Chris Atallah, Farmington Hills junior, is currently running as a Republican candidate for the state representative of the 37th district of Michigan. As of Dec. 21, 2009, Atallah is an official candidate for the Aug. 3 primary.
Chris Atallah sat down with The Pleiad to answer some questions.
Q: What leadership credentials make you a strong candidate for this position?
A: I’ve done two internships, both for Congressman Joe Knollenberg, the congressman of Oakland County, and I also was one of the three interns for John McCain’s regional headquarters for the Midwest. I worked directly for John McCain, his top of his staff, and Mike Duncan, who at the time was the president of their national GOP during the 2008 election. School-wise, I hold the V.P. communications position for the Interfraternity Council, and I am the social chair of Delta Sigma Phi. I’ve tried to be a leader my whole life: I was a captain for two years in high school for my tennis team, and I was the first junior captain ever to be named for tennis.
Q: In what ways might your age positively or negatively affect your odds at winning the August primary?
A: Negatively. Clearly some people are going to think that maybe I’m too young to take a position this important. People probably will ask the question, “Why would we elect someone who doesn’t have the experience?” But at the same time, our generation is changing politics. If you look at the ’08 election, everyone focused on the younger kids as being the ones that were going to determine who won the presidential campaign. People are going to call me out for my age, but candidates who have no experience get positions all the time, except they are older. There is no difference between a 20-year-old or a 41-year-old with no experience. Sometimes a fresh start is needed, and I feel that is what I can do for my district.
Q: How do you think your position as a fraternity social chair will be received by the public?
A: I think some may view it a little negatively because it is regarding a fraternity, but at the same time, it’s exactly what they need. It shows that I was elected to my position because I am good socially; that is what my strong point it is. It’s really important in politics to have leaders who can communicate and do what the people ask. That relates directly to a social position in any organization — especially in a fraternity, where you have to do what is best socially for your whole house.
Q: How are you preparing and planning to campaign?
A: I am currently finishing my full platform that will be published online through different Web sites, probably including Facebook. I actually have a couple people who want to do a YouTube video with me as an ad to start off because, as of right now, funding is low since I just started. I’ve been talking to both older and younger heads of departments in the GOP in Michigan, and in March I have a couple meetings I am trying to schedule with officials in the GOP and see if they can help get the word out. I also have a lot of people helping my campaign on the home front.
Q: When and why did you decide to run for this position?
A: It goes back to my freshman year of college. I started looking into running for the Albion City Council because I felt the city of Albion had a lot of potential, but I missed the deadline by a few weeks. I kept it in my mind, and I realized (I was interested in) bigger positions that I was not old enough for. Over Christmas break, I came across the documents I filled out for Albion’s City Council, and I wondered, if our generation won an election, why can’t we change politics in general? So I thought I’d try to make a change. I looked over different positions I could run for, and I felt the one most fitting was state representative. The by-laws state you have to be 21 when you take office (which I will be), and I thought, what better way to start than in my own community?
Q: Why should Republican voters choose you over other candidates?
A: Every politician who I’ve seen campaign for a certain position has slung bullshit. They focus too much on trying to push down another candidate and supporters instead of focusing on their mission. We elect politicians to hold a position for the people, and that isn’t currently happening in the system. There was a joke on Robin William’s new comedy that we should make all politicians wear a Nascar jacket that has all of their sponsors on it to see how absurd it would be. I think the same way — maybe because I’m younger. My main focus will be on addressing people’s concerns rather than on how I am going to earn money or whether I will gain this position for the title.
Q: You’re not corrupt yet?
A: Not yet.
Q: If elected, what changes would you advocate for in the state legislation?
A: Creating new jobs would be my main focus. I live in a fairly wealthy area and seeing people I know, even seeing my mom struggle, hits home real fast. If we can’t create new jobs, then we can’t create new education for our kids and we can’t afford that education. It’s like a domino effect. With more jobs come more possibilities for their kids, and that leads to future generations of stability and education.
My big environmental standpoint is addressing the Asian carp invasion that is about to happen in the Great Lakes. Scientists predict that if the Asian carp get into Lake Michigan, which they are close to doing, they can damage it by over $1 billion. Michigan has been calling for a closing of the Chicago locks, but the U.S. government has refused it. Five Great Lakes states and Ontario have called for the closing of the locks. Asian carp will disrupt the natural ecosystem. It’s terrible.
We also need to focus on education. The inner city is really where the most attention is needed. You can’t expect improvement without getting kids access to the right textbooks, for a start.
Q: If you won, how would you balance school and your political career?
A: If I won, my term would begin my last semester at Albion College. I would probably have to transfer to Lansing Community College. In all honesty, I know college education is important, but if I was to step into the political limelight and be able to make a difference in the state of Michigan, then I would do it in a heartbeat. My first responsibility would be to the state, and that is why I am running.