The People's Democratic Party

We should lead with our values, not follow the money.

Saira Rao is running for Congress to create an America that is built on justice, equity, and an economy that works for everyone.

If we work together to create a more representative government, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.

In recent years, with the passing of Citizens United, our campaign finance system has created an environment where corporations are using their deep pockets to promote their own special interests in government. Politicians who rely on corporate lobbyists and their PACs for political power aren’t working for the people. We deserve a government that represents its constituents, not its corporate donors, and a Party that leads on campaign finance reform.

Progressives should be leading with values, not following the money. I am rejecting any contributions from corporate PACs. I’ve been offered it before and have turned it down. I will fight for campaign finance reform and continue to reject money from these corporate special interests. It’s intellectually dishonest to say you have to accept money from corporate special interests. I would encourage everyone to vote out any of their elected officials who accept corporate PAC money.

Saira Rao launched her campaign with a commitment to refuse dirty money, preferring to win with the support of individual donations. In Congress, Saira will work to overturn Citizens United, outlaw super PACs, and push for legislation that gives greater transparency in campaign finance.

No one should have to choose between feeding themselves and buying life-saving medication. Saira believes that everyone has the right to the care they need to live happy, healthy, and productive lives.

My parents were doctors. My mother worked in a VA hospital, caring for America’s veterans. I was raised to believe that healthcare is a human right. I don’t think insurance companies should profit from those who are sick – those aren’t our values.

The Affordable Care Act covered millions of Americans and saved tens of thousands of lives. But it left out two key progressive policies: a public option and the right to bargain for lower drug prices. I propose we move towards universal healthcare, one that goes beyond Medicare-for-All, where every U.S. resident is covered from birth to death for all medically necessary care.

Under universal healthcare, premiums, copays, and deductibles would be abolished and everyone would have the freedom to choose their own doctor and hospital – no more trying to find out if your doctor is “in-network” or “out-of-network”

The majority of Americans support universal healthcare. Medical decisions are made together with doctors and patients, without insurance company interference – the way they should be. The plan must be equitable, accessible, and affordable. It must include the long-term disability care that many with disabilities depend upon to live. It must include access to abortion and reproductive care. It must cover our LGTBQ community by removing bias in healthcare and providing transgender health care, behavioral health, and HIV prevention and care.

The Democratic Party must reject the for-profit healthcare lobby and lead on a universal healthcare bill that includes full prescription drug, mental, dental, and reproductive healthcare coverage. Universal healthcare will ensure that everyone has access to high-quality healthcare, based on one’s medical needs, not their ability to pay.

Saira considers education to be one of the greatest attributes of her life. She attended private school and went on to graduate from the University of Virginia and NYU Law School. She worked for less than a year at the Center for Educational Innovation (CEI), where she learned that education reform is not the answer to our public education crisis. She wholeheartedly rejects the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) movement.

My whole life I have benefitted from class privilege. Both of my parents were doctors, which set me up for success in nearly every aspect of my life. I have been given access to the greatest education this country has to offer. I did nothing to earn this – I simply was born to parents who were able to send me to terrific schools. This the dictionary definition of privilege. Everyone, regardless of race, gender, gender identification, sexual orientation, and ability to pay, should have access to the kind of education I’ve received.

We have to direct more funding into our public education system. This district has opened too many charter schools, which is why Saira supports a moratorium on charter schools. Even though Saira currently sits on the board of a charter school, she cannot even consider the possibility of opening more until a thoughtful plan is produced from Denver Public Schools (DPS). 

We should focus on the schools we already have, drive more funding into their public school buildings, teachers, supplies, and most importantly, public school students. By opening more charter schools, we keep producing band-aid solutions to the problem, rather than getting to the crux of the issue.

When it comes to post-secondary education, Saira realizes that college is not suitable for everyone and at times unnecessary for some careers. In addition to universities, we should also drive investments into trade schools, apprenticeship programs, and other alternatives to universities.

She also believes in eliminating student loan debt and making public universities free.

There are generations of people living in this country who are burdened with $1.4 trillion in student loan debt. This debt sets people up to fail, preventing them from saving, purchasing a home, starting a family, and continues creating cycles of poverty.

Research from the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College shows that eliminating student loan debt would be a solution to jumpstarting our economy. Interestingly enough, Congress recently passed off $1.4 trillion in tax cuts to corporations. Saira proposes rolling back those tax cuts and helping out our students. The money is there, but our priorities are not aligned.

Concerning early childhood education, Colorado currently doesn’t require children to attend Kindergarten, as surprising as it may seem. Saira believes that investments in education should start sooner, starting with exceptional prenatal care, as well as free childcare, pre-Kindergarten, and Kindergarten.

Saira has a tremendous amount of respect for our educators and is disheartened by their low salaries.

We expect our teachers to be educators, babysitters, mentors, therapists, role models, and there’s even talks of arming them with firearms. Our teachers carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and are not compensated for it. According to the National Education Association, Colorado ranks 31st in the nation for average teacher salary, at $51,808. We must pay our teachers more, giving a salary that accurately depicts the great work they do for our children.

Every dollar spent on education is a dollar invested in bettering our future. Education is good for our society; we know that more educated countries consistently have better governments. Let’s raise the standard of education and emerge as a leader in education globally.

The attacks on bargaining rights, pensions, and worker protections has decimated the American middle class and kept others in poverty. It’s time for the Democratic Party to return to its roots and fight for the ninety-nine percent.

From the migrant farmers who grow our food to the nurses who care for our sick, every person has the right to a fair wage and a safe workplace.

In Congress, Saira will champion a federal minimum wage of at $15 an hour, sponsor anti-discrimination legislation, and fight for equal pay for equal work.

It is unacceptable that people of color are more likely to be shot by law enforcement and more likely to be incarcerated for minor crimes. America also houses 25% of the world’s prisoners, a disproportionate number of whom are black. This problem is only exasperated by for-profit prisons and their lobbying power in state and national government.

I want to state for the record that Black Lives Matter, and when I say that I mean that we need to be having these tough conversations about race and acknowledge that these biases exist, whether they are implicit or not. This country cannot stand idly by as unarmed black men, women, and children are gunned down and still call itself a leader in human rights. We cannot rest until we end police brutality and have a massive overhaul of our criminal justice system.

Ultimately, we need to eliminate systemic bias – with criminal justice, education, healthcare, everywhere. We need to invest in people who are re-entering society or recovering from drug addiction. As your Representative, Saira will invest in our local communities to build trust and understanding so that our neighborhoods thrive. She will push Congress to prioritize policies such as community policing, ending the death penalty, demilitarizing our police force, dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, and eliminating for-profit prisons.

When it comes to the death penalty, Saira believes it’s a cruel punishment that reveals the racial bias in our criminal justice system that should be eliminated. People of color, especially black men, are significantly more likely to receive the death penalty. In death penalty cases that were later exonerated, over 80% of the defendants were black. It’s time for America to join the 100+ countries across the world who have abolished the death penalty and end capital punishment once and for all.

We need to work with police officers and other public safety departments to ensure that they receive proper training on diversity and cultural competency. But more so, we need the people in power to acknowledge wrongdoings and carry out disciplinary action whenever an officer breaks the law. Rules are only effective if they are enforced, and these departments can be doing more to ensure that their staff are held to the highest standard.

There’s work that can be done on all fronts – from the moment a person first interacts with a police officer to how we’re treating those who have already been convicted. When we imprison an individual, we are tearing them away from their family, sometimes for a generation at a time. We don’t take the time to properly rehabilitate individuals, and neglect to give them the tools they need to succeed once they’ve completed their sentence. We must stop prioritizing criminalization over rehabilitation. We can implement policies that aim to decrease our prison population (such as probation or parole) while simultaneously keeping our communities safe. Reducing our prison population ultimately leads to a decreased negative impact on our communities who are most vulnerable to massive incarceration.

A child of Indian immigrants, Saira is a product of the American Dream. Congress must ensure fair treatment of all who come here, protection for political refugees, and a path to citizenship for Dreamers and their families.

The Democratic Party had a chance to push for a clean Dream Act when we had control of Congress under President Obama. They failed to act. Now innocent young Americans’ lives are on the line.

We must fight racist immigration policies and end our cruel deportation tactics. And we must work across national, state, and local lines to help immigrants and refugees integrate into our communities. We need to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.

Saira supports the 2nd amendment and the right to bear arms. 99% of gun owners are law-abiding citizens, but there are common-sense gun safety measures we can implement to address gun violence in this country.

We must get serious about getting money out of politics. The NRA broke their own records by spending more than $54 MILLION in the 2016 election. We have to set an example for voters, too – we can’t wait for the Supreme Court to overturn Citizens United.

How can we be serious about fighting back against NRA contributions when too many in our own Party seek special interest dollars from organizations that do not hold our values?

Overturn the ban on gun research. Congress currently prohibits federal funding for public policy research on gun violence – at the behest of the NRA, of course. Congress must overturn the ban on gun violence studies. It’s crucial for our ability to draft the most well-informed legislation.  

Comprehensive background checks and closing the gun show loophole. Colorado is one of a dozen states that currently require background checks at gun shows and at the point of transfer of any firearm. This should be implemented nationwide, where transfers should be processed through licensed dealers. Licensed dealers should maintain records of all firearm transfers and report all transfers to law enforcement agencies.

Keeping guns out of dangerous hands. We need to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and the mentally ill, ban the sale of weapons of war, and take a public-policy approach to mental health issues. Manufacturers and sellers of firearms should not be held accountable for the misuse of their products – that responsibility falls on the individual.

This year marks the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. We have failed to implement basic safeguards and school shootings haven’t gone away – they’re happening more frequently than ever before. Coloradans know all too well the price of gun violence. Only a comprehensive, public-policy approach that focuses on the different aspects of gun violence will reduce deaths. 

Saira is proud to have earned the Candidate Distinction from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and stands in solidarity with students who have participated in walkouts all over the country. We need elected officials to take action; simply talking about these tragedies will not prevent them from happening again.

Everyone has the right to clean air and water. The removal of environmental protections has had a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities, especially communities of color. In Congress and here in Colorado, Saira will stand up to polluters and protect the health and safety of all. Saira has endorsed the Colorado People’s Climate Justice Platform, where she vows to take action to fight climate change.

We must be all hands on deck in the fight for our environment. There is no Planet B.

America must reclaim its environmental leadership within the international community and lead by example. We must wean ourselves off fossil fuels, invest in clean energy, and rework our urban infrastructure to take cars off the roads and alleviate pollution in vulnerable neighborhoods. 

If our country chooses to send soldiers to war, we must care for them when they come home. It is our moral imperative to help veterans transition back into civilian jobs and make up the shortfall when the line of duty leaves them disabled or unable to compete in the same field.

On any given day, about 40,000 homeless veterans are struggling to survive in America. We should be ashamed.

Every veteran should have access to world-class healthcare, including mental health care to combat PTSD. For families who have made the ultimate sacrifice – the loss of an armed forces member – they deserve our care and support to rebuild.

Everyone deserves to be treated equally, which includes members of our LGBTQ community. Tragically, discrimination still persists in spite of recent advances. The LGBTQ community needs protection from discriminatory practices in everything from employment to healthcare, to education and public accommodations. Significant progress has been made, but until comprehensive federal LGBTQ civil rights protections are enacted, LBGTQ people remain vulnerable to discrimination in almost every sphere of life.

It is critical that we demonstrate progressive leadership in protecting and advancing LGBTQ protections and equality.

Saira supports legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression and identity to ensure that LGBTQ people are protected in your community. She supports the Equality Act, legislation that would ensure nationwide civil rights protections cover LGBTQ Americans. Furthermore, marriage equality must be protected, and we must fight to remove the barriers that prevent LGBTQ individuals from receiving sufficient and affordable healthcare.

Reproductive healthcare is healthcare, and must be included as part of any kind of healthcare coverage. We support repealing the Hyde Amendment and believe that access to family planning services is a fundamental human right. This should not be denied based on class, age, citizenship status, or other identifier.

The US is only 5% of the world’s population but we incarcerate 25% of the world’s prisoners. We need to prioritize rehabilitation over criminalization, especially when it comes to drug use. Our country spends a lot of resources to prevent drugs from coming into the border, but we don’t focus enough on helping those who are already addicted. We must stop these cycles of criminalization.

We need to adjust how we are investing in state programs. Rather than putting all our funding into the Dept. of Corrections, we need to divert funds to programs that focus on one’s mental health and get to the root of the issue. We need to understand why an individual is using drugs, and how can we help them to get better. The opioid crisis has shed a lot of light on this topic, where we need to create a treatment and harm infrastructure, one that intentionally focuses on rehabilitation, safe-use sites, and meeting people where they’re at.

Concerning our marijuana laws specifically, we need national reformation regarding decriminalization and legalization. Marijuana legalization has evolved since we first voted on it in 2012. Policies now must address social, racial, and economic justice, creating a framework that repairs the harms that marijuana prohibition has played in the past. We must end collateral consequences for marijuana, and pass immediate expungement for criminal records for nonviolent and minor marijuana possession offences.

Saira will advocate for marijuana decriminalization, drug defelonization, criminal justice sentencing reform, and creating an adequate treatment and harm-reduction infrastructure. We need to provide safe consumption spaces, provide individuals with the mental health care they need, and find ways to help them rehabilitate, rather than criminalizing them. Saira endorses Sen. Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act.

As your Congresswoman, I will be a spokesperson for local and statewide efforts, using my power and privilege in Congress amplify these local issues. I will fight to get funding channelled into the district that comes with drug reform-minded strings attached. I will publicly support local initiatives, and I will collaborate with local elected officials and groups to discuss these issues and find solutions to the task-at-hand. I will participate in conversations where members of Congress have been historically absent.