University student running for mayor
Kasai Guthrie, 21, to challenge Sierer
A University of Delaware undergraduate student will challenge Polly Sierer in the upcoming election for mayor of Newark.
Kasai Guthrie celebrated his 21st birthday by announcing his candidacy Dec. 19. However, his nominating petition has not yet been accepted because he does not have the required 10 signatures from qualified voters. He has until the filing deadline of Feb. 4 to obtain the signatures and officially get on the ballot, City Secretary Renee Bensley said.
Guthrie is the first candidate to file for the April 9 municipal election, but Sierer confirmed to the Newark Post that she intends to seek a third term.
If elected, Guthrie would be the youngest person to serve as mayor of Newark. Two UD graduate students have been elected to city council – 23-year-old Kevin Vonck in 2004 and 22-year-old Ezra Temko in 2008 – but no student has ever served as mayor.
“Growing up, I always wanted to provide a solution for problems,” Guthrie said after officially filing for candidacy, cheered on by family members. “I always wanted to be the solution, or find solutions for the common ground of people, so I thought, why not run for office.”
Guthrie, who lives in a rental house on West Main Street, describes himself as an entrepreneur, musician and fatherhood activist. While a student at Glasgow High School, he formed the We Need Our Fathers initiative, which seeks to connect individuals with their absent fathers.
“I’ve always been committed to service, which is why I started the program,” he said. “Lately, I feel as though I was destined to make a bigger change across the whole platform. And the best way to do it was to make change in my hometown.”
He was prompted to take a step into the political realm
following what he called discriminator y experiences with the Newark Police Department.
He explained that after throwing a party, he and his roommates were jailed.
“We didn’t really like the way the police handled the situation, just because we’ve thrown parties in the past with other Caucasian fraternities, and the police handled it way differently,” he said. “That’s what really sparked my interest into what’s wrong with Newark.”
Following the incident, he began getting involved with the city in several ways, such as surveying residents of local low-income apartments and students. He said he found that many didn’t know that Newark had a mayor.
As he begins his campaign, he said his first plan
of action is to hear from residents, which he plans to do through canvassing and an online sur vey.
“There’s a questionnaire for Newark residents, and it has about seven to eight questions, and I wanted to get feedback before I put out my plan,” he said. “I wanted to actually take in everybody else’s wants and needs and formulate my plan under that.”
Though he wants to base his plan around feedback he receives from the community, Guthrie is interested in several different issues – primarily the gap between the university students and the community.
“I feel as though, me leading the charge, me being the center of the unity of all the councilmen and the council, could definitely spark
change because I’m close to the crowd of the students but I also can communicate very well with older citizens,” he said. “I need to bridge that gap.”
He is also concerned about development, and the impact student housing has on the community at large. He said that he has scheduled several meetings with university leaders and also wants to meet with local developers.
“I want to talk to those developers and also the university to make sure that they’re offering developments not only for the students, but for low-income housing and also senior citizen residents,” he said.
Guthrie noted that the Christina School District has been a topic of discussion at recent council meetings
and added that his education was primarily in Christina schools.
“So I can speak very fluidly on what’s going on in that school district,” he said, adding that he wants to focus on getting more programs to Newark High School that deal with mental health and illness because he feels that’s a need. He also explained that he has been talking with Friends 4 Friends, an organization at UD that advocates for mental wellness.
Guthrie said he is currently a part-time student and plans to continue part-time so that he can effectively balance school and the responsibilities of mayor.
“People might say my age is very young and might be hesitant to vote for me,” he said. “If they want to
connect with the students and they want to build that bridge with the students, they’re going to need one of the students actually out there, and I feel as though I can communicate on both sides – students and also to the senior citizens and residents who live here in Newark.”