When I first thought about running for US Congress to represent Virginia’s 8th Congressional District about eight months ago, I knew from the outset how much the odds were stacked against me. I had no appetite for running a conventional campaign because my aim all along was to present a fundamental alternative to the status quo. To that end, I eschewed running as either a Democrat or a Republican and I refused to take a penny from corporations and special interests.
Running as an independent and not having thousands of dollars in my campaign coffers, let alone tens of millions in donations, and trying to field a competitive campaign is like running against Usain Bolt with anvils around one’s legs. However, I felt like this year, unlike any other, presents a unique opportunity for Americans to reject “politics as usual” and instead get behind an authentic independent who doesn’t have to “feel their pains” because that aspiring public servant lives their reality.
That is precisely what compelled me to throw my hat in the ring and declare my candidacy. I had enough of sitting on the sidelines and bemoaning the state of our government and the way politicians pay lip service to our problems while gaslighting us into thinking that they actually care about justice. My dad told me a long time ago that people can either keep pointing at the ills of the world, and by extension perpetuate iniquities, or they can be a part of the solution by presenting ideas that can better society.
Once I made the decision to run for Congress, I knew that I had to work relentlessly not only to qualify for the ballot but to earn people’s votes. In the span of 6 weeks, I collected over 1,500 signatures from constituents who live in Arlington, Alexandria, East Falls Church and South Fairfax, an undertaking that is usually accomplished by countless political staffers and volunteers.
Believe it or not, qualifying for the November 8th ballot was the easy part. The harder task was ensuring that I get my campaign message out there and reach the nearly 800,000 Virginians who reside in the 8th Congressional District. Squaring off against a very rich and powerful Democrat incumbent by the name of Don Beyer and his Republican challenger who likewise raised boatloads of money, I made it a point to not focus on raising money and instead focus on the message of my campaign which I believe much needed in a time where tribal politics and pervasive antagonism amongst fellow citizens are threatening to induce the very same social strife that turned me into a political refugee at the age of 8years old.
Here we are roughly a month before Election Day and I’ve come to this juncture. I’ve talked to countless thousands of people over the past seven months and what I realize is that people have a deep desire to turn away from this toxic “us versus them” politics and instead grab on to our common humanity. That is the calling card of my campaign, however, our politics and the status quo are predicated on ripping society apart and pitting people against each other.
There are fortunes to be made and ladders to climb for politicians by way of Balkanizing our nation but few are elected by preaching empathy and overcoming our differences. Nonetheless, I believe that now more than ever presents a rare chance for We the People to truly change DC by electing someone who is not part of the very political order that has been rejected by the vast majority of the American people.
Over the next month, between now and November 8th, I will be posting a series of videos on our campaign YouTube channel inspired by conversations I had with constituents—most of them Uber passengers I share conversations with while I was driving them to their destination. My aim during these brief “Uber talks” is to show that, at the end of the day, no matter our shades of skin or experiences, our pains and our hopes for a better tomorrow are tied inextricably together.
Below is a video that I recorded this morning right before I took part in a forum hosted by the Black Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Asian Chamber of Commerce. As you watch these videos and check out various articles and where I stand on the issues that matter to Americans, my hope is that you will decide to feel a sense of ownership in this campaign and share our message with your family, friends and your broader network.
I believe that the power of people who work together beyond our differences can more than match the hundreds of millions of dollars that has co-opted politicians, commandeered our government and nullified our collective voices. One way or the other, I will continue to work tirelessly to earn the trust and votes of constituents in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District.