Southern California native Nathaniel Tsai CM ’17 is running as the Republican candidate for the 41st district California Assembly seat against democratic incumbent Chris Holden. The district includes the San Gabriel Mountains and surrounding communities.
Tsai, the youngest person ever to run for state assembly in California, was born in Glendale, Calif., raised in Albrahama, and eventually graduated from high school in San Marino. Though his age alone makes him an unusual candidate, Tsai also proudly describes himself as a “non-politician.”
“It might help that I’m young because I’m not a politician,” Tsai said. “I bring in a new way of thinking, a refreshing point of view.”
Tsai became a write-in candidate as a member of the Republican Party on April 9. He describes his political platform, based on three key points—transportation reform, education reform and affirmative action reform—as being “fiscally conservative” and “socially moderate.”
While Tsai articulated the hope that his political positions would earn him a seat in the assembly, he predicted that the uniqueness of his campaign would be the reason why voters would choose him.
“Generally everyone wants the same thing. A better government, a more efficient economy … People at CMC don’t really care what party I am,” he said. “They just see a young person running and think that’s awesome.”
“I’m running to represent the younger generation,” Tsai added. “That’s the reason younger people should vote for me. ”
Chris White CM ’17, a member of Democrats of the Claremont Colleges, also believes that that Tsai’s age is a beneficial factor in the campaign.
“I think it’s impressive that he’s running at such a young age, [and] I commend him for actually getting on the ballot—that’s pretty impressive,” White said. “I think an 18-year-old can deal with something as well as a 30-year-old. It’s just about issues.”
CMC government professor and Tsai’s former “Introduction to American Politics” teacher Ken Miller wrote in an email to TSL that he was supportive of Tsai’s effort but unsure about the issue of his age.
“I noticed [Tsai] had a strong interest in politics and seemed to be a go-getter, but that’s fairly common at CMC,” Miller wrote. “I didn’t expect him to try to run for the Assembly while he was still in college. Needless to say, that’s rare … Lacking experience, he’d have a steep learning curve. And, unlike other members, he’d have to find a way to finish college while serving in the legislature!”
Tsai said if elected, he plans to take time off from school, attend night classes or attend CMC during the fall term when the Assembly is not in session. He said he remains optimistic about his chance of winning the election.
“I think right now we have a pretty solid chance,” he said. “For everyone who has mailed in a ballot so far, we’re looking at about 40 percent for us and 41 percent for the opponent. The fact that I survived the primary shows that I have at least some legitimacy. If people think I’m too young to run for office, I just tell them that I make up for it by learning as much as I can.”