Ivan Raiklin, a D.C. tech startup investor and mentor, is officially running for a U.S. Senate seat in Virginia as a Republican candidate, according to his social media profiles on Twitter and LinkedIn and an announcement on Nov. 11.
“Virginians are ready for new leadership, they’re ready for someone who unites us, a leader who has experience the inefficiencies of the federal government firsthand, and will work with others tirelessly to correct that,” Raiklin said in his announcement speech.
Raiklin will be running against incumbent U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) in the 2018 mid-term election cycle. The Republican Senate field has been largely empty so far, according to a Washington Post report in September, with only Corey A. Stewart, a fourth-term at-large chairman of the board of supervisors of Prince William County, announcing his campaign so far. The Senate primary elections are set for June 12, 2018.
“I don’t like where the party is heading, so I wanted to focus more on the majority rather than represent the minority,” Raiklin said in an interview with DC Inno Monday. “I don’t want to go all the way to the right, that’s just not me. I want to focus on innovation, and we’ll go from there.”
The formal announcement came the Friday after the election for the Virginia Governor’s race, where Democrat Ralph Northam won. The night was an upset for Republican Ed Gillespie and his supporters who had the backing of President Donald Trump’s conservative base.
Raiklin is known in the region as a military vet, and “aggressive” advisor and investor in early-stage startups, with a focus on consumer-facing platforms in D.C., Chicago, NYC, San Antonio, Austin and Silicon Valley, according to his AngelList profile, which lists all of the startups Raiklin has invested in thus far. Some of his investments include D.C.-based Pyazza, San Francisco-based Arka and Austin, Tx. and San Francisco-based Beat Stars. Raiklin is also listed as an adviser for Guard Llama, a dual Chicago and Washington, D.C.-based company that made an appearance on “Shark Tank” earlier this year.
The announcement comes amid his campaign to run 22 miles a day throughout the state to raise awareness for veterans who commit suicide each day. He started Aug. 23, and he plans to run 22 miles a day until he reaches 1,776 miles, a number chosen for clearly patriotic reasons. At the time of his announcement, he had reached about 1,300 miles, and Raiklin said his race is expected to wrap up on Nov. 28 in Arlington, Va.. (The original plan was to wrap up on Nov. 11 when he announced, but he was called to Texas, where he is a member of the National Guard, for active duty about six days into the 22-miles-campaign.)
A current Green Beret for more than 20 years, Raiklin is raising money through his campaign for the following organizations: Green Beret Foundation, Task Force Dagger Foundation, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Victory-4-Veterans and the Wounded Warrior Project. WTOP reports that the first $22 goes to charities and the rest goes towards his Raiklin for Senate Exploratory Committee. His run has been anticipated for a few months now as the committee continued to ramp up.
Raiklin is the son of two Russian immigrants who fled Russia in 1974 for the U.S., according to a bio on Raiklin’s website. His father got his PhD in Economics and was a professor at the University of Northern Iowa. Raiklin would end up attending that same university and promptly enlisting in the U.S. Army after graduation. Raiklin now has a degree in Russian, Spanish, and Russia and Eastern European Studies, along with a law degree from Touro College’s Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center.
“I don’t like where the party is heading, so I wanted to focus more on the majority rather than represent the minority”
In an interview with DC Inno Monday, Raiklin said he’s running the campaign much like he would run a startup. They didn’t want to have a fancy announcement party that would bring attention to the small team. Instead, the group is making sure they have the foundations in place to expand the campaign further before making a bigger media and donor push.
“When you’re a startup, you’re not ready to take on a lot of externalities while you’re building up because you want to focus on the core product, if you will,” Raiklin said in an interview. “That’s pretty much what we’re doing here, little by little.”
In the next few weeks, Raiklin said the campaign will focus on roll out its endorsement announcements, saying they have some pretty big names. Raiklin also just returned from Los Angeles where he said his campaign was shooting for something “pretty unconventional” that they’ll be unveiling in early 2018 to bring awareness to their efforts.
Right now, the team includes Raiklin, a campaign manager with experience on Capitol Hill, a treasurer with experience in FEC compliance, a social media manager and a crew of volunteers.
Raiklin is running on a conservative Republican platform, focusing on job growth, veteran mental health protections and fewer federal government regulations. In his speech, he also made comparisons between the removal of Confederate statues throughout the state to the removal of Russian statues in his family’s home country at the height of Communism.
“Statues of our history are coming down here in Virginia at what appears to be faster than in the Soviet Union to build up communism,” he said in his announcement.
Raiklin also added restructuring U.S. immigration policies to his platform. “Our country has an antiquated immigration system. Most people coming into the United States have a desire and love for the American Dream, similar to my parents when they came to the United States in the 1970s,” Raiklin said.
“However, to get in, often times those people are lost with many of them skipping others in line to obtain that dream. We must have proper vetting and enforcement alongside a streamlined immigration process to welcome those with good intentions seeking the American Dream.”
Other items on the platform include overhauling the tax code and implementing policies that help entrepreneurs and small businesses. He plans to push his innovation and entrepreneurship agenda in early 2018.
“I have not spent the last couple of years running for public office,” Raiklin said. “But what I can tell you is that I’m a citizen soldier, I’ve served my entire life for this country and its people and now I’d like to continue to serve the people of Virginia and the United States as the next U.S. senator representing the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
For Raiklin, he said running for U.S. Senate, instead of a different elected office, just made sense for him given his military experience.
“Whether it’s a House of Delegates seat or a [local] Senate seat, those are all state issues that, 1) I don’t have subject matter expertise in, and 2) I don’t have as much passion for,” Raiklin said in an interview. “Those are important issues, but I have 20 years of substantive background of working as a citizen soldier, having deployed on multiple continents, and having addressed both national and international issues.”
Raiklin currently lives in Fairfax County.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with information from an interview with Raiklin after initial publication.