Following Republican Dan Raulerson’s resignation from the House of Representatives, a special election to find someone to fill his seat is scheduled for Dec. 19. While much of the focus for these types of elections typically incline towards the Democrat and Republican candidates, a surprising third-party candidate might mix things up.
27-year-old, Ahmad Hussam Saadaldin, a Muslim, Mass Communications graduate of the University of South Florida (USF) is running as a non-party-affiliated candidate for the House District 58 special election. This isn’t an impromptu decision for Saadaldin, who has been interested and involved in politics for much of his young life.
“I was intending to run for this district next year, but the Republican resigned and it prompted a special election,” said Saadaldin.
During his time at USF, Saadaldin was heavily involved in activism and politics. He was the president of Students for Justice in Palestine. He was also one of the original founders of the divestment effort on the USF-Tampa campus, which asks USF to dis-invest from companies that violate human rights, such as the private prison industry, and those that harm the environment. These sentiments are not forgotten by him in his political agenda.
“We want to divest from oil companies,” said Saadaldin, reiterating one of the main focuses of the divestment effort on campus.
Saadaldin is consistent with a liberal agenda regarding his stance on other prominent issues.
“I’m running on ‘The Three E’s’: education, economy and environment,” said Saadaldin.
He wants to keep public money in public education, raise the minimum wage to $15, and put in policies that can help the environment and prevent climate change, such as transitioning from non-renewable energy to renewable energies.
Comparing himself to other political candidates, Saadaldin aligns himself most to Bernie Sanders.
“I’m like Bernie Sanders on a much more local level,” said Saadaldin. “I want to incorporate his universal health care policies on a local level, in the state of Florida.”
On Sunday, Saadaldin and a group of volunteers went knocking door-to-door in an effort to increase the public knowledge of his campaign and gain more voters.
“We have to inspire people to the polls,” said Saadaldin to his band of canvassers. “A special election means that not many voters are going to come out; if we can get more people to the polls…we have a real chance.”
His target demographic is registered independent voters, whom he tracks through the app Ten More Voters. He admitted that, though the app has its kinks, it’s effective in determining who he would have most luck contacting and tracking who has already been contacted.
An issue Saadaldin has with the current system, and something that prompted him to run was the manner in which most political candidates who receive money from big corporations ended up being controlled by those same companies. He felt that this interfered with the integrity of the candidates as well as who they were going to fight for, should they win.
“(My campaign is) not taking any money from the corporations – not today, not ever,” said Saadaldin. “So you can be sure that we’re going to represent the issues and the people, not the powerful.”
Following the 2016 presidential election, there were critics who credited the electoral loss of Hillary Clinton to third-party voters who cast their ballots outside of the two main political parties, Republican and Democrat. Saadaldin doesn’t see that as the issue.
“We need people to run outside of the two-party system because we need more options,” said Saadaldin. “If we don’t do this now, we’ll never do it, and we’ll never actually make change.”
The young adult recognizes that his youth is something that separates himself from most candidates, but he sees that as a positive quality.
“Age means nothing,” said Saadaldin. “We have to live on earth longer than these people representing us. If you want change to come, you have to bring it yourself.”
Featured image courtesy permission to use by Nick Armero