My parents and grandparents came to this country to chase the American dream. With a few dollars in their pocket and a few words of English, they left their lives behind to come to Los Angeles – the land of possibilities. They worked multiple jobs to put food on our table, give us access to good education, and inspired us to chase our dreams. After graduating from UCLA, I had the great privilege to work for policy makers in Washington DC, lead innovative delivery strategies to expand medicines to diverse communities in over 50 countries, and was a health diplomat representing the United States to governments around the world. I am living their American dream.
More Americans than ever are living paycheck to paycheck. In Los Angeles, most of us are dealing with expensive medical bills, the high cost of groceries, never-ending student loans, and unimaginable housing prices. For those that have a job, wages have come down, working conditions have not improved, and benefits are no longer guaranteed. We are facing the existential threats of illegal drugs on our streets, crime in our communities, and the fear of gun violence that are very real. Cities and small businesses are still recuperating from COVID. Los Angeles- that was once a land of possibilities- is slipping away.
At the same time, Congress and the Supreme Court have been hijacked by MAGA-extremists. Republicans are cutting social security benefits, they are eroding the basic ideals we hold to be true, and they pose a serious threat to the future of our democracy – and America’s standing in the world. I am in this race because we need experienced people who know how Congress works. My unmatched federal and foreign policy experience has shown me how Washington works and what needs to change to help make Los Angeles better, more prosperous, and more equal.
Even with all its dysfunction, I’m not cynical about Washington. I’ve seen great things happen in the halls of Congress and I’ve worked hard to bring change and drive bipartisan initiatives to fight HIV, curtail wars, and lower prescription drug prices.
Being successful in Congress and in Washington is about making the federal system work for people – and I already know how to work in the system to get things done for Los Angeles.
I’m a public servant to my community and have spent my career working in public health. I believe high quality, affordable and accessible healthcare is one of the fundamental rights of every human being. As a former legislative director in the U.S. Congress, I wrote legislation to make quality, affordable, equitable and accessible healthcare available to all culturally diverse communities. I will advance bills to expand more coverage for primary care, vision, dental, mental health, substance abuse, and reproductive health care. As a former private sector executive, I know how to bring companies, hospitals, doctors, nurses and public health professionals together to make medicines more affordable. At a time of crisis for trust in public health, I will work to restore faith and leadership in our public health institutions, support more pay and protections for health care workers, and expand funding for public health departments across the country to keep our communities healthy and protected for the next pandemic.
As the first born son of a large Armenian immigrant family, my lived experience has instilled in me the resilience and courage to stand against injustice and fight all forms of racism, anti-semitism, transphobia and hate directed toward Asian Americans and Armenians because of who they are. My grandfather taught me about the importance of respect and decency, and I will always work to build bridges – not walls- between diverse communities. I believe in the basic freedom for people to love who they want to love. And for women – not politicians – to make deeply personal healthcare decisions and not have to fight to negotiate the care and support they need.
As someone who has held a job nearly every day since being an ice cream scooper at age 15, I believe in the dignity of work. I will tackle income inequality head on to create good paying jobs and stand up for workers’ rights and strong benefits.
I believe the middle class is the engine of America and I will support the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and other bills to improve employment protections related to employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.
I believe education is the greatest equalizer. In the richest country in the world, higher education should be a ladder, not a lifelong sentence of debt. Yet, as of today, 43 million Americans – both recent graduates and seniors – owe $1.6 trillion in student debt. Because of hard work and access to federal grants and scholarships that allowed me to get a quality education, I have been able to get jobs that have served our country at the highest levels of government. Like many others, I still have student loans to pay. Everyone deserves an equal chance to succeed – but the predatory practices of lenders and for-profit colleges have left thousands of students struggling to keep their heads above water. I will prioritize investing in our schools, supporting more pay for teachers, enhancing STEM opportunities for underrepresented communities, and a fair system to address the student debt crisis.
I want to take my long track record of working with Republicans and Independents to support a roadmap to citizenship for immigrants, advance sensible legislation to mitigate gun violence, and support the revitalization of our cities and small businesses so Los Angeles’ economy can work for everyone. I will work with elected officials and business leaders to get in front of the root causes of homelessness. To make a lasting impact, our focus has to be on making housing more affordable through federal resources and incentives and expanding access to mental health and substance use programs.
I am the son of Armenian and Lebanese immigrants so I understand the challenges that many immigrant families face when assimilating into a new country. I also understand what it means to be American, what America means to me and immigrant families alike. I will fight to make the American Dream more accessible to more people so that everyone has a fair shot to chase their own dream.
My time in the State Department, and work with foreign governments all around the world has given me a front row to history and strengthened my conviction about the indefensible role that the U.S. can and must play in tackling the climate crisis at home and abroad, defend democracy and support the spread of protections for human rights. I believe in a America that promotes diplomacy, protects peace, and supports global development to end hunger, mitigate climate change and fight diseases – and stands up to dictators who commit genocide or unleash violence and hate over their own citizens.
The challenging times we’re in call for a new era of leaders in Congress. It’s time for a new generation of progressive leaders to stand up and bring all diverse communities together. I know first hand hand how important it is to fight to be seen and treated equally, for recognition and for justice. I know first hand how important it is to fight for America. And to fight for people. All people. I will always put people first.
That is why I am in this race – and that is why I am asking for your support.
Candidate for Congress
California’s 30th District