UI freshman Henry Gaff campaigning for seat in Congress

Despite being too young to serve in office, a UI freshman aims to disrupt the establishment and run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

UI freshman Henry Gaff shows off his campaign button in his Catlett room on Monday, August 28, 2017. Gaff, of Cedar Falls, is the Green Party candidate running for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District seat held by Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa. The U.S. Constitution requires members of the House be 25 or older. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

There is nothing too big for a new college student to take on — at least, that’s is the opinion of Henry Gaff, a University of Iowa freshman. Gaff has taken matters into his own hands to make a change in the state by running with the Iowa Green Party for Iowa’s 1st District seat in Congress, despite only being a teenager.

Gaff does not meet the age requirement to hold a seat in Congress, but he reacts to this saying no one has ever been denied a seat strictly because of age. In fact, he believes that the current representatives do not accurately represent America’s needs and interests.

His start in politics began when Sen. Bernie Sanders opened his campaign as a presidential candidate. Gaff helped start a campaign office in his home county, Black Hawk, and volunteered for Sanders’ campaign until the primaries were over. At this point, Gaff decided he needed to “continue fight for the values important to [him].”

“My campaign is about voting in representatives who work for us and not campaign donors, who give hundreds of thousands to candidates and their campaigns,” Gaff said.

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The Iowa Green Party said it has committed to work for real America, and Gaff said he will never take money from special interests. This is the reason he has chosen to run with the party.

Free tuition at public universities, $15 an hour minimum wage, and single-payer health care are all part of Gaff’s platform.

“Starvation wages and for-profit health care is a travesty when the rest of the developed work has a universal cover, and the current cost of education and minimum wage make it impossible for the average American to reach for success and the American Dream,” he said.

He believes this will turn around the current economic crisis.

Noah Wolf, a longtime friend of Gaff’s, says he “can’t think of anyone better to be running for Congress.”

“Henry has exactly the type of fresh ideas and young personality that I want to see represented in the Capitol,” Wolf said.

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Right now, 57 is the average age in the U.S. House of Representatives; the Senate boasts an even higher average age of 61, according to data from the Federation of American Scientists’ Congressional Research Service.

“Those who represent us went to school in an era in which one could pay their way through college by working four hours a week on a minimum-wage job, and the middle-class American could afford housing and health care in jobs out of high school,” Gaff said.

Holly Hart, the secretary of the Iowa Green Party, thinks that having a young candidate will appeal to younger voters and “hopefully, inspire more to become engaged and active in the political/electoral process and think more about the kinds of policy they want to support.”

Yet Hart also recognizes that people may see his age as being too young and write him off without knowing more about him.

While Gaff is not yet on the ballot, he only needs 400 petition signatures to get there. He is working on this, and Hart believes that the signatures will not be hard to get. She also sees this as a way to strengthen his campaign activity.

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