An ambitious Indian American teenager has set his eyes on becoming the next state Assemblymember in California’s 14th Legislative District.
Aasim Yahya, 18, of Concord, Calif., got his feet wet in the June 7 primary election. While already advancing to the general election under the “top two” system recognized in the state, Yahya received a mere 7,608 votes, or 15.7 percent, finishing second in the race behind Democratic incumbent Tim Grayson (84.32 percent, 40,899 votes).
But the young candidate, having spent his entire life in the district and attending the public school system throughout, believes he would be a refreshing voice.
“I'm a charismatic, down-to-earth teenager who wants to effect meaningful change in his community and beyond,” Yahya, the 2018 high school graduate and valedictorian at Concord High School, told India-West, adding that during his time in the district he has seen the ebbs and flows of the economy and community as a whole.
“As a community member and student advocate for the last four years, I've served as advocate for inclusion on (Mt. Diablo Unified School District) high school campuses, a proponent for equalizing educational opportunities, and a statewide ambassador for leadership development,” he said.
Yahya served as student body president at Concord High School, a chairman at the nonprofit Little Girl, Big Dreams and a youth board member for Make-A-Wish.
Additionally, he has worked with the California Association of Student Leaders as a Northern California director, for which he toured the state, presenting workshops on leadership development, connecting with youth on the most pressing social issues, and building networks at local, regional, and statewide networks.
“I have a track record which represents passion, integrity and courage,” Yahya, a 2018 National Coca-Cola Scholar (honoring the top 150 students in the U.S.), stressed to India-West. “The combination of these three qualities in every action and decision I make is what will define my term in the Assembly.”
The candidate went on to say that he is “willing to accurately represent our district even if it conflicts with my personal views and advocate for our specific needs in the California government.”
Though still a teenager, Yahya said he has long desired to be involved in politics and, despite his age, his AP literature teacher, Rebecca Dell, pushed him to run for a seat in the city council. In lieu of that, he chose to campaign for the state Assembly.
“Truly, I feel jumpstarting a political career will empower other youth to feel as if they too can speak up and stand up,” he explained. “Our society is evolving in a way in which the voice of the ‘common man’ is being drowned out by the chatter of politicians. Entering politics is my way to not only provide a voice for the common man but also hold those in office accountable.”
Running for office, Yahya added, means more than a gateway to politics.
“It is about giving a voice to our youth who are severely underrepresented in our government,” he told India-West. “It is about disregarding political parties and finding a balanced platform where we can focus on issues we agree need to be reformed. Most importantly, however, it is about strengthening the transparency and bridging the disconnect between our leaders and citizens.”
Yahya said he decided to run for the Assembly because, in addition to a need for a strong Democratic opponent to Grayson, he said much of his platform requires state-level legislation.
“Grayson has been constantly putting corporate lobbyists before his constituents. District 14 is notably progressive in its values, however, his votes in the state government have went against the best interests of those he's supposed to serve,” Yahya noted.
“Integrity, awareness and the courage to take a stand are the basic attributes which I would display in the state government,” the candidate added.
His platform focuses around bipartisan issues, increasing civic participation and promoting the development of long-term policies to alleviate issues of concern.
In addition to the main issues in his platform, additional matters he hopes to address include quality and affordable education, environmental safeguards, prison reform and overcrowding, and practical leadership.
All of his issues are detailed on Yahya’s campaign website, www.aasimyahya.com.
“Regardless of the outcome in November, I plan on remaining politically aware of California's issues and working with legislators to advocate for the causes I feel are critical to the preservation of my generations and our future’s success,” Yahya told India-West.
The candidate passed on high-profile universities on the East Coast such as Brown University and Georgetown University because he said he is fully committed to his campaign.
Yahya will matriculate to U.C. Berkeley in the fall and, if elected, will be taking the two years off to serve the district.
“I intend on being fully invested in my responsibility both to master the inevitable learning curve and effectively serve those I represent,” he said.