April 14, 2009, Los Angeles, CA - The Iranian American community is pleased that one of their own, David Vahedi, came in first place in the March 3rd primary election to fill the vacant 5th District Los Angeles City Council seat. Running against five other well funded and politically connected candidates in the primary, David Vahedi was able to galvanize a powerful political base of community leaders to become the very first Iranian American to ever win a City of Los Angeles primary.
On May 19th, David Vahedi will face former West Hollywood Mayor Paul Koretz, who recently moved to Los Angeles, in the run-off election. If successful, David Vahedi will become the first Iranian American elected to serve on the City Council of Los Angeles.
David Vahedi began his career in public service as an auditor for the California State Board of Equalization after receiving his bachelor’s degree in accounting. Vahedi then continued his education by receiving his Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School, after which he started his own private practice focusing on civil litigation.
Aside from his professional work, Vahedi is a 10-year Board Member of one of the largest Homeowner’s Associations in Los Angeles and a co-founder of the Westside Neighborhood Council. Believing in community service, Vahedi serves as a pro-bono attorney for Friends of Animals and other rescue organizations. He has also mentored at-risk teens in his district and has been a volunteer and supporter of Protect the Vote and many other civic groups, ranging from the Sierra Club to Save the Ballona Wetlands.
Vahedi’s campaign for the District 5 seat is built on a strong platform focusing on improving public safety, increasing investment on infrastructure, and helping to improve traffic congestion. His campaign has received key endorsements from the law enforcement community, homeowners associations, and public officials. If elected, David Vahedi has vowed to welcome all his constituents to feel free to voice their concerns and opinions to him, an approach that has helped create a large coalition of local organizations supporting his candidacy.
Council District 5, called the “Jewel of the City”, completely surrounds Beverly Hills, and includes the communities of Westwood, Century City, Bel Air, Holmby Hills, Cheviot Hills, Encino, Beverly Wilshire, Carthay Circle, and Sherman Oaks. The District is home to approximately 258,000 residents, with one of the highest voter registrations - approximately 62 percent -in the City.
PAAIA and its connected PAC, the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC), recently had the opportunity to sit down with Vahedi and discuss his campaign for Los Angeles City Council District 5.
Click here to learn more about David Vahedi’s campaign.
PAAIA/IAPAC: Tell us a little bit about yourself .
Vahedi: I am a first generation American raising my own family in the same neighborhood I grew up in. I am married to Karli and have a beautiful two-year old son. I have two older sisters, Michelle & Turon. Along with my community involvement, my wife and I are avid beach volleyball players.
My wife is my partner in both life and in politics. She has herself knocked on over 3,500 doors over the last four months and is my best asset in the campaign. The hardest part of the campaign is leaving our son on the weekends to go door knocking.
PAAIA/IAPAC: Why are you running for public office?
Vahedi: Growing up in Los Angeles, I have developed a strong connection to my city. As I reached my late 20’s, I realized that either I had to stand up or shut up. I chose to stand up. And while Los Angeles is an amazing city, there are some serious issues that need to be addressed. From traffic congestion that gets worse every year to the lack of sufficient police and fire personnel. We have to do a better job of planning how Los Angeles grows and to do a better job at making sure our infrastructure is maintained to guarantee a better quality of life for the residents and for our business community.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What are some of the lessons that you learned from your primary campaign
that you will incorporate in your run-off election?
Vahedi: When people meet you at their door, they feel a connection. As such, walk as much as humanely possible for the run-off. Good mail alone is not enough.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What are some of the challenges you believe your campaign committee must
overcome to mount a successful run-off campaign?
Vahedi: Voter turnout is expected to be very low since the Mayor’s race and City Controller’s race were resolved during the primary on March 3rd. As such, we have the challenge of trying to get our supporters to the polls. For the American-Iranian community, the challenge is even a little harder. There are 3,900 registered American Iranians in the district, but only 212 voted in the primary, less than 6%.
What is surprising to most is the fact that if even 30% of the American Iranians voted, they could guarantee a win for our campaign and at the same time raise their political capital in the city & state.
PAAIA/IAPAC: How will you communicate your ideas to the public?
Vahedi: Through forums in the district, phone calls, direct mail, and door-to-door canvassing.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What are the fundraising goals of your committee?
Vahedi: We have accepted spending limits in the run-off of $275,000. The city will match the first $250 of a donation from an individual up to $100,000 in the aggregate. As such, we must raise approximately $175,000. Even though contributions are limited to $500, we raised $85,000 in the last three weeks. We must raise $90,000 over the next four weeks.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What differentiates you from your runoff opponent?
Vahedi: My opponent moved into the district last year after losing a race for water board and for State Senate. While I personally like him and have known him for over 15 years, I believe that someone should have a passion for the district they want to represent. More importantly, with the city facing historic deficits, my 12 years of auditing experience will be critical to locate waste so that the city can maintain the highest level of services possible without raising taxes.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What are the most critical issues facing the City of Los Angeles today?
Vahedi: Lack of an adequate investment in infrastructure, lack of sufficient police & fire officers, and traffic gridlock.
PAAIA/IAPAC: How does your campaign plan on addressing some of those issues?
Vahedi: We have identified some reasonable common sense solutions to many of the problems facing the city and the district. Because of our campaign and the voters understanding of the issues and solutions, we have been able to gain a tremendous amount of support.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What role do you think Iranian Americans can play in your campaign?
Vahedi: As mentioned earlier, If only 30% of the Iranian Americans in my district vote, it would be a very difficult mountain for my opponent to overcome. Since my primary win, many influential Iranian Americans have accepted the challenge to help turn out the Persian vote for the run-off on May 19, 2009.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What role can organizations like PAAIA/IAPAC play in assisting your
Vahedi: All successful campaigns are built on momentum. The support of PAAIA/IAPC would be a great momentum accelerator to my primary win. We have a chance to take a major city council seat, in the best part of Los Angeles, for the Iranian American community. With that victory comes the pride of our heritage and cements our footprints in the American dream. Thank you.
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