USC Viterbi alumnus Omar Siddiqui runs for Congress

Throughout his youth, Omar Siddiqui aspired to become a Renaissance man. Inspired by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin, Siddiqui, an alumnus of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, now hopes to expand his career politically in a run for the U.S. House of Representatives to represent California’s 48th District in this year’s midterm elections.

Photo courtesy of Omar Siddiqui

“After Benjamin Franklin debated with his fellow congressmen about the Declaration of Independence, he’s [still] out there doing science experiments,” he said. “[These men] merged science, technology, engineering and math with the humanities, arts and law.”

Siddiqui wants to bring the diversity of his experiences, specifically his knowledge of national security and emphasis on human rights, to Congress.

After Siddiqui completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil and environmental engineering at USC, he enrolled in law school at Loyola Marymount University to fulfill his career goal as a trial lawyer and litigator. During his legal career, Siddiqui was recruited to work on national security matters with the Federal Bureau of Investigation under former President Barack Obama’s administration and served as an adviser to the Central Intelligence Agency.

Siddiqui attributed his entrance into the political arena to Obama and former FBI Director James Comey: two men whose words stuck with him as he started his campaign for Congress.

“It was October [or] November of 2016, and I was venting to President Obama about the state of our nation and the direction it was headed in,” Siddiqui said. “He was telling me, like his famous quote, ‘Be the change you want to be. Be that change. What are you waiting for?’ I was reflecting on that, on that move to go from attorney to a [politician].”

Likewise, Comey echoed similar sentiments to Siddiqui: There was no time to sit around.

Comey’s dismissal from the FBI by President Donald Trump in April 2017 unsettled Siddiqui and inspired him to announce his campaign in July.

“That was a defining moment for me because I realized there was no time to stand around,” he said. “I can no longer sit on the sidelines. I have to be that change.”

The 48th district comprises several Orange County cities, like Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Westminster and Santa Ana, whose populations are majority white, although there exist thriving Asian and Hispanic communities.

Despite the district’s historically Republican voting patterns, Siddiqui aims to focus on issues voters across the political spectrum believe are important, such as national security, healthcare and environmental policy.

“Now, our country is really divided on political party [lines],” Siddiqui said. “One thing we need to be united on is our national security. It’s not a partisan issue if you have a foreign nation like Russia interfering with our elections and our democracy.”

He says his inclusive messaging is also represented in his platform, which outlines Siddiqui’s support for marginalized groups and their rights in the U.S.

“I’m for a clean [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] bill and taking it one step further to give them an opportunity to have a pathway to citizenship,” he said, commenting on Congress’ current struggle with immigration reform. “But, we can’t just think of the Dreamers alone. We also have to think of other 11 million undocumented immigrants who are in our country. We need to make sure we have immigration reform that affects everybody.”

Siddiqui’s campaign slogan, “United We Rise,” embodies his goal to connect with voters regardless of political party.

“We are moving and getting a lot of Republicans and Democrats and no-party preference voters to come out to the polls and be that change,” he said. “I think a lot of people feel that their vote doesn’t count but we’re spreading the message that every vote counts, and everyone counts.”