My name is Ankur Patel, and I am running for California State Assembly District 45. I am the child of two immigrant parents who moved to the West Valley, where I was born and raised. Throughout my childhood, my parents taught me the power of education, the importance of community, and the value of hard work.
When I was eleven years old my father ran for Congress. While he cherished the opportunities America provided our family, he knew there was a clear imbalance between the people with power and those of us without. His campaign wasn’t built on raising money from corporations, insurance companies, or lobbyists who would influence his decisions and priorities. He was a simple man who rode the bus to public places, shopping malls, and gas stations to talk to everyday people about what they thought government should look like. (Al Martinez, Los Angeles Times 1996, “Mr. Patel Tries for Washington”)
But corruption has become institutionalized through lobbying, campaign contributions, and backroom deals between political insiders and corporations.
My father didn’t win when he ran for Congress, but the experience taught me a lot. A candidate shouldn’t run for office because they believe they have a few good ideas, the backing of big dollars, or they see a political opportunity. A candidate should run for office when they believe they can represent the vision of their community.
I believe in the transformational power of education and we need representatives at the State Level that will prioritize education. As an Assembly Member, I will improve the relationship between the State and neighborhood schools.
When I studied at UCLA, I learned about the impact human activities had on our local and global environment, including the extinction of species across the planet. That’s where I first got involved in environmental and political campaigns — I remember being out on campus or on the street, clipboard in hand, asking people, “Do you have a minute for the environment?” It was an innocent start, much like my father’s, but where beliefs turned to action was during the Aliso Canyon Gas blowout in 2015.
As the School and Community Coordinator for LAUSD Board Member Scott Schmerelson, I spent day after night listening to parents, teachers, and community members about the ongoing blowout, and the health symptoms experienced by people across the area. Students and teachers were getting sick, and for the first month not many government agencies were responding to the scale of the crisis. It was not a quick or easy task, but we relocated two schools over the winter break to ensure the safety of the faculty and students. I’m proud of the work we did to protect people and the integrity of our public schools, and I will bring that same ethic of listening and acting to the Assembly.
After I graduated from UCLA in 2007, I spent time in Seoul, South Korea and Beijing, China where I taught English as a second language to school children. This experience was transformative, and gave me a direct perspective on the important work teachers do, and the requirements for student success in the classroom. It also broadened my cultural perspective, and made me realize just how important clear communication is.
After my teaching experience abroad, I moved back to the Valley and got local. I served as treasurer of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, and represented my community to the City of Los Angeles. At the same time I was earning a Master’s degree in transportation planning at CSUN, exploring ways to reduce traffic in the Valley. My 90 page thesis published in 2014 details how the Los Angeles Department of Transportation contracts out bus services and where there could be improvements in how public tax dollars are spent (Patel, 2014).
In my time at CSUN, the California State University Board of Trustees moved to raise the already high tuition. Today, the cost of higher education continues to increase, making it unaffordable for many, and putting many others in extraordinary amounts of debt as they begin their careers. I got involved with the student effort to challenge the tuition hikes, and as an Assembly Member, we will work together to keep costs low, while providing quality public education for Californians.
A strong public education system, from cradle to career, is at the heart of a well functioning democracy. My experience with LAUSD has proven to me that people, parents, teachers, and students all have legitimate criticisms, most want to help solve the challenges at their school, but different people have different ideas on how to improve our public schools. Through the course of the campaign, we will get into the details of how to raise the quality of education at individual school sites in Assembly District 45 and systematically across California.
Even though I aim to be the education candidate, my work experience in the 45th Assembly District is broad. From being an organizer with the National Union of Healthcare Workers, I know the real work of our healthcare system is done by healthcare professionals, not corporate insurance companies. I will wholeheartedly work toward a single-payer publicly administered universal healthcare system, and that is why the California Nurses Association has endorsed our campaign.
Having been an activist and volunteer on the front lines with Food & Water Watch, I will prioritize clean water, clean air, and clean energy.
As a new member of the Valley Chapter of the Los Angeles Tenants Union, I will be a strong voice for real solutions to our housing crisis. We need to put housing first, work towards better laws on rent control, and make sure taxes that are supposed to be used to help people living on the streets aren’t misappropriated and wasted.
This campaign is not about superficial solutions and empty rhetoric. The rich are getting richer and the poor stay poor. Rape and violence against women has been justified and systematically perpetuated throughout history. In this moment, we have the opportunity to build something better. It is not the time to be timid or to stay quiet, it is time for us all to hear the women in our lives, and stand with them.
We have heard stories from every corner of society and I have seen it first hand. There is no hiding the widespread power imbalance that manifests in unequal pay, the fact that women are too often casually disrespected, and sexual harassment is rampant. As a man, it may be uncomfortable to be introspective about our own actions and relationships, but it is a learning moment — we need to demand better of ourselves and of those around us.
As the election progresses, I hope we can consolidate progressive energy and values behind the candidate that best represents our district’s vision.
This campaign for State Assembly will raise the conversation on essential issues for our community: healthcare, the environment, education, traffic, and housing. Most importantly, we will shine a light on the corruption and systematic abuse of power that must no longer define our politics. We need a moral revival in our political system, where people act based on principle not political expediency. We need elected representatives who will do what is right and are in it for the right reasons.
I am listening and ready to take action. Our campaign for Assembly is about a bold vision that recognizes economic rights, broad principles of democracy, and unites people to realize the potential of our District.
My name is Ankur Patel, I am running for California State Assembly District 45, and I’d appreciate your vote, endorsement, volunteer hours, and donation.