Irvine, CA – PAAIA recently interviewed Sean Panahi, an attorney and Democratic nominee for California’s 68th State Assembly district. The State Assembly is the lower house in California, which makes laws and enacts the state budget. If successful, he will become the first American of Iranian descent ever elected to the California State Assembly. He would also be the second Iranian American to serve in a state legislature.
Panahi was raised in Orange County and attended California public schools. After graduating from UCLA in 2001, he continued his education at Northwestern University School of Law. While there, Panahi developed and honed his advocacy skills to fight against social injustice and the rights of his clients. Even as a student, Panahi represented pensioners, the disadvantaged, the elderly, and private investors against Wall Street Banks. He successfully fought for investors, recovering people’s life-savings without charging a dime in attorney’s fees or costs.
After graduating from Northwestern, Panahi became a Public Defender and represented almost 1,000 clients as the lead attorney without any disciplinary history. As a public defender, Panahi became intimately familiar with the injustices of the legal system. He also had the opportunity to spend time with hard working people who invited him into their kitchens, filling him in on issues that concerned them and the problems Americans face every day. Panahi later entered private practice, moving on to hold bar licenses in the states of California, New Jersey, and Florida. A proponent of public and community service, Panahi serves on the Board of Directors of a Non-Profit organization providing mental health needs and social services to Southern California’s elder and under-privileged population.
Panahi’s campaign has been endorsed by numerous current and former elected officials, Party Committees, and organizations. Elections for the California State Assembly take place in November of 2016. On June 7, 2016, Panahi received the most votes in a crowded field of seven candidates on primary day. He now faces Republican Steven S. Choi in the general election.
Panahi currently lives in Tustin, California.
PAAIA: What inspired you to run for public office?
Panahi: After serving different communities as an attorney, I feel the time has come for me to expand my services to a greater number of people and promote greater causes. I feel that as a lawmaker at the state level, I can accomplish my heart-felt desires, therefore I announced my candidacy and won the primary for California’s 68th State Assembly seat.
PAAIA: What are some of the challenges you believe your campaign committee must overcome to mount a successful campaign?
Panahi: My opponent is a career politician who has entrenched special interests funding him. He has received contributions from many land developers and major business owners. Our campaign is resonating with voters because my vison of a California with strong schools, safe streets, and a multi-cultural population has broad appeal. At this point in time, my campaign requires necessary expenses to reach out to voters and get the message across.
PAAIA: What are the fundraising goals of your committee?
Panahi: Presently, our campaign goal is to reach $70,000. At the moment, our campaign has raised around $40,000. This money will be used for mailers, media, flyers and events.
PAAIA: What differentiates you from your opponents?
Panahi: My campaign, unlike that my opponent’s, emphasizes better schools, a clean environment, and minority’s rights. My campaign has been funded by students, families, and small business owners as opposed to special interests.
PAAIA: What particular skills or experiences will you bring to public office?
Panahi: I have been a public defender in almost 1,000 cases and served on a Non-Profit organization. I am a student of constructive politics focused on making a better contemporary society for all.
PAAIA: Has your campaign received any endorsements from other public officials, organizations, and/or community/business leaders?
Panahi: I have been endorsed by Speaker of the California State Assembly, The California Democratic Party, The Democratic Party of Orange County, Planned Parenthood, and numerous community leaders including the former mayor of Irvine and a current City Council Member of Anaheim.
PAAIA: What are the most critical issues facing your district today, and how does your campaign plan on addressing some of these issues?
Panahi: The environment, water needs, the high cost of higher education, and the broadness of the economic recovery. In addition, Southern California has seen racial inequality and racial strife, including hate crimes. If elected, I intend to propose and sponsor a number of bills, together with other members of the Assembly, to address the issues mentiond above. I believe my strong educational background coupled with my work experience serve both the public and private sector, and my experience will assist me in accomplishing the task at hand.
PAAIA: What role do you think Iranian Americans can play in your campaign and what do you expect from the community?
Panahi: My campaign is no different than any other campaign, and as such, requires strong financial support and outreach to all communities. Iranian Americans can generously donate to my campaign through my website.
PAAIA: What role can organizations like PAAIA/IAPAC play in assisting your campaign?
Panahi: PAAIA/IAPAC can reach out to all of its members and contacts to both donate and spread the word about the campaign. These organizations can also share any issues facing their members with my campaign so that we can be better in-tune with the community.
For more information on Sean Panahi’s campaign, please visit: http://www.panahiforassembly.com/sean-panahi/