On June 4, the California Democratic Party nominee Anila Ali, a parent of a University High School (UHS) alumna and middle school teacher in South Bay, will run for the California State Assembly. Contending to replace incumbent Allan Mansoor, Anila Ali will be competing in the June 3 State Assembly primary against business owner Karina Onofre (D), Huntington Beach Mayor Matthew Harper (R), business owner Emanuel Patrascu (R) and city councilmember Keith D. Curry (R). The candidates are campaigning to become the representative of the 74th district. The 74th district includes the cities of Irvine, Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, Laguna Woods and Newport Beach.
Candidates for the State Assembly are focusing on education reform, specifically for accessibility and funding for public school education systems. Though both Anila Ali and her opposing candidate Matthew Harper are trustees of their respective high school district boards, Anila Ali is the only teacher running for State Assembly. Although Ms. Ali acknowledges that the 74th district’s teachers are nationally ranked and highly qualified, she said, “We do have needs that have not been met by the State when it comes to our schools.” To improve the quality of her district’s public education system, Ali proposes to reduce class sizes, rebuild schools in need of repair, invest in technological improvements in public schools and hire more professors for more classes specifically in community colleges. Ali said, “Our district has not had a seat at the table for decades. It’s time we send someone to Sacramento who will have that seat and will advocate for our children and families and bring money back to our district to keep our schools great.”
While her opposing candidates have placed more emphasis on financial reform, Anila Ali has focused a portion of her campaign to civil rights advocacy pertaining especially to cultural unity. She states in her advertisements and campaign events the phrase “inclusion of all community members.” After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Ali, along with her Jewish and Christian colleagues, wrote a children’s book called Mommy am I a…? to emphasize the importance of the uniformity of a community’s racial and religious heritage despite segregationist mindsets. When asked how she relates the book’s anti-discriminatory message to her campaign, Ali said, “As educators, we are role models and facilitators of social reform. As an Assemblywoman, I will have an open door policy for all my constituents.”
With improving statewide unemployment rates since 2010, candidates for the 2014 State Assembly have proposed various solutions to further improve employment opportunities and infrastructure in their respective districts. Specifically, Ali proposes to create more civilian jobs by rebuilding school and building public parks and better roads. According to Anila Ali, the California state legislature predicts a budget surplus for next year due to Governor Brown’s fiscal policies. Ali said, “The 74th district can grow significantly with the surplus. If I am elected, I will work with the majority party – the Democratic party – to bring back more than .06 cents to a dollar to invest in our district, which is all we get presently.”
Ali’s relatives inspired her to contribute to politics. Ali’s grandmother was the first Muslim woman to be elected to the male-dominated Assembly in Hyderabad, India, more than seventy years ago. After her election, Ali’s grandmother advocated for women’s rights, building homes and shelters for South Asian women. Ali’s father, a journalist, author and ex-Director of the Third World Population Planning Committee of the United Nations, also motivated her to voice her opinions and serve her community through politics. Reflecting on her choice to run for State Assembly, Ali said, “I was dismayed by what incumbent Allan Mansoor had done in his city. He mistreated the homeless and the immigrants. Once I heard Mansoor was no longer running, I decided to run for office. I pledge to represent citizens in the community with integrity.”
Ali is a member of the California Teacher’s Association. Labor unions and organizations, including the National Women’s Political Caucus, Democracy for America and Women in Leadership have endorsed Ali’s campaign. Ali said, “These endorsements have made me more determined to be in the top two in this very important June 3 Primary. I am honored by the faith people have placed in my candidacy, and I shall do all I can to honor it.”
At the Speaker Series today during Office Hours, Ms. Ali spoke to UHS students about her experience as a public school teacher and opportunities for high school students to participate in public policy initiatives and campaigns. After speaking to Ms. Ali about her initiatives for public education funding, Jack Ren (Fr.) said,” She is very inspirational person. She has a lot of courage. She gave us a chance to see local politics more closely and understand the impact of state level government on our education.”
By KRUTHI RENDUCHINTALA