Juggling a full-time college schedule may be tough, but it won’t get in the way of one student’s goal of running for political office.
USF student Christopher Cano is running for House Representative for District 60, an area that includes USF.
“Why wait?” said Cano, a political science major.
His name may sound familiar to students. Cano ran for student body president in 2009 with running mate Jaime Lane. Though he lost, Cano said he is using the experience to benefit his new campaign.
“This election is very different from running for student body president,” he said. “You have to take into account that District 60 is a much larger district than USF.”
The district’s population is a little more than 130,000, according to government records, while USF has about 46,000 students.
Cano’s passion for politics began when he visited Washington, D.C. at the age of 13, he said. He volunteered with the Obama campaign and ran for precinct captain, a position he won by five votes.
Cano has earned a degree in interdisciplinary social science, with a focus on Africana studies and humanities. He said he wants to start working on his master’s degree next year.
“What I study in class, I apply to my job every day,” Cano said.
From March to the beginning of May, Cano worked in Tallahassee as a legislative intern for Rep. Michael Scionti, who also serves as a mentor to freshman legislators. Cano said he was able to learn the do’s and don’ts about the Legislature through the internship.
“I’m sure it was a good experience because he was there during the legislative session,” said John Rodriguez, legislative assistant for Scionti.
Cano said that during the internship, he helped write to constituents, spoke to them on the phone about concerns and the meaning of different bills, sat in on meetings, took notes for Scionti and wrote analyses of bills.
One of the bills he analyzed was the education bill that proposed to raise tuition, Cano said. He said he often got chances to look into issues that affected his age group.
“To me, I think sometimes it may have impacted the process a little bit,” he said.
The work insight Cano gained during the internship prepared him for the road ahead,
“He probably has better knowledge than many other candidates,” Rodriguez said.
Cano said he wants running for district representative to be a fun experience, but that it presents a bigger challenge than a Student Government election.
“The campaign here is going to require a lot of volunteer work,” he said.
This work includes going door-to-door, attending town hall meetings, and being active in the community. Cano said he needs to get his name out to win the election and though the general election does not take place until November 2010, he has already begun campaigning.
USF students are an important part of the campaign, Cano said.
“I want to see students get involved as well because USF is in the district,” he said. “They’ll have someone they know as state representative.”
Rodriguez said Cano was very interested in issues of people in the working class, because that is where he came from.
“He’s had to work hard for things he wanted to achieve,” Rodriguez said.
Cano said he wants to focus on the issues of poverty and transportation, especially mass transit, but he mostly wants people to go to him when there is a concern.
“My main issues are ones that constituents tell me they have,” he said.
Four people, including Cano, have filed candidacy for the seat, which is held by Republican Rep. Ed Homan, who cannot be re-elected because of term limits.
Shawn Harrison, a Republican candidate who served as Tampa city councilman for eight years, also expressed concern over the issue of transportation.
“Issues important in the district are transportation and growth,” he said.
Harrison has the most political experience of the candidates, and said he would also focus on issues of taxes and health care costs as they arise.
Trey Stroud, another Republican candidate, said he has volunteered for political causes and campaigns, such as the campaign for Mike Huckabee last election season, but this is his first time running as a candidate.
“Being a Republican, I’m interested in the size and the scope of our government,” he said. “I’m more interested in public service than in, quote, ‘politics.'”
Stroud said his campaign is purely grassroots, door-to-door campaigning, and he hopes to meet voters to learn about their issues.
Joseph Wendt is also running for the seat as a student. He said he is studying at Hillsborough Community College and hopes to attend USF and eventually law school after graduating with an associate’s degree in liberal arts.
Like Cano, Wendt said school hasn’t gotten in the way of campaigning.
“I only go to school two days a week, so it’s not that bad,” he said.
Wendt said he hopes to use the election as a learning experience and plans to continue school while in office, if elected.
Cano is the only Democrat candidate who has filed candidacy for the position. He said he hopes to turn Florida from “red to blue,” which would happen if democrats were elected to 17 of 22 available Florida House seats in 2010.
Cano is hosting a town hall meeting tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Lutz Community Center and said he wants people to attend the meeting and bring issues to him.