I am tired of politicians buying their way into office. I understand that campaign funding is an essential component of a candidate’s ability to get their message out to the voters. I also firmly believe in the freedom of speech that is expressly guaranteed to citizens via the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. I believe that campaign contributions are a form of free speech, and, while I believe campaign financing should be disclosed and transparent to the public, I do not believe that there should be government-imposed limits on how much candidates can raise. As long as proper disclosure is maintained, I believe candidates should be able to collect as much in contributions as possible, without any caps on how much can be raised from individuals or groups.
That being said, I also understand that candidates who are well-funded are at a significant advantage when it comes to communicating with voters. After all, if the electorate has no idea who a particular candidate is, why would they vote for that candidate? Unfortunately, in my current race for State Assembly, I, as the sole Republican candidate, am being severely outraised by both of the Democrats running for the same seat I am running for. Combined, those two Democrats have already garnered campaign contributions approaching $300,000. By contrast, thus far, I have not even raised $2,000. As a result, the two Democrats will soon be flooding the airwaves with ads or wallpapering every square inch of Assembly District 20 (Fremont, Newark, Union City, Milpitas) with campaign signs. I simply do not have the resources to compete with all of that right now.
But to add insult to injury, I know that the two Democratic candidates are not out there articulating what they believe in to the voters. Instead, their campaign messages have thus far focused on vague notions of looking out for the common man and asking people to vote for them because they are registered Democrats. They seem to be relying on the fact that Democrats have a huge registration edge in AD20. It’s almost as if they are deliberately laying low and not saying anything of value because they understand that if the electorate actually found out what they believe in and what they plan on doing if elected, then they would be in trouble. By playing it safe, they are hoping the anti-Republican sentiment in the Bay Area, as well as the “D” next to their name on the ballot, will bring them through to victory in November. What ever happened to standing up in front of the voters and telling them what you truly believe in? Any attempts on my part or on the part of others to set up any sort of all-candidate forums or debates to bring the two Democrats together with me in front of an audience have met with a distinct lack of interest. That is cowardice on their part.
But now I get to the real point behind why I starting writing this blog post. Because of my contempt for the Democrats simply trying to get elected by not saying anything of any importance and, funded by those with deep pockets, being able to blast the electorate with meaningless messages to get name recognition, over the last few weeks, my campaign has been trying something different. Instead of simply cutting a check to pay the filing fee to get on the ballot (using money to buy one’s way into the system), I, as well as a group of volunteers who believe in what I stand for, have been going out and gathering signatures to get me on the ballot. Not only does this show that I am not simply trying to buy my way into government, but it starts getting my name out to the people. That way they can start to get a better idea of who I am and realize that there is a much better alternative out there than to simply vote for the Democrat. I am confident that, if voters are able to figure out exactly what I stand for, they will realize, beyond a reasonable doubt, that I should be the next State Assemblymember from District 20.
When I decided to run last spring, I understood a couple of things. First of all, I realized that, being a Republican, I would be at a severe disadvantage in the minds of the voters. There is an anti-Republican hatred that exists in the Bay Area. I am confident that a lot of this comes about as a result of ignorance, and I am more than happy to talk with as many people as possible to rectify their misconceptions about what it means to be a Republican or a conservative. But secondly, I understood the some people would not vote for me simply because of my name and my race. I know that, especially following the tragic terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, there is hatred directed at people with Muslim-sounding names. (For the record, I am half Filipino and half Pakistani. My mother is Catholic, and my father (who passed away in 2007) was a secular Muslim. I, personally, am not a very religious person. If asked to define my religious views, I am most comfortable with the term “atheist”.) Once again, I am confident that if people have a chance to meet me in person or see me speak, then that will help overcome a lot of that bias that might exist in their minds. I believe people should vote for candidate based on that person’s stances on the issues, not because of their political party affiliation or because of their ethnic background. Unfortunately, with an obligation to hold down a full-time job in order to pay the bills, I cannot be everywhere. I do not have the time or the resources to be able to personally speak with every single voter. Help from volunteers and others to get my message out can cut help cut into the misconceptions, but it won’t have nearly the same impact as a voter being able to talk with me directly. So, there will be a portion of these biased people who I simply will not be able to convert to vote for me. It’s sad, but it’s true.
I received a call this morning from one of the volunteers who has been out gathering signatures to get my name on the ballot. She is a nice woman, who dresses in traditional Muslim attire, and is very interested in politics. She is a conservative who actually ran for a nonpartisan political position last November in the area, and she lost to the two liberal incumbents who were running against her. She found out about my campaign for State Assembly and contacted me, letting me know that she would like to volunteer to help my campaign. I told her about the signature drive to get my name on the ballot, and she enthusiastically agreed to help me. In order that she could target people who would be friendly to our cause, I handed over a list of addresses of registered Republicans to her, and she planned on knocking on the doors of those registered Republicans in order to gather signatures. When I talked with her on the phone this morning, she seemed apologetic, almost as if she felt she had failed me. She told me that her efforts to get out and gather signatures did not go well yesterday. Basically, somebody threatened to call the police on her, and she felt in fear for her life. In her honest opinion, while out gathering signatures, she had run into the racist faction of the Republican Party. Out of fear for her personal welfare, she cut her signature drive efforts short.
I am glad that no physical harm came upon that woman who volunteered for my campaign. But she is definitely shaken. For their own safety, I am now asking that all campaign volunteers who are out there working directly with me immediately cease getting signatures to get my name on the ballot. I will have to resort to finding the funds to pay the filing fee to get my name on the ballot instead.
Now, I have yet to have any conservative with whom I have spoken with about my campaign say anything directly to my face about not supporting me because of my name. Who knows what is going on in their minds or what they say to their friends when I leave, but people are usually fairly courteous when interacting with me. But clearly, as that campaign volunteer experienced, those racist notions exist in the minds of many people. Exactly how wide spread and how deep that racism runs is something that I do not know. It is my hope that it is quite limited in scope amongst the electorate.
I had always heard stories about the racist fringe of the Republican Party. Being as I have lived in the Bay Area most of my life, I really haven’t had much of an occasion to witness it firsthand. I had always assumed that the really severe racial stuff was going on elsewhere, be it in other states or in other areas of California. To know that such racial animosity exists anywhere is disheartening. To find out that it exists right here in my own backyard is infuriating. These people should be ashamed of themselves. I always grew up believing that you should judge a person by their individual skills, traits, beliefs, and actions. To find out that some registered Republicans, people who believe in the same things that I do, will not vote for me because I have a Muslim-sounding name clearly illustrates to me that there is ignorance among people of all political part affiliations.
Now I know what I am up against. Not only is there a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding out there about Republicans and conservatives, which I must overcome in order to get voters to realize that they probably share far more common beliefs in the issues with me than they realize, and not only am I going to be severely outspent and have to scratch and fight to get my message out the voters, but I am also going to have to deal with a racist element in society who will not vote for me because I have a “funny-sounding” name. This already difficult task has just become even more difficult.
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