17-year-old candidate is serious about his run for state senate

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JACKSON HEIGHTS, Queens — Unconventional candidates can be key to many elections, as evidenced by the electoral victory of President Donald Trump, who, of course, is originally from Queens.

Another candidate from Queens, however, who describes himself as intensely anti-Trump, is nonetheless unconventional -- very much so.

He actually won't be old enough to vote until just a few months before the primary election for the state senate seat for which he's officially running.

"Because I am so young," said Tahseen Chowdhury in an interview, "I have no special interests."

Chowdhury, 17, is the president of the student union, or student council, of the highly selective public school, Stuyvesant High, in Manhattan. He also serves on the city's education advisory panel.

Chowdhury lives in East Elmhurst, Queens. It's a part of State Senate District 13, which also covers Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst, and parts of Astoria and Woodside. The teenage candidate hopes to represent the district in the state senate, against incumbent Jose Peralta.

"He caucuses with Republicans," Chowdhury said about Peralta, "but presents himself as a Democrat, and I found that really problematic."

Peralta is a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, or IDC, a group of state senators who collaborate with GOP senators. Some voters appreciate the IDC's willingness to work across the aisle. Chowdhury does not.

For his part, Sen. Peralta, as well as his office staff, were not able to respond to this story on Monday due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

At the ballot box, however, Peralta could end up in a high-profile rivalry. It's possible that he could get Governor Andrew Cuomo's support in exchange for Peralta leaving the IDC, and caucusing exclusively with fellow Democrats. A third candidate for the seat, Jessica Ramos, is a former De Blasio Administration official, who's fully expected to win the endorsement of the mayor. He is, of course, a rival of Gov. Cuomo. That intra-party tension could ultimately benefit the very young newcomer.

"The fact that I'm a teenager is very key," Chowdhury said. "I have no interest in advocating for anyone other than my community."

He built his own campaign website, which his volunteer staff of 20 people help to run. They also help in fundraising, which they do online in a hyper-targeted manner.

With an eye toward winning, and then serving, Chowdhury has applied exclusively to New York City colleges for next year. He's asked the schools to allow him take every spring semester off, if he's accepted, in order to be in Albany when the senate is in session, from January through June of each year.

Chowdhury said that he's setting up his schedule in a way that allows him to be home, where and when he's most needed.

"I've spent my entire life here," he told PIX11 News. "So I know this community in and out, and am very dedicated to it."

He will turn 18 this summer. The primary election in the very heavily Democratic district is scheduled for September 11th. The general election will be on November 6th. New York requires all members of the state legislature to be at least 18 years of age.

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