provided farmers employ standard and accepted farming practices.
Ryan Khojasteh On Marijuana Legalization
Ryan would like to see marijuana legalized and regulated like alcohol. He also would like to see marijuana possession convictions and non-violent marijuana distribution convictions expunged for those associated with small amounts of the plant.
Ryan Khojasteh On Building Codes
He says he would absolutely consider legislation federally exempting tiny houses from residential building codes to benefit veterans and homeless Americans. He also would support federal legislation that would codify or amend state residential housing codes to accommodate green options like grey water systems, composting toilets, and earth sheltered homes.
Ryan Khojasteh On Native American Issues
Ryan supported DAPL protesters and feels that “the Army Corps granting the final easement was egregious.” He says that after the Sioux sued over the loss of Black Hills and won their Supreme Court battle, they were awarded over $100 million in just compensation. Of course, they refused the funds, because they want their land, not the compensation. He says that our Constitution doesn’t provide a just remedy to this issue and would support a Constitutional amendment to the Takings Clause prohibiting the takings of Native land.
“This land serves incredibly important purposes — traditional, spiritual, religious, historical. It is their home. No justification in my opinion is compelling enough to strip that land away.”
Ryan favors changing the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. He says that as soon as the name change is adopted in his hometown, he will fight for it to change on a national level.
Ryan Khojasteh’s Big Promise
As the interview concluded, Ryan made a firm pledge that may surprise the voters of California’s 12th congressional district. Ryan says that if he is elected, he will return to his home district every weekend. He says he will use his own funds to travel back to California from Washington, D.C., every weekend to engage with the community and host town hall events. He says that his promise is barring only unforeseen emergencies or pressing issues in Washington. He says that should situations occasionally come up prohibiting his return to California on a particular weekend, he would notify the community and plan an extra event for the following weekend.
“I will be back all 52 weekends of every year for as long as I am a member of Congress,” Khojasteh told Inquisitr. “Accessibility and transparency are two crucial factors in restoring truth in our government.”