This is the third in a series of interviews I’m doing with candidates for the 1st Congressional district. You can read my first impressions of these candidates as well my interviews with Laura Ruderman and Roger Goodman. I will gladly interview any candidate running for office this year, so if you would like an interview, please email me here.
Darshan Rauniyar is not your traditional candidate. He describes himself as a “non-politician,” “outsider,” and “citizen candidate.” But he still has big ideas for where our country needs to go.
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“I am running for Congress because the American dream is fading fast for hardworking families, because Washington, D.C. has failed to reflect who we are as a nation. Right now, there are over twenty million Americans out of work or underemployed. I see people losing jobs, losing homes, and unable to afford college and really struggling to meet their basic necessities day in and day out. I have decided to run for office as a small businessman so that I can do something about it,” Rauniyar takes a passionate stab at the table with a fist. “Right now, the people in Washington are more interested in creating controversies than solutions!”
Rauniyar was born in Nepal. “One of the poorest nations in the world,” he sighs, “but I came to America to chase the American Dream.”
He co-founded a company that “sought out and found a niche market,” in this case, flash drives. His company took flash-drives out of tech stores and packaged them for sale at supermarkets. “Technology should be serving people from all walks of life so the soccer mom going to check-out stops and says, ‘Wow, that’s what I need for my kids’ pictures. And it’s only 9.99!'”
He wants to apply his skills as a small businessman to the economy. “We need to close tax loopholes and bring the jobs back. We need to give incentives to corporations that keep jobs here, and work really closely with business community to meet their needs, to make sure we are meeting their needs in the future with regards to infrastructure and education.” He begins to tick off the steps in his economic plan. “We have corporations with 2.3 trillion dollars parked outside the US, we need to bring that money back here. It is a hard thing to do but we need to invest in our infrastructure, and that requires some targeted stimulus from the government, especially in the areas hit hardest by the recession.”
Rauniyar also brings a global perspective to the table. “We need a fair trade policy. Look at NAFTA for example, we passed it, we were told it was going to create jobs, but instead we have lost jobs.” He cites our 1.6 billion dollar trade surplus with Mexico before NAFTA and then after NAFTA, our sixty-six billion dollar deficit. “Let’s look at all these trade policies, and create an evaluation and report card for the public on how these trade deals have affected us. Now we need to go to the WTO and the countries, and say ‘We can open our business, but only if you open your borders too.'”
Speaking of jobs and international trade, what about the proposed Cherry Point Facility? “That’s something I’m waiting to decide on until I’ve seen the report on the environmental side. I’ve read the report from SSA about how many jobs have been created, but I’m more interested in how many of the jobs that are created are permanent jobs.. I’m a progressive and I want to make sure that it isn’t harming our community. We need to move away from fossil fuel, and coal-based energy to more renewable side of things.”
As to the issue as a whole, “People are very passionate about this because it is our community’s future, and our kids’ future. Here in Bellingham, we are trying to attract investment into our waterfront from businesses. That will be much harder with the train traffic.”
When asked about the state of the race and fundraising, Rauniyar pointed to his impressive small donor haul. “Fundraising is going very well. We have raised over $150,ooo over the last two quarters, not a single dime from PACs or lobbyists. I’m running a people-powered campaign.” Turning to our political system as a whole, he criticized the money race. “It is unfortunate that we grade our candidates by how they can raise money, that’s something I would change in Congress. I would sponsor a bill to overturn Citizen’s United.” He turned passionate, “Money is not speech and corporations are not people. This is something that goes against Democractic values. Take the money out of politics, lets take the lobbyists out of politics too!”
But before long, the affable businessman is back, talking about his strengths as a candidate. “My volunteer effort is really strong. I see my strength is myself. The more people I talk to, the more people who see me as viable. When they meet with me, they like me. I need to do more of that, rather than cornering myself doing fundraising. Money will not win this race, people we need to believe that. Candidates need to be judged as people, what their fundamental beliefs and principles are.”
As for other issues coming up this year, he fully supports marriage equality. “The government should not be in a position of telling you what to do with your personal life.” But he does not support I-502, the effort to tax, regulate and legalize marijuana. “It should be for medicinal purposes only.”
He has a whole nine-point plan on education, with some refreshing ideas, such as locking down tuition costs when you enter a university so that you pay the same amount in tuition all four years, which provides stability for families trying to see a kid through college. He cites the progress other countries have made, in Norway, Japan and Singapore, in turning out highly skilled workers and questions why we haven’t adopted some of their techniques.
But what does he think of his competition this year? “John Koster is the perennial candidate, like Darcy Burner, Laura Ruderman and Suzan Delbene. Koster is just another politician. I’d love to be in a debate and ask him how many jobs he created. He is too extreme for this district.”
But when it comes down to it, it is narrow ideology that is making Washington fall down on the job. “There is so much polarization, it creates stagnation, which hurts people and the economy. I’m going there with an economic program to work on both sides of the aisle. To work for solution not stagnation.”
Darshan Rauniyar is an outside the box candidate, and I appreciate his steady optimism and unwavering focus on jobs. He lives up to his description as a non-political candidate, and in a weaker field, I would peg him as a strong candidate. However, with Burner, Delbene and Ruderman sucking up most of the oxygen, I have to place him in the “possible dark horse category”. That said, check out his website, he has some good ideas that no one else is talking about.