Mason student decides to run for state office

Lack of youth representation prompts political action

Junior Sam Cao has decided to run for office.

Cao is running as a Democrat for a seat on the Ohio House of Representatives, representing the district that encapsulates portions of Butler and Warren County. His campaign team is composed of other high school students, including juniors Nick Brady and Adam Nassif, two teenagers that believe that it is very important for young people to get involved in politics. Cao said that politics affect everyone, regardless of how involved they choose to be involved.

“Politics is something you cannot escape,” Cao said. “No matter what age you are, no matter where you are, it’s always going to affect you. I think that the pandemic has been the epitome of that. We’ve seen our government’s response to the pandemic affecting our everyday lives, even now.”

As a young person, establishing credibility in the political field can be a difficult task. Cao will be turning 18 a few weeks before the general election and, therefore, is eligible to run for office. While being a younger candidate is unique in politics, Cao said having youth representation is an important asset, as it provides a new perspective.

“Our [world’s] youth is something that’s very empowering,” Cao said. “We can lead to a more just and prosperous society, where it’s built on caring and empathy and compassion for one another.”

Nassif said that he has been very involved in the business part of the campaign, as he is interested in both economics and politics. Through various books and videos, he taught himself business concepts and the economics of money. Nassif said that he is thrilled to be applying this knowledge to the campaign.

“I’m able to influence [the community], gain experience and help people grow,” Nassif said. “That’s what’s really important about this campaign.”

Brady is also a campaign manager on the team. He said that, before this campaign, he was not very involved in politics, and being on the campaign has allowed him to become much more invested in learning about the state of the world around him. Brady said that he is very impressed that the campaign has been going forward relying on students rather than turning to adults.

“I’ve seen in these last couple of months how much people my age and a little bit older are really able to do with the resources available to them,” Brady said. “We’re just making it a goal as high schoolers to do this, our own way, which probably is going about rather unconventionally.”

In January, Cao decided that he wanted to run for office. He was becoming increasingly aware of the politics affecting his life and realized that he was eligible to run for office. After gathering signatures and filing registration, Cao is on the ballot for the Ohio House of Representatives election. He said that his platform focuses on combating the recent increase in hate crimes by increasing the diversity of history taught in the K-12 curriculum and increasing environmental awareness.

Bipartisanship is also one of the focuses of the campaign, as Cao said his goal is to address the increasing division in the nation. Cao said that he wants to reach out to voters on all parts of the political spectrum and gain bipartisan support for the campaign and his legislation.

“I’ll reach out across party lines, reach out across age groups, talk with people and work with people in the state House–Democrats and Republicans–to reach a point of understanding,” Cao said. “As long as we think something is morally right, I think that’s what matters in the end. We can reach a point of meeting in the middle.”

The support from the community around this campaign has been amazing for the team. Brady said that they have found that people are encouraged by young people working towards seeing the community do better.

“We’ve found that there are a lot more people interested in seeing him go through than we originally thought,” Brady said. “[The support] is not only sustaining, but it’s growing.”

The primaries, the election that determines which candidate of a particular party will be on the general election ballot, are on May 3, 2022. Anyone eligible to vote by the general election date on November 8, 2022, including some current high schoolers, should register to vote by April 4, 2022 to vote in the primaries.

The team is very enthusiastic about the campaign and feels that Cao will be a strong representative of the community. Cao said that he believes that the values of his campaign are much more important than his age.

“I hope that everything that this campaign stands for transcends past just our age,” Cao said. “Don’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t look at our age, because that’s not the important thing here.”

Graphic by Alisha Verma