October 2, 2012, Washington, D.C. - The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) recently had the opportunity to sit down with Rob Sobhani to discuss his independent bid for the U.S. Senate from Maryland.
Sobhani is a Maryland-based author, former professor and business owner who has been actively engaged in the public arena throughout his career. As the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Caspian Group Holdings, he heads a multi-disciplinary group of companies with international business activities in the fields of energy.
Born in Kansas, Sobhani lived for a period during his early years in Iran, where his family originated. After 1979, his parents fled persecution in Iran and immigrated to the United States, where Sobhani had already begun his higher education. He earned first his bachelors and later his doctorate at Georgetown University, where he later served as an adjunct professor in political economy.
A prolific writer, Sobhani is passionate about policy issues and is frequently invited as an expert commentator on television programs. He has recently written a book on how to fix our immigration system, which he believes is practical and solutions-oriented. Sobhani’s political history includes two prior runs for the U.S. Senate in the Republican primaries of 1992 and 2000.
Sobhani, who turned in 77,000 signatures to get his name on the November ballot as an independent, announced his candidacy last month and has outspent both incumbent Democratic Senator Ben Cardin and his Republican challenger Dan Bongino on campaign ads. To date, Sobhani has self financed his campaign.
A recent Gonzalez poll of registered Maryland voters showed Sobhani and the Bongino in a virtual dead heat at 21% and 22% respectively, while Cardin maintains first place at 50% of the respondents. The poll result indicates that Sobhani may set a record performance for an independent or third party candidate in a Maryland U.S. Senate contest.
Click here to learn more about Rob Sobhani’s Campaign.
The following is a transcript of PAAIA’s interview with Rob Sobhani about the election and his campaign:
PAAIA: What motivated you to run for public office?
Sobhani: Our current system is broken, and I believe I can help fix it. I love this country, and this is my way of giving back. My family, like so many others, fled tyranny and found a welcoming new home in America. My experiences in business and international relations can help put our country back on the right course, so, in brief, I believe this is my duty.
PAAIA: What is the biggest challenge on faces when running for public office?
Sobhani: The system in our country has become a hostage to the ideologies of two parties that don't necessarily represent the views of so many Americans. Real agents of change face a challenge in the question, often posed, "something different will never work." Well, I believe its our obligation to do all we can to create a different option, a real alternative, and to shake things up on the basis of common-sense, practical solutions to our nation's problems. Because we are running out of time to get onto a better track.
PAAIA: What differentiates you from the other candidates for this position?
Sobhani: Basically it is my independence, and the fact that I will not be beholden to any party or any interest as Maryland's next senator. My qualifications in the private sector as a person who makes things happen also set me apart. The fact that I have not held elective office before is actually an advantage. So far, I've found that people like this independent approach and consider it quite refreshing.
PAAIA: How will you communicate your ideas to the public?
Sobhani: Since I announced my candidacy only three weeks ago, I have been running television ads at a pretty intense frequency throughout the state, and this is getting notice. Please visit my website and take a look at these ads, because they explain what I am trying to do. Because we are different than 'politics as usual,' the media is beginning to take notice. But the form of communication I find the most valuable is meeting people face to face, learning about their problems and talking about possible solutions. Every time I meet an ordinary citizen in my state, I am reminded of why I am doing this.
PAAIA: What are the most critical issues facing the state of Maryland?
Sobhani: The number one issue in Maryland, as in the rest of our country, is job creation. I have posed five concrete approaches to this, all based on raising private -- not taxpayer -- dollars to address exports, infrastructure, health care, housing and education. In the end, it all comes back to jobs, and the real-world solutions necessary to putting Marylanders back to work.
PAAIA: As the first American of Iranian descent to be elected to Congress, what function or role do you think you can play in addressing US-Iran relations?
Sobhani: We need a reasoned, moderate voice to represent our community as well as the challenges posed in the country from which we originated. Policy-makers today are too often influenced by the loudest voices coming from narrow interests and that leads to exaggerated responses that do not meet the actual problems we face. It's time to take the venom out of the rhetoric and start working towards a solution that I think we can all agree the world needs: a peaceful, democratic Iran that is a constructive actor in the region. That will make us all almost as proud as we are today to be Americans.
PAAIA: What is your position on immigration reform?
Sobhani: One of our top priorities needs to be strengthening the countries in our own hemisphere in terms of rule of law so that those who may prefer to return home safely can, and dealing compassionately with the realities we now face. I do not believe in deporting people, that is not a solution, but we must enforce the law. We are a nation of immigrants, so I do believe it is in our power to fix this if we tackle it honestly.
PAAIA: What role do you think Iranian Americans can play in your campaign and what do you expect from the community?
Sobhani: Now is a time to focus on what unites, and not divides us. Our community has seldom spoken with a common voice and there are too many internal disputes and intrigues. This does not serve us well. I'd ask those of our common heritage to envision the day when we are as politically organized and publicly engaged as some of the other groups woven into America have become. Given all the tumult in the Middle East today, I think we have a special responsibility to point the way towards a better path. Let's put aside debates and focus on a better way forward.
PAAIA: How can organizations like PAAIA/IAPAC help?
Sobhani: By giving me the opportunity to answer these question, you have already been helpful. Please get the word out about what we are doing in Maryland. I do not accept PAC contributions, but do appreciate the support and assistance of all Americans who think what I'm saying makes sense, and would appreciate donations from individuals who agree with what I'm doing. Please visit my website www.sobhani2012.com to find out more.