Challenges with Ballot Statement Limited Him From Addressing Incumbent–Upholding Status Quo Systems That Filter Out Diversity

SAN FRANCISCO—As candidate statements are mailed out to San Francisco residents in the coming days, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s challenger Shahid Buttar’s blank ballot statement symbolizes the “whiteout” of his voice and the political systems rigged in favor of powerful Washington interests rather than the diverse constituents of San Francisco. He is releasing a statement online instead.

As a grassroots candidate running against an established Incumbent, Buttar experienced a ‘whiteout’ of his voice from the moment he entered the race—ranging from the Incumbent’s refusal to debate, suggestions from political consultants to whitewash his appearance and grooming, a lack of due process from local clubs following unfounded accusations, and either a denial of press coverage in some cases or downright misrepresentation and failure to correct knowingly false information in others.

“Our campaign has engaged thousands of supporters and voices from every part of the city and every state in the union,” said Buttar. “Yet, local and national journalists generally buried their heads in the sand, failing to even acknowledge our federal representative faces a challenge from a fellow Democrat in a general election for the first time in a generation. With the gravity of this election so inherent, voters need all the information possible to make informed choices.”

A search of press coverage shows Buttar received 0.07 percent of the share between him and Pelosi, conducted from a Muckrack search from September 11, 2019 to September 11, 2020. The coverage often failed to cover significant policy differences between the two candidates—notably Buttar’s commitment to Medicare for All and Green New Deal in the face of the pandemic. Instead, professional journalists have focused on distractions like Buttar’s activities to interact with voters in a pandemic and Pelosi’s trip to a hair salon.

The experience is indicative of why the majority of Congress is still white and few Muslims have been elected. According to Pew data on the 116th Congressional session, 78 percent of Congress is white.

While media were abuzz with Pelosi’s challenge in the House from diverse progressive candidates known as “The Squad,” none picked up that she is being challenged by a candidate in her home district who aligns with the very values of The Squad. An immigrant of Pakistani descent, Buttar is a Black Lives Matter, Occupy, anti-war, and immigrants’ rights activist and lawyer who graduated from Stanford Law School. Not owning a home or a car and in student loan debt, he is a true representative of most Americans right now, and he supports the same progressive policies aligned to her left.

“Pelosi‘s refusal to debate an opponent for over 30 years doesn’t just disrespect me and our campaign. It marginalizes voters, our city, and the democratic process.”

Buttar was also subjected to smear campaigns relying on stereotypes and racial tropes of Muslim men. Local press outlets—and political clubs reacting to them—rushed to judgement based on uncorroborated claims while ignoring evidence and witnesses, including women of color.

While the racism and implicit bias in our political system has been clear since the start of the country, it remains taboo to call it out. The past four years have inspired many people to stand against structural injustices in just about every industry, and people marginalized in every corner of society are speaking up. The same is now happening in politics from Washington to San Francisco. Representation is important in order for our policies to be intersectional and truly help all Americans.

“The systemic silencing of diverse voices skews our democracy, but I have faith in my neighbors across San Francisco to make intelligent choices, even if misinformed by corporate sources,” Buttar adds.

Buttar’s campaign released a toolkit recommending how concerned individuals can help promote more diverse voices and representation in his own race and others ranging from—volunteering for and donating to the campaigns of people of color with different backgrounds who align with your vision and ideals, reaching out to the press to demand better coverage of diverse candidates, and putting pressure on political organizations to organize a debate. The only way that We the People are going to gain our voice is to demand it.

For media interviews with Shahid Buttar or others who observed the process, please contact Patricia Brooks or [email protected] View Buttar’s full candidate statement here.

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CONTACT: Patricia Brooks, [email protected]