A twenty-something son of Iranian immigrants is challenging House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in 2018 to “hold Democrats accountable” and “strengthen our democracy.”
“I respect Nancy Pelosi very much, but this race isn’t against one person,” UC Hastings law student Ryan Khojasteh said in a video posted on YouTube by his campaign. “It’s not against one representative, or the former Speaker of the House. It’s the idea that Congress is out of touch with the American people.”
While Khojasteh contends his mission is bigger than the 77-year-old Pelosi, he called her out for breezing through past elections by avoiding her critics.
“Who knows if we’ll win. We may not. But I think the victory is getting to the general election and seeing what happens. And asking her nicely to a debate,” Khojasteh said. “I think that it’s important that if you are a public servant, you have to be accountable to your people. And it’s frankly unacceptable to be in office for 31 years and not come back for a debate.
“You need to,” he said, “And 2018 isn’t the time where you can stay in Washington and not have a debate.”
Khojasteh’s campaign website provides background on the 23-year-old, who was born in the San Francisco Bay Area after his Iranian parents fled to America during Iran’s revolution in 1979.
His perspective on the issues affecting the American people has been profoundly shaped by his experience as a first-generation American who grew up in a hard-working middle class family.
As a kid, Ryan loved reading books about U.S. presidents and American history. He grew up appreciating how much his parents sacrificed for him to be born in this country, and he carries their faith in the American dream with him to this day. In 2004, when he was 10 years old, he heard then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama refer to himself as “a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.” A Middle Eastern kid going through school in a post-September 11th world, these words deeply impacted Ryan and shaped the trajectory of his life, inspiring him to continue building a more inclusive, diverse, and respectful America.
The young Millennial now attends the University of California Hastings College of the Law, where he’s expected to graduate roughly three weeks before Congressional inauguration day. His campaign bio lists several internships, with the District Office of Congressman Mike Honda, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and the Immigration Defense Unit at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.
Khojasteh is also an avid volunteer in immigrant communities, wrote his undergraduate thesis on constitutional law, and sits on the San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commission.
He’s pitching himself as a young common sense leader with no ties to the Democratic Party elites who’s looking to shake up the party leadership and “hold Democrats accountable.”
“I hope to encourage a lot of other people to primary the incumbents,” Khojasteh said in the video. “Because, while we do need to run against Republicans, we should also have Democrats run against Democrats to hold Democrats accountable.
“That if your district is saying these things and you’re not, either you change or you get challenged,” he continued. “I think that’s what we need to do going forward.”
“If you’re not representing your people, maybe it’s time for you to go,” Khojasteh said. “So I think what we want to try to do is frame ourselves as a viable contender under the age of 35. Because right now in this race, you have certain individuals who don’t necessarily represent the young voice.
“They don’t represent the student voice. They don’t represent the immigrant voice. They don’t represent a diverse voice at all.”
Khojasteh said he’d prefer a leader with more experience to challenge Pelosi, but none are willing to defy party elders.
“I wish there would be somebody who is already elected to jump in. But the thing is no one is because they owe something to the party,” he said. “And it’s true. You can’t go up against the leader of your party if you’re part of the party. So you mind as well have somebody who doesn’t owe anything to anybody to do it to be able to strengthen our democracy.
“That’s what it’s about, running, and making sure people actually represent their constituents.”
Khojasteh’s campaign comes amid repeated calls from inside and outside the party for new, younger leaders.
Pelosi, a 77-year-old career politician, has also repeatedly flubbed simple words, lost her train of thought, mispronounced names, and referred to past elected officials when talking about the present during speeches in recent months, The American Mirror reported.
Just this week, Pelosi suffered an ill-timed brain freeze as she attempted to criticize the Republican tax plan and question the “fitness of this president to be president.”