Assembly candidate, political newcomer criticized for his voting record

Political newcomer and State Assembly District 17 candidate Bilal Mahmood is under fire from some opponents for his sparse voting record.

Voting records show Mahmood – a scientist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and the youngest candidate in the race at 34 – voted in just six elections. They include the 2008, 2010, 2012, 2016 and 2020 general elections, and the special election for gubernatorial recall in 2021.

By comparison, Mahmood’s three candidates for the vacant Assembly seat representing East San Francisco have long voting histories in primaries and general elections for local, state and national elections in the city, where they all have held elected office. Mahmood’s voting record was reported for the first time by Local Mission.

While Mahmood has lived in San Francisco since 2014, he was registered to vote in Santa Clara County with his parents until August 2020, according to the San Francisco Department of Elections. Four of his ballots were cast in Santa Clara County and two in San Francisco.

It means he missed the primary election in March that year for the last race of David Chiu, whose shoes he hopes to replace in the Assembly. He voted for Chiu in the 2020 general election.

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Mahmood’s only political experience is working for six months in the Obama administration, but critics point out that he didn’t vote in Obama’s 2008 primary. Mahmood said that victory energized him , at the university at the time, in politics.

Mahmood, who is running on a government innovation platform, called the attacks an example of “political control” by more established opponents who are threatened by his run. He said that, like “most Americans and San Franciscans,” he focused on the presidential elections before engaging more politically in the pandemic.

“Like other political newcomers who have similar voting histories and challenge the status quo, I don’t have a perfect voting record,” he said.

Similar attacks have been launched against foreign candidates and now US Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, he added. New York voting records show Ocasio-Cortez voted in the 2008 Obama primary, but otherwise only voted in the general and presidential elections until the year before he ran. Bowman only voted in the primaries two years before running.

But some of Mahmood’s opponents say his minimal voting record is important as he aspires to an important higher post.

“Voting is our most basic and fundamental civic duty to democracy,” Supervisor Matt Haney said in a statement. “Voters expect candidates for elected office to vote regularly. … It’s really the bare minimum.

Haney, 39, voted in 22 elections spanning state, local and national races, records show.

City College administrator Thea Selby said Mahmood’s record was “disappointing”.

“We expect people to be civically engaged before they have the desire to run for office,” she said.

She referred to the fact that Mahmood had so far invested $300,000 of his own money in the campaign, saying “you can gain name recognition by working hard in communities and getting to know people and listening. for years and trying to make a difference, and you can earn name recognition by spending a lot of your own money.

Mahmood previously responded to criticism that his wealth could put him out of touch with voters by pointing to the fact that he was raised by immigrant parents who built their lives from the ground up. Regarding his personal expenses, he told the Chronicle he would do “whatever it takes” to win.

Selby, 58, pointed out that even before taking office later in life, she was a regular voter. She voted in 41 elections in San Francisco.

David Campos, 51, also voted in 41 elections. When asked to respond to criticism of Mahmood’s voting record, Campos said his campaign was “focused on building a coalition to push forward the change that California desperately needs,” citing care health, climate and homelessness as priorities.

Mahmood said he would continue to lead a “positive campaign”.

“We are above that and should focus on the issues,” he said. “There’s a pattern of political outsiders making outsized changes, and that’s what we want to see.”

Mallory Moench is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: mallory.moench@sfchronicle.com Twitter:@mallorymoench


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