Establishing a new voice for San Francisco progressives

Running for Congress taught me a great many things, including how hungry San Franciscans have been for federal representation aligned with our city’s unique values and character. The results from our June 5 primary further affirm the vision that prompted me to take a leave of absence from my job at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to pursue an uncertain 2018 campaign.

The election revealed that progressive voters want an experienced and credible champion. Despite entering the race after several other progressive candidates, I consolidated support across the city and ultimately outpaced them by a significant margin, placing third behind Pelosi and a Republican challenger.

Among candidates who have run for this seat, I am the leading progressive alternative to the incumbent, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

I regarded four other progressive candidates as allies in the broader struggle to liberate the 12th congressional district’s seat. Voters, however, revealed a clear preference among us: after only three months in the race, and despite being outspent, our campaign received over 17,000 votes. That was nearly 50% more than the next campaign, which placed fourth. We overcame three other campaigns by even wider margins.

These results are a testament to our approach. Our campaign was unique given my background building the progressive movement around the country, my identity as an immigrant Muslim of color, my established expertise on a wide range of issues confronting Congress, and my roots in the many communities that formed our coalition.

We also received support beyond local progressive circles: national networks including Progressive Democrats of America and Veterans for Bernie endorsed our campaign, as did national and international luminaries like author and digital rights activist Cory Doctorow, revolutionary musician Tom Morello, peace & justice leader Medea Benjamin, and former Mayor of New Paltz NY and LGBT icon Jason West.

Even though progressive candidates won a greater share of the vote than in previous years, Pelosi will not face a progressive challenger in November. Our campaign outpaced all the other campaigns running to represent San Francisco’s values, but a Republican candidate committed to conservative principles—who did not mount a visible campaign and raised less than $15,000—took second.

We missed getting on the November ballot by less than a single percentage point, coming within 0.57% of reaching the November runoff. What this fractured candidate field demonstrated was that, in order to succeed, the progressive community of San Francisco needs to continue to coalesce.

Forums and debates hosted by local organizations or news outlets could help voters in future cycles attain stronger consensus. Despite my eagerness to debate, the unwillingness of others challenging Pelosi to participate prevented a proposed forum at the Castro Theater. Mutiny Radio thankfully hosted a forum in the days preceding the election, but among seven candidates in the race, only two others (who ultimately took fifth and sixth) showed up.

The June election also demonstrated that we have the numbers, passion, and political will to create real change for San Francisco. An expansive and inspiring coalition emerged around our 2018 campaign that will continue to flourish beyond this election cycle, represented by our volunteers, supporters, and the various social movements I’ve helped build over the years.

I’m deeply grateful for the support of all the writers, lawyers, teachers, students, nurses, hospital administrators, architects, state employees, city employees, environmental consultants, civil engineers, web developers, software engineers, user experience designers, graphic designers, startup founders, and established entrepreneurs who volunteered to help our campaign. I’m equally encouraged by the hundreds of supporters from across the city, the Bay Area, and the country who fueled our efforts, from UC Hastings law professors and underground DJs to public interest advocates and longtime activists in the peace & justice, immigrant rights, and police accountability movements.

Having received so much support from so many corners, I’m looking forward to building on the foundation that we created together. As the leading progressive alternative to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi among recent candidates, I won’t formally announce my next campaign now — but I eagerly anticipate it.

In the meantime, I’ll return to my job at EFF to continue my long standing work defending civil liberties and digital rights. I’ll also continue to build progressive social movements and advocate for sane federal spending priorities on behalf of our communities across San Francisco that still don’t have a voice in Washington.

As our state’s former Governor once quipped, long before running for office: I’ll be back.