Irvine native Alex Mohajer aims to be the first openly gay legislator elected from Orange County — and potentially the only Iranian in the California Legislature.

Mohajer, president of the LA-based political advocacy organization Stonewall Democrats, is running for a Senate seat that includes Costa Mesa, Irvine, Laguna Niguel and Villa Park. If elected, Mohajer, the son of a single mom from Iran, said he wants to advocate for working-class families and address mental health resources if elected.

“I understand the struggle and sacrifice of families like mine and the value of a good public education which is why I’m going to fight for the economic dignity of working-class families, small business owners and teachers right here at home,” Mohajer said. “We also need to address mental health in the state and make sure we expand access to resources.”

It is the ongoing demonstrations in Iran led by women — as well as the lack of Iranians in the California Legislature — that inspired him to run, he said.

“To the Iranian diaspora, there’s not as much attention on this as we’d like,” Mohajer said. “My mom taught me at a young age to be civically minded, and she taught me the value of engagement and how important it is, particularly for immigrant families, to vote, to show up.”

His activism for “Iranian people’s fight for basic human rights” extends to the rights of women, LGBTQ people and marginalized communities at home, Mohajer said.

“These issues are intersectional and relevant to each other,” he said. “And so that’s a lot of what I want to be centering as I get into my campaign.”

Climate, too, is important to Mohajer, who said the U.S. “cannot rely on a gridlocked federal government to move us on climate change.”

“I’ve taken a pledge to accept no fossil fuel money in my campaign to be free to advocate for bold, swift climate change action,” Mohajer said. “And I want to bring clean energy economy right here to Orange County.”

The 37th Senate district — now represented by Sen. Dave Min, D-Irvine, who earlier this year launched a bid for California’s 47th congressional district — encompasses a wide swath of Orange County, including Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel on the coast and taking in several inland cities, including Costa Mesa, Irvine and Orange.

Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, who was drawn into SD-37 during the redistricting process, is also vying for the seat.

Mohajer, who recently turned 38, is considerably younger than the average of California legislators. And he believes his age and unique background as a gay Iranian American born and bred in Orange County gives him a competitive edge in a country that has “lived through so much.”

“We lived through (Donald) Trump, George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, COVID-19 and an insurrection. The world is a different place with different needs,” he said. “Hate crimes and gun violence are on the rise. And so we can’t be approaching these issues with the same old tactics. I think it’s time for a new generation of diverse, intersectional perspectives to come into elected office.”

He said he plans to bring a broad coalition of people to support him and advocate for conversations across the aisle, which he said has been lost over the past decade.

“I’m a Democrat, but I grew up with Republicans in this district who are like family to me. I break bread with them, and I love them. And I know that we may see eye-to-eye on everything, but I love and respect them all the same,” he said. “And I’m going to advocate for the policies and the issues that I think are the best way forward.”

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