POLITICS

City Hall Hopeful

Mehak Vohra
Mehak Vohra
21-year-old candidate Mehak Vohra doesn't know who San Francisco's current mayor is but she's hoping that positivity, youth and rapping skills will help voters elect her to the city's top post.

Mehak Vohra is running for mayor of San Francisco, even though she’s not sure who currently holds the job.

In her defense, it can be a complicated question. When I sat down with Vohra, former Supervisor Mark Farrell had just been elected interim mayor by most of the members of the Board of Supervisors. The controversial vote ousted acting mayor, current supervisor and candidate for mayor London Breed, who’d held the position since Mayor Ed Lee died of a heart attack in December.

So it could be a bit confusing to know who was running the city. Still, Farrell’s appointment had been pretty big news. It was hard to miss, especially for somebody seemingly interested in the world of San Francisco politics.

As long as we’re piling on, Vohra, who is 21, also doesn’t know what district she lives in or the name of the supervisor that represents her. She said that she thinks she lives in District 12. Problem is, San Francisco only has 11 districts. FYI: As a Noe Valley resident, Vohra lives in District 8 and is represented by Supervisor Jeff Sheehy.

The young start-up CEO is probably not the only San Francisco resident who doesn’t really know who’s repping her at City Hall, but she might be the only one of them who’s running for mayor.

Vohra moved to San Francisco in August 2016. She runs a company called Jamocha Media that specializes in social media marketing to millennials and members of Generation Z, those born just after millennials. Last year, Forbes named Vohra one of “10 Generation Z Experts You Should Be Following.”

A blogger and YouTube video personality, Vohra boasts 2 to 3 million social media hits a month and a massive following. She hosts meetups with her fans in places like London and New Delhi, offering question-and-answer sessions on LinkedIn marketing and how to connect with young people.

She is, despite not knowing who the mayor is, a bright and accomplished 21-year-old. “You don’t have to be a certain age to make an impact,” Vohra said over coffee in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Tapping into a young audience — her target is college-age voters — seems to be the whole point of Vohra’s race for mayor. “I want people my age or younger to know that you don’t have to follow norms,” she says, also listing homelessness, safe injection sites, affordable housing and education as issues in her platform. Vohra even recorded a rap video to promote her campaign. But she keeps coming back to a desire to inspire others her age to get involved, to aim high. 

Pressed on specific policy issues, Vohra seems most passionate about public education.

“We’re leading the world in technology and our students aren’t showcasing that,” Vohra says. The San Francisco Unified School District has a plan to modernize its curriculum, Vision 2025, which aims to prepare the current generation of students for the workforce in the year 2025. Still, to Vohra’s point, the Bay Area is arguably the technology center of the world. Its students could lead the globe in modern learning and perhaps not be relegated to a public library for internet and computer access. In a 2013 report, 12 percent of San Francisco residents reported having no internet access at home. That percentage is higher for low-income families.

There’s an obvious question for Vohra: Why not get involved on a smaller scale, join political groups or another campaign? What about getting her feet wet with a run for school board or even supervisor? Why aim so high right away?

“Why not?” she says, smiling.

Vohra plans to run in the November 2019 election, a race that will follow the special election held this June to replace Farrell in his temporary role. San Francisco’s Department of Elections confirms that Vohra is one of 12 candidates who have begun the process of running for mayor in the 2019 election. The filing deadline isn’t until next spring, but Vohra, along with the likes of former State Senator Mark Leno and former State Assembly candidate Joe Boswell, has filed her declaration of intent to solicit campaign funds. So far, Vohra admits, she hasn’t raised any money. She’s also in the market for a campaign manager. But she says she’s definitely running.

At this early stage, Vohra has no idea which mayoral incumbent she’ll be running against — but she doesn’t really care. She just has her eyes on the prize.

“When people think of making it big,” Vohra says, “even more than New York or Los Angeles, they think of San Francisco.”

Want more? Check out Girls In Tech Say #Time’s Up