Democrat Shireen Ghorbani campaigns in Sanpete
By Ken Hansen
MANTI—Many residents of Manti and other central Utah towns opened their doors Friday to find Shireen Ghorbani, Demoratic candidate for U.S. Congress in District 2, standing on their porch.
“I am not a career politician,” said Ghorbani, a self-proclaimed working mom. “This is the first time I have run for office.”
Ghorbani, the daughter of immigrant parents, has two master’s degrees and is a manager in Facilities Management at the University of Utah.
In an interview at the Sanpete Messenger office, she said 2016 had been a rough year for her, and the things that happened prompted her to run for Congress.
Her mother was diagnosed with cancer in June of that year and passed away in August. “In that span of time I saw how people can lose everything with just one diagnosis. I am now a huge proponent of reducing the costs of healthcare,” she said.
“I watched (Rep. Chris Stewart) vote against affordable health care over 40 times—and this is the important part for me—with no solutions. He’s not fighting to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. He has a record now of three terms, six years, of not making these things a priority.”
During 2016, Ghorbani said she felt disconnected from both candidates for the White House. “I was concerned by the way …our current president Trump spoke …of the most divisive issues, which are on the fringe of what everyone is concerned about,” she said. “The vast majority of people are concerned about the fact that they haven’t seen wages go up in a long time or the rising cost of health care or the rising cost of housing.”
She noted that one thing Trump campaigned on, and something she supports, is permitting Medicaid and Medicare to negotiate drug prices. “We can’t get that done because we have a Congress that is bought and sold by pharmaceutical companies,” she said.
“Something that’s really different about me from any of our other candidates—I am not accepting or pursuing corporate PAC (political action committee) dollars,” she said. “We are not taking money from oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, which are the top donators to my opponent. Because of this, the corporations get their bills passed and the people don’t.”
She said her campaign is not receiving financial support from the Democratic Party but is raising money from grassroots, individual donations. At last count, the campaign reports total donations of about $400,000.
In fact, according to a press release last week from the Ghorbani campaign, she outraised Stewart in the third quarter of 2018 and continued that momentum by outpacing the incumbent congressman more than two-to-one in October.
“In stark contrast, 69 percent of Stewart’s funding during the same period came from corporate PAC dollars, including Kock Industries, a mining PAC, and an oil PAC,” the news release stated.
When asked about state political issues, Ghorbani said, “I am very in favor of the initiative process … Question 1, Propsitions 2, 3 and 4 are all a reflection of the state making decisions (about things) many Utahns would like to see changed.”
Question 1 on the 2018 Utah ballot asks voters whether or not voters think the gasoline tax should be raised 10 cents per gallon to increase funding for education.
“One of the tricks in this question is the fact that gas tax cannot be used to fund education, It’s sort of a shell game,” Ghorbani noted.
The idea is that if the gasoline tax is raised, it can more fully cover road maintenance, so money in the general fund that is now being spent for roads can redirected to education.
“I don’t think that gas tax is the best way to do it …but a yes vote on the question will send a message.” She added that not even the most conservative voters are balking at more money for education. She said she also voted in favor of Proposition 2 (medical cannabis) even though she had some concerns about it. “I don’t think the state legislature will work as quickly as we want them to [on this matter] if they see this proposition fail.”
If the proposition passes, “it’s the legislatures job to clean up the (problems) with the proposition.” I would like to see it pass, then I would like to see the Legislature called in immediately to address the problems and concerns.
Ghorbani said she also in favors both Proposition 3 and 4, which provide, respectively, for the expansion of Medicaid and provide for an independent committee to adjust congressional district boundaries.
“Growing up we were poor and didn’t have very much,” she said. “We lived in the country and my mom was often balancing her checkbook by how many tanks of gas we could use to get in to town and back. She instilled in me the value of service, of minding our budget, understanding what we could afford and knowing what our priorities are, and then giving back wherever we could.”
These are values she said she would bring to Washington.