Senior kicks off campaign for District I

Senior Henry Gaff is running for District I under the Green Party.

With many seniors turning legal voting age and finding their political beliefs, high school is a time where many students like to get involved in the world of politics. One student is taking that to an extreme.

Last week, senior Henry Gaff announced his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives seat in Iowa District 1. Gaff, chair of the Black Hawk County Green Party and co-chair of the Iowa Green Party, will be running on the Green Party ticket and pushing a very progressive platform, including massive tax reform and a single-payer healthcare system.

“This is a movement about unifying progressives,” Gaff said. “It’s not just about the Green Party. It’s about a message of unity among Democrats, Independents, Greens, and I feel the Green Party is the best way to speak to all of those people.”

Obviously, many people are concerned about his age. Gaff is currently 18 years old. He will be 19 years old on the 2018 election day. The minimum age for a U.S. Representative is 25 years, as outlined by the United States Constitution. Gaff is not concerned, citing prior precedent for young representatives: “In the history of the United States, nine people have been elected to Congress who were underage, four to the House of Representatives,” Gaff said. “Of those nine, only one person was even delayed in getting their office, a senator who was only delayed by six months. Never has an underage representative to the U.S. Congress been turned away from their office because of their age.”

In fact, Gaff sees his youth as a strength: “We need fresh ideas in office. We need a voice of our generation and not the decrepit fossils in the U.S. Congress who are 80 years older than us,” he said. “We need someone who speaks to the here and now.”

Gaff, if elected, would be the youngest representative to ever serve in the House of Representatives, the current being William C. C. Claiborne, a representative from Tennessee. Claiborne served from 1797-1801 and entered office when he was 22 years of age.

Gaff chose to run for this office because he has been disappointed with the options in this race in previous years. “My concern is that following the hullabaloo in 2016, an establishment Democrat who doesn’t represent the people will run for this office and lose out to the incumbent Republican,” he said. “Iowans need to be provided with a progressive choice, and I would like to be that choice.”

Gaff’s ideas are very populist in nature, appealing to the common citizen rather than the elite billionaires. “Our movement really speaks to the real America, middle-class America,” he said. “Our positions, our ideas are out there to defend the majority of America. I’m fighting for a single-payer universal healthcare system. I want free public education for anyone who wants it. It’s time to increase the minimum wage so that people who work 40 hours a week are no longer living in poverty. It’s time to close tax havens and tax loopholes so that the billionaire class starts paying their fair share.”

Many seniors are worried about a new life in college next year, but Gaff is unfazed about juggling the undergraduate student experience and a congressional campaign. “In the past, Green Party candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives have held other full-time jobs,” he said. “These candidates were able to hold full-time jobs, run their campaigns and pull pretty good numbers in the polls.”

He cites the 2008 campaign of Green Party candidate Wendy Barth, who gained 2.18 percent of the vote in the second district House of Representative campaign while working full-time as a software developer. “I’m inspired by people like that, and I think this is something completely doable,” he said.

Gaff will be attending the University of Iowa next year, located in Johnson County, which is not in the first district where Gaff plans to run for office. He again is unconcerned and finds it to be good for his campaign: “My home is Cedar Falls, Iowa. I’ve lived here for more than a decade,” Gaff said. “In Johnson County, I will be a lot closer to Cedar Rapids, another huge city in my district, than I currently am now. It will be great to be able to have easier access to campaigning and all of the wonderful people of Cedar Rapids. I will be closer to the headquarters of the Iowa Green Party, and I can work closer with the great volunteers and staffers down there. I feel like it’s a strong strategic choice for my campaign and lets me better speak to the people of district one, even though I’ll be slightly outside of the district.”

Gaff is holding a campaign rally at 1:30 p.m. May 21 at Overman Park in Cedar Falls where many progressive candidates and leaders will speak, including Gaff himself.

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