WASHINGTON, D.C. – A virtual reality manager for a San Francisco company has declared his candidacy for governor, arguing that his job gives him the edge to harness technology to boost his campaign. Political neophyte Shubham Goel, 22, said he had confidence this would help him overcome the uphill battle concomitant with political inexperience and a slender campaign kitty.
Goel, born and raised in the Bay Area, is running as an independent.
“Part of the reason I wanted to run is just to show young and everyday people that we can change our policies and environment with the latest technology and how access to information has made it possible for any type of person regardless of background to make a change,” he told India Abroad. “I want to help represent the Indian community and help make our voices much more heard in discussions regarding public policies and state decisions.”
The only child of Vipul and Karuna Goel, who hail from Lakhno and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, Goel recently graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a major in economics and a minor in film and television.
He works as a virtual reality CRM manager for a leading virtual reality company in San Francisco and was previously employed by the nonprofit Dream Out Loud, where he helped with analytics and consulting. Dream Out Loud brings awareness to the water shortage for elephants who escaped poachers and reside in sanctuaries in Botswana. His work experience before that revolved around working in software and entertainment companies where he said he helped with patent filing, data analytics and marketing.
Here are excerpts from his interview with India Abroad:
Q: I believe this is your first foray into the political hustings. What made you take the plunge? And why at this late stage with the primaries slated for June?
A: This is the first time I am running for political office. I decided to run because it’s tough to see everyone in this state struggle with the policies and legislation currently enacted by our state government. I’m an everyday born-and-raised Californian who has lived all throughout California including the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Central Valley and San Francisco and I want to fix the issues for all Californians with practical and feasible solutions. California has the highest poverty rate in the nation, and despite having two titan industries including Hollywood and Silicon Valley, we do not have an economic climate that encourages businesses to stay in California. We also have a housing crisis where a demand that massively outweighs the supply combined with outdated housing regulations have created skyscraper housing/rental prices that no one can afford. I want to show people that you don’t need to have a huge political backing or large amount of wealth to make a change but rather all you need is conviction and grit. I hope this shows young people and anyone in California that no matter your situation, or background, you can change things for the better as long as you believe in your plan and take action. Also a big part of this campaign is I wanted to help represent the Indian community and help make our voices much more heard in discussions regarding public policies and state decisions.
Q: What are your most pressing priorities that you will hit the ground running with? And how do you set yourself apart from the other experienced politicians running in the primary?
A: One of the most important things I want to fix is the housing crisis in California. Local zoning, outdating laws, long approvals, and massive lack of housing has caused prices to astronomically soar and cause longterm California residents to leave the city. A McKinsey study states we need 3 million more housing units by 2025 to keep up with capacity. First thing we should do is to allow 100 percent residential development on vacant commercial zoned properties as many of these properties have available space and land. Los Angeles does this and they are the fastest-growing housing production in California right now. Also we must reduce the approval/rejection time of housing projects to 6-12 months so that local jurisdictions can make quicker decisions and building can be completed quicker. I also strongly support and propose an amended Senator [Scott] Wiener’s SB 827 bill that allocates for 4-8 story transit housing within .5 miles of transit in San Francisco. I would like to amend his bill to include tech companies that have more than 2,000 employees, tech companies that are coming into California with 500-plus employees. This will now compensate for these companies bringing all these jobs without creating housing for them. This solution will create millions of housing units for California, lower the price of the housing market and increase mobility in California as more people using transit.
Q: That’s pretty ambitious since availability of housing and then affordable housing is undeniably one of the biggest problems in California. What else is on your laundry list of priorities?
A: Health care because it has several inefficiencies that can be improved, which will lower costs and provide better care for the people of California. The first thing I will do is mandate that the government releases health care data of willing Medicare and Medical patients into a public database so that California health insurers who use artificial intelligence can use the data to predict health situations of new patients much better. This will lower costs as a whole. I will also make the insurance companies charge at least 30 percent less for all virtual health appointments versus in person visits to encourage more people to use these types of appointments…I will build one Health Care form that every provider can use with their data and is a centerpiece of data holding for all providers…We must also dramatically improve the mental health of Californians. Social media companies have used the variable rewards effect to hook us to use their platforms--the same psychological tricks that casinos use to create addicted gamblers. As a result, everywhere you go, people are on social media sites for hours and hours…I will ban social media usage for kids in K-12 schools across California and encourage workplaces, schools and our government to advocate for less time on these sites and more time outdoors. Also I believe the governor of California should no longer have the power to appoint the 18 regents for the nine UC campuses. The members of the Board of Regents will be elected by the students of the UCs. This will make the board more accountable, transparent and representative of the UC students and campuses they reside over. … And then, I will ax the tax. We are in a budget surplus of about $6 billion and now it is the time to reward the grieving Californian taxpayers. We don’t need more tax revenue but much better allocation of our budget.
Q: What makes you think that a young and inexperienced candidate like you…can even get a fraction of your list of priorities through in the country’s largest state with all of its underlying issues and plethora of factions?
A: I definitely feel my viewpoint and approach to our state’s issues make me extremely different from the other candidates. It’s awesome working in virtual reality because I get to see how all of this new technology is starting to improve education, social communication and change the ways we can solve problems. I will use technology such as low cost 3-D printing machines to build 10 percent of our housing units on vacant commercial zones and build low cost homeless shelters/housing, embed computer science in public schools to improve learning, create a centralized traffic app that takes real time data from all traffic sources and uses machine learning to offer the best route for morning commuters, incorporate artificial intelligence to analyze aggregated health patient records in order to predict future health encounters for people which will cut healthcare costs, and incorporate brackish desalinization/ drip irrigation to help solve our water shortage.
Q: Are you in solidarity with the recent proliferation of student movements, including the one started by the kids at Florida's Parkland high school against gun violence? How do you intend to find a solution to this polarizing problem?
A: Yes, it’s really great to see how all those young people are using their platform to advocate for change with gun laws. They carry lots of courage which is an admirable quality. I can relate a lot to them with the fact that they are young and wanting to make a positive change around them. A step towards the right direction is to create a mandatory 4-7 month educational and safety course for first time gun purchasers just like a driver’s license class/tests and enforce stricter background checks at gun shows and in retail that incorporates a larger set of data pertaining to the buyer. Also, I think we must dramatically improve mental health.
Q: You are up against some of the most experienced politicians. How do you intend to make an impact and how do you convince people that it is not just a lark or fad to get some prominence or as the cliche' goes, 'Your 15 minutes of fame?" Or have you always been interested in politics and wanted to serve in public office? If so, why is it you didn't first run for local, county, or state office, before deciding to make a gubernatorial run, which cynics could say is extremely quixotic and an exercise in futility for a political neophyte like you?
A: I can understand where the cynics are coming since I am much younger than the other candidates but I am running because I wanted to change the state for the better for all people. I think it’s extremely dumb that people judge a candidate’s seriousness with the amount of money they have or the amount of endorsements they have. Some people think it’s a joke, others think it’s a publicity stunt gone bad, but they are all wrong. Frankly, it never mattered to me what people thought of myself or my campaign. All that matters is what I think and I am proud and passionate to stick by my plans and see this campaign through all the way towards the end.
Q: Have you ever served in student government, college student's council and are your college mates supporting your run?
A: I ran for a student government position, General Representative, in 2016 at UCLA. I worked in the office of student council for one of our representatives in my freshmen year where I learned a lot about feasibility and budget allocation. And, yes, my college friends have been super stoked and supportive for my run which is so awesome!
Q: What type of funds will you have to raise to run a viable campaign and have you set up an infrastructure, website and have you appointed a campaign manager, staff, mobilized volunteers for your campaign? Obviously, you are going to need at least a million bucks to make a dent and even get to first base in terms of some name recognition. How are you going to raise that money and have the Indian-American community or any community leaders promised support?
A: I decided since the beginning that I won’t be raising funds for my candidacy as I believe that special interests and campaign donations are a big reason for the inefficiencies and slowness of our state legislations and policies. The value of a dollar in campaign financing has definitely gone down dramatically as the rise of social media and access to information has increased for everyone. I understand how this race is an uphill battle for me but isn’t anything worth doing in life tough? I do have two campaign websites that I set up at shubhamgoel.com and goelvernor.com. A lot of candidates used their staff members to quickly collect signatures in order to file their candidacy but I am glad I didn’t use staff members as talking to people myself about the issues that our state faces, my experience/platforms, and their stories have been enlightening and have been the best part of running for governor.
Q: Have you been in touch with the Indian-American community, particularly the longtime Democratic activists, in the state to help you with your campaign?
A: No I have not. I’ve been outreaching a lot to students by visiting different UC and community colleges and speaking with them firsthand on how we can improve the educational system, my platforms and their views on the problems that our state faces as a whole. It would mean so much to get the support of Indian-American activists in California because as I said earlier, a big reason I decided to run is I wanted to help represent the Indian community and help make our voices much more heard in discussions regarding public policies and state decisions.