Shireen Ghorbani, alumna and former employee of the University of Utah, is running as a Democrat in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District in the upcoming election.
She earned a doctorate in communication from the U and described herself as a liberal and community-based candidate. Ghorbani was recently featured on the January cover of Time magazine among a number of women who are running for office in response to the election of President Donald Trump. With all of her guns at the ready, she’s excited to try to make a change in the current governing system.
“I am running for office because my mom worked her entire life as a schoolteacher, paid into the Medicare system and needed it when she got sick with pancreatic cancer and died in 2016,” Ghorbani wrote in the bio section on her website. “Medicare was there when she needed it. Every American deserves the same.”
The biggest issue for Ghorbani is health care. The loss of her mother to cancer demonstrated to her just how essential Medicare was to the average American confronting illness.
“Without Medicare, we would have needed to give up everything to pay for her treatment,” Ghorbani said. “We didn’t make a lot of money then, and without the government’s assistance, we would have needed to liquidate cars, belongings and potentially even her home. Because of Medicare, my mother was able to die with dignity.”
Her other primary motivation for running is her concern for the next generation’s future. Ghorbani has a 3-year-old, and she constantly finds herself thinking about the challenges children will face as they grow into adulthood. She wants to ensure young people are prepared for the jobs and challenges they might face.
“Having a child really motivates me to want to create a good future,” Ghorbani said. “I think about education and how affordable it is, employment and the quality of the world they live in.”
Ghorbani aims to address a variety of other issues as well, including transparency, education, environmental and what she calls “human dignity” issues.
“One of the things that I find really disappointing is that I, like many people, end up calling my representatives a lot and fail to see anything come of it,” Ghorbani said. “A couple of months ago I called and just asked if there was any time a representative changed anything based on feedback they had received from phone calls. Nobody who answered the phone could come up with a single example. I see a lot of representatives posting that they receive 10,000 calls that day and that they voted in favor of something for that reason. Here in Utah, I haven’t really seen that.”
Ghorbani believes transparency regarding policy information, as well as openness with information concerning phone calls received and public opinion, are crucial. Utah voters have different interests, and for that reason Ghorbani believes being honest with constituents is valuable. If elected, she intends to send out reports throughout her term concerning the calls she receives and plans to take them into consideration.
“I have the gumption to say that based on these calls, I will be voting this way,” Ghorbani said. “I have voted this way, and here is why. I think that our representatives across the board owe that to us as citizens.”
Ghorbani hopes to make higher education accessible to everyone.
“I grew up in North Dakota, which has a state bank,” Ghorbani said. “They offered low-interest rate loans to individuals seeking higher education. My interest rate in college was at 2 percent. Now, federal loans are around 6 percent.”
With the student loan debt crisis being in the trillions of dollars, Ghorbani is in support of moving toward free education to provide more people the opportunity to learn, and during her term, she would like to provide pathways toward that goal. In the short term, she wants to see lower interest rates on loans as well as more opportunities to receive student loan debt forgiveness.
“We are a nation of immigrants,” Ghorbani wrote on her website. “Immigration is a powerful part of our state’s history. I am the daughter of an immigrant. It makes me sick to think about families being ‘sent back’ to a place where their children have never lived.”
Ghorbani believes the immigration system needs to be repaired, but that it should be done in a way that preserves everyone’s dignity. She hopes to see things altered in a way that is accepting of other people and cultures where immigrants and undocumented individuals are not treated with undue harshness.
She feels similarly about other social issues. She is supportive of equal pay for equal work for people of all genders and sexual orientations, legalizing marijuana as a pain medication and demilitarization of the police force.
Ghorbani attributes a lot of her beliefs and choices to what she learned while working toward a doctorate in communication at the U.
“The program at the University of Utah in communications gave me a lot of background about concepts and activism,” she said. “A full-time job was also created for me out of a graduate assistant-ship I did in my last year at the U, and that got me started. I love what I do now, and I get to apply all of the things I learned at the U to my job on a day to day basis.”
Ghorbani hopes U students will vote in the Congressional race.
“Recognize the power that young people in Utah have,” she said. “The average age of Utahns is 28 years old, and many are younger. Right now we are ranked at about 38th in the nation for voter turnout. I would love to see students, who are most directly affected by current legislation, come out and vote and participate, get involved, speak to people who come from different backgrounds, learn about different points of view and vote. If we are gonna have a say in our future, we have to make ourselves heard.”