27-Year-Old Muslim Running for House District Representative

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.”

Canvassing team lead, Mack Williams, explained to volunteers how to use the app Ten More Votes for canvassing.

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

Tampa Theatre Hosts True West With a Twist at USF

University of South Florida alumni returned to their old stomping grounds on Sunday for the Tampa Repertory Theatre’s production of “True West,” a comedy about two brothers arguing over a screenplay that could change their lives.

Screenplay director Megan Lamasney was excited to come back to her alma mater and showcase her work.

“I was an undergrad here in the theater department and it was cool to come back to home base and see where it started,” Lamasney said. “It was great bringing some exciting work here.”

Although Lamasney was excited for the project, actor Jack Holloway was rather nervous when asked to perform. Rather than sticking to one role, Holloway had to alternate roles between both brothers in the screenplay.

“I was terrified when Megan called me and told me about doing the roles and then switching every night,” Holloway said. “I had never done that before in terms of switching roles, so I was a bit nervous.”

Being back in the Theatre Arts Rehearsal Building brought back several memories for Holloway.

“It was wonderful, but it is strange because a part of the play is about coming back home and it feels like I don’t have to act that,” Holloway said. “It’s honestly surreal because you’re acting in a place where you grew up.”

On the other side of the play is actor Dan Granke, who is a performing arts professor at USF. Granke admitted that getting to perform and being able to teach students was a unique experience.

“This is home for me, this is where I work and it very much feels like home,” Granke said. “I have so many students who haven’t seen me perform, and it feels great to show them rather than just tell them.”

Granke worked constantly with Holloway to perfect the art of switching the roles each night and staying in character. While difficult, Granke enjoyed the challenge and said it comes with good parts.

“It’s a lot of fun because it’s a piece that has its hard moments, but it also has its comic moments. So getting to do both allowed you to feel like you’re not stuck to one role,” Granke said.

Granke moved to Tampa in 2013 to become a professor, meanwhile working with Holloway as an artistic director for the Tampa Shakespeare Festival.

“It was interesting because when I moved here three years ago, I was told that I have a doppelgänger,” Granke said. “We both love working together, Jack and I do comedy, stage combat and we’ve gotten close over the years.”

Aside from the great role and being able to perform in front of students, Granke said his first priority was and always is to entertain.

“I go out as an actor, I’m also a director and a fight director,” Granke said. He directs the combat onstage during scenes.“My goal is always to entertain people. I want to challenge people and just let people have a good time so they want to come back and see more.”

Granke holds theater performances close to his heart because in today’s age of digital streaming and technology, the art of live theater seems rare to him.

“Any time there’s a chance for live theater I think it’s great, and with everything becoming live streaming it’s kind of hard to appreciate it,” Granke said. “I just think theater is just one of those places where you can’t do it any other way.”

 

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Jack Holloway and Dan Granke alternated roles between Austin and Lee in the Tampa Reportory Theatre’s rendition of “True West”