(Jim Poulin/ Phoenix Business Journal)


From councilwoman to congressional campaign: Vice mayor Yassamin Ansari’s political journey

A 31-year-old Iranian-American, Yassamin Ansari has become the youngest councilwoman in Phoenix. Now, she has announced her bid for Congress.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/daniyasiddiqui3429576/" target="_self">Daniya Siddiqui</a>

Daniya Siddiqui

August 16, 2023

As a child, Yassamin Ansari was no stranger to politics. With dinner table conversations often revolving around current events and the influence of two immigrant parents from Iran, getting involved in the political sphere seemed “inevitable” for her.

Greatly nurtured by her mother’s own civic engagement, Ansari had always been involved in the community. “My mom always wanted to give back how she could,” Ansari said, inspiring the mother-daughter duo to aid with the tutoring and mentorship of Somali refugees while Ansari was still in high school. 

Ansari’s high school involvement did not stop at working with refugees. When President Obama was running against John McCain in 2008, she became an organizer with the Arizona Democratic Party. 

He was the “first elected official to really capture my attention,” Ansari said.

After graduating high school and later college with a degree in International Relations from Stanford, Ansari went on to a role at the United Nations. She worked in climate policy as a member of the team who worked on the Paris Climate Agreement. 

In 2018, however, Ansari decided it was time for a change. The Trump election and the subsequent policies put in place, especially Trump pulling out of the Paris agreement, inspired Ansari to move back to her hometown of Phoenix and shift her focus from international policy to domestic. 

After spending the bulk of her twenties working at the UN, Ansari “decided that [she] had gotten enough of a learning experience.” With experience volunteering for Mayor Gallego’s 2018 campaign, Ansari felt ready to start her own campaign for councilwoman. 

Ansari’s campaign ran for a year and a half during the COVID-19 pandemic. She focused especially on young people, running on the issue of air pollution and creating a fellowship program that made her campaign “very exciting.”

After knocking on over 100,000 doors, Ansari won the very competitive five-way race for councilwoman, making her the youngest member of the Phoenix City Council. Now, she is running for Congress. 

She plans to focus her campaign once again on young people and “talking to voters directly one-on-one.” To Ansari, it is “very much overdue that we have a new generation of leaders at the federal level.” 

Throughout her career, Ansari’s Iranian-American heritage has impacted her greatly. Beyond the constant reminder she feels that being American is a privilege, her background has ingrained a hard work ethic into her, allowing her to push through being underestimated as a young woman in politics during her time at the UN and throughout her campaign.

When asked what piece of advice she would give to other young women looking to go down a similar path she did, Ansari said to “always take a risk and apply for everything.” After all, it was a late night study session at Stanford that landed her the fellowship that eventually brought her to the UN. 

“It’s really important to keep an open mind and not close yourself off at such a young age from something that might change your life forever,” Ansari said.

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