Why are you running for State Assembly?
I felt compelled to take action because I saw complacency in career politicians who represented us. I witnessed this firsthand after the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting — it was traumatizing for everyone in San Jose to watch mass shootings hit not just our community, but in El Paso and Dayton shortly after. Yet there was no initiative from local representation to hold town halls and help heal a grieving community that needed them. Complacency from the top was a continuing theme I heard from the hundreds of voters we spoke to over the course of the campaign. In fact, many said we were the first campaign that knocked on their door in more than 20 years of living in the same community. Solutions for our district’s issues are driven by party loyalists, partisan groups, and special interests, and that is why our middle-class taxpayers continue to pay the price for ineffective measures to deal with our housing crisis and public education, and our younger generation is saddled with student debt and limited economic mobility. We are at a critical juncture in California, and we need outsiders who tackle our issues with urgency and reflect the voice of our constituents.
What do you love most about District 25?
I love that our district openly celebrates its diversity and the traditions and histories of all cultures that live here. It’s deep in the history of cities that make up District 25. When Soviet Premier Krushchev wanted to see how average Americans of different ethnicities coexisted, he visited the Sunnyhills Neighborhood in Milpitas, where immigrants and native-born Americans worked together in the auto plants and had a thriving middle-class community. At the same time, there is unity in the midst of this diversity and we see our community come together in moments of crisis and pain. Whether it be towards helping the homeless or victims of wildfires in Napa or gun violence in Gilroy, the culture of service and giving in our community of District 25 is an inspiration to all who seek to serve it.
If elected, what would your legislative priorities be?
My priorities are to: 1) create long-term solutions for our housing crisis through public-private partnerships that don’t increase tax burdens on our community, 2) make debt-free public college a reality for students by eliminating administrative waste and price-gouging, 3) reform public school standards to prepare our children for the digital economy, 4) pass 21st century technology regulations to curtail online hate speech and extremism, 5) create a statewide public option for affordable healthcare, and 6) create infrastructure and public transit jobs that reduce traffic congestion.
What are some things you see that are happening in local government right now that inspire you?
Many don’t think our local government can do much to take a stand on national issues, but we’ve seen great examples here at home. Supervisor Chavez and Supervisor Ellenberg have championed a number of initiatives in Santa Clara County to promote women’s empowerment and economic mobility. We ended 2019 with the first Children’s Budget for Santa Clara County, which allocates $3 million for childcare facilities and improving access for disadvantaged mothers. We also saw the allocation of $5 million for supporting sexual assault victims, a local initiative to rebuke the Trump administration’s funding cuts to Planned Parenthood by expanding services locally for women who rely on affordable care. What this shows all of us is that our advocacy doesn’t stop at Capitol Hill — standing for our values can start here.
Where should the state’s priorities be in terms of K-12 education? Do you have any proposals/ideas for increasing funding in education?
Public schools are both a powerful engine of social mobility and key to a skilled workforce for California. I would prioritize:
-Supporting Asm. Mullin’s AB578, the STEM Pathways Act, and increasing the emphasis and funding for STEM education, particularly in underprivileged, low income areas.
-Promoting apprenticeship placement for college students and leveling the professional playing field for all socioeconomic groups through transparent public-private partnerships with California universities
-Reducing class size and individualizing instruction in our public schools
In terms of expanding funding for education, I believe that we need to reform administrative waste in our public school system. Our current budget for the state of California is one of the highest appropriated budgets for education, yet we still spend less per student compared to other states in the nation. We have schools that are underfunded and without means to provide adequate teacher pay or student services, and it has hit a crisis point in District 25.
Any proposals for bringing more affordable housing to our region?
Delivering housing means we have flexible zoning and pro-density laws, shortening time to review housing proposals and cut regulations, upfront investment by private sector in addition to government budget, and most importantly, exercising fiscal responsibility in how we spend public money that is already allocated. Some initiatives we should start enacting in 2020 are:
-Prioritizing building apartments, condos and townhomes over single-family residential units
-Supporting Sen. Weiner’s SB50 and reforming our outdated approach to zoning laws
-Make it easier to build ADUs (accessory dwelling units) by cutting down the red tape and permitting process
-Have a statewide requirement for 20% of units built in all new developments to be designated below market-rate housing
Do you have any ideas that would help our state government function more effectively?
We need leadership that can break the stranglehold of special interests in Sacramento so we can start making government work for us. That means having representatives who are not financially beholden to donors that have different agendas from what constituents want, and who come from a background of delivering results. As someone who comes from the private sector, there is a strong culture of accountability and transparency. If a company doesn’t deliver, they face plunging stock prices, layoffs, and cost cutting measures. But in the public sector and government, if they cannot deliver outcomes, or it’s too politically inconvenient to take bold stances because it affects outside interests that pay for their campaigns, they simply appropriate another bond or tax, or table a bill, or commission a study, or pass half-measures. Who loses? Our middle class pays the price, we pass the buck onto the next generation, or we simply have no solution. We need a paradigm shift in our political culture that changes this mentality.
What do you think the biggest issue is that’s impacting residents in our district, and how do you intend to help fix it?
The biggest issue in our district is the rising cost of living and fragmentation of community. We see more and more families struggling with rent, our younger generation is unable to settle down and start families here, small businesses are forced to close shop due to being priced out, and there is a growing insecurity that the diversity and compassionate culture of our district is under attack because of the rhetoric in our national dialogue. I believe it’s necessary for our leadership to be bold in both how we address this divide in legislative action and how vocally we stand for our values as a proud, diverse district.
What is something unique that you bring to the table?
I don’t have the background of a typical Assembly candidate because I don’t view our issues from the perspective of government experience; I view it from the perspective of direct experience. As a millennial homeowner, a daughter of immigrants, and as someone who works in Silicon Valley, my story is common in District 25. I’ve been a new grad that had to settle for low wages in my first job, and commuted three hours a day from my parent’s home because I could not afford to rent in the district. I saved up to pay for night school classes in computer science, because neither my company nor the state offered anything to help cover the cost. And after working my way up to a well-paying career, I still struggled to buy my first home in San Jose, where I was continuously outbid by private investors. These issues of housing, mobility and access to opportunity have been real for me. At the same time, I also bring private sector experience in how we can engage in pragmatic problem-solving, holding the right stakeholders accountable, and not continuing to choke our middle-class to bear the brunt of costs.
What is something that not everyone might know about you?
I enjoy trying new recipes and my husband and I are big foodies. In fact, there’s a video of me on our Facebook page where I took live policy questions while preparing chicken tikka masala! My husband is Chinese American, so in our home we cycle through multiple cuisines. Among some of the dishes I’ve mastered so far– a traditional “Lion’s Head” meatball soup and homemade dumplings, and my favorite dessert, tiramisu.
What do you love to do in your spare time?
My husband and I love classical music and have both learned an instrument — my husband plays the violin and I love to accompany him on the piano. I am also an avid traveler, and have visited 15 countries so far! I love traveling as I think it is a great way to expand one’s perspective of how societies around the world tackle the same problems we face in our own country. I’ve traveled to several countries throughout Asia and Europe, as well as Canada and Mexico. My most recent visit was to Poland, where I had a chance to tour Auschwitz Birkenau, hike the Tatra Mountains in Zakopane, and visit Warsaw to learn about the history of my favorite composer, Frederic Chopin.
Anything else you’d like to share?
As a daughter of immigrants and a lifelong Democrat who grew up in a deeply conservative town, I’ve understood my entire life what it means to get along with those who hold different views from you. It’s a philosophy that governs how I view policy and what I believe it takes to make change. I also think our politics is demanding a new look at representation and what it means to see those in public life who look and sound like the communities they represent. In the Assembly 25 race, we have had a remarkably diverse field of candidates from different cultures, generations, and views. If I was elected, it would be the first time we have ever had an Indian American woman in the California State Assembly.
Where can people go to learn more about you?
You can visit our website, gupta2020.com, to learn about my platform and more! For the latest events, visit our Facebook page, “Natasha Gupta for Assembly 2020,” or any of our social media handles @Gupta4Assembly.
And finally, why should people vote for you?
I am on the ballot because of 1000 voters in District 25–not from buying a spot paid by party hacks and special interests who handpick our candidates for us year after year. As an outsider, I am not bound by “business as usual” in Sacramento because I am grassroots-funded and endorsed by our community, not by an establishment that has failed to engage with us. I bring technology private sector experience and as a millennial daughter of immigrants, I represent the voice of our next generation. As we continue to grapple with the tectonic changes brought by the digital economy, the housing shortage, our public education crisis and the policy challenges these issues present, our state needs voices at the table who can speak to these experiences and offer real solutions. If you have felt Sacramento has not spoken for you, this time, you have a choice. If you yearn for us to unify and not divide, if you want to usher in a culture of accountability and transparency, this time, you have a choice. This time, you have a choice to vote in a government that works for us.
Find out more at: gupta2020.com