Once again, a record number of Asian Americans and a growing number of Pacific Islanders are running for public office at the local, state, and national level.
Every week, Reappropriate will profile progressive AAPI candidates for higher office, as well as officials serving in public office. Check back at Reappropriate throughout 2020 to learn more about these candidates and find out how you can get more involved in their campaigns.
Qasim Rashid is endorsed by Run for Something, which recruits and supports talented, passionate young people who advocate for progressive values now and for the next 30 years, with the ultimate goal of building a progressive bench. Since its launch on inauguration day 2017, they’ve recruited 16,000 young people to run for office.
What is your full name?
What office are you seeking?
US House of Representatives, VA-01
When is the election date?
Primary: June 23
General: Nov. 3
What is your party registration (if any)?
Democratic, seeking party nomination.
Tell me a little bit about your background in general, as well as your relationship to your identity as an Asian American and/or Pacific Islander?
I am the first Asian American to run for Congress in Virginia’s 1st district.
I’m a proud Pakistani-American immigrant and I’ve worked tirelessly to build bridges between communities around this country. My family left Pakistan because of religious bigotry and that has played a big role in how I view the sanctity of human dignity and equality. My life story informs my values and my work and I’ve tried to used my platform to turn xenophobic hate that unfortunately exists in our society into opportunities for community learning and education. I was also featured in a recent national media story about one of these interactions.
How did you become inspired to seek elected office?
As a human rights lawyer who has dedicated my life to support women who are survivors of domestic and sexual violence and serve children from vulnerable communities, I’m running to transform my advocacy into policy for the working families of Virginia’s 1st District. I realized that as an advocate, I could address the issues of a few people, or dozens at most but in elected office, I could improve the lives of much much more. We’ve got to get to the root causes of the challenges that our communities face. That is how we create legislation that improves the lives of working families and reforms systemic injustices that continue to plague our communities to this day.
What three issues do you think are most important to your constituents, and what step(s) do you plan to take to address them if elected?
Folks in Virginia’s 1st District are struggling with access to quality healthcare, access to high-speed broadband internet, and increasing income inequality and lack of a living wage.
As congressman, I will work to pass legislation that ensures that broadband access is treated as a utility and that the federal government empowers municipalities to provide this critical service, while making the necessary investments to provide high speed broadband to rural and underserved communities; support efforts to pass Medicare For All guaranteeing healthcare access for all Americans; and raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour, to protect workers with the prevailing wage requirement on government contracts, and to remove bad actors who undermine the integrity of union and non-union contractors.
This is how we can improve the lives of Virginians and make sure that our working families are being supported and advocated for.
What impact has the current political climate had on you as an Asian American and/or Pacific Islander progressive seeking elected office?
The truth is under the current administration, there’s been a rise in hate speech and hate crimes. Our campaign has certainly been a target of this. Just last year, a man threatened to kill me because of my background.
In addition to the story of the constituent who sent Islamophobic hate speech to our campaign, we have certainly been a target. But it makes our platform and our message of compassion through action that much more important.
What advice would you have for other young Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders currently considering a career in politics and/or public service?
I would encourage other young Asian Americans to get involved because there is a community that they can lean on. I haven’t been able to do this alone, and no one should. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders must claim political power to ensure that our human dignity is always respected in the policies, and the social and political landscape in this country.
If we are not at the table we cannot impact the process. Run for something, lean on mentors in the community who have lived experience and wisdom, and claim that power that we all deserve.
Where can readers go to learn more about you and your campaign?
How can readers get involved to help your campaign? Are there any upcoming events you’d like for us to know about?
Readers can get involved in our campaign by visiting this link to learn how to mobilize for the campaign.
Run for Something recruits and supports talented, passionate young people who advocate for progressive values now and for the next 30 years, with the ultimate goal of building a progressive bench. Since its launch on inauguration day 2017, they’ve recruited 16,000 young people to run for office.
If you are a progressive Asian American or Pacific Islander running for or currently serving in elected office in 2020, and would like to be profiled in this series, please contact me for more information.