‘Teen takes on incumbent in Assembly race

By Tamara Steiner on April 16, 2018

This summer, while most high school grads will spend their first days of freedom hanging out with friends or trying to reduce the sleep deficit left over from finals, one Concord High grad will hit the campaign trail at a dead run and won’t stop until he leaves for college—or Sacramento.

Aasim Yahya is running for California Assembly District 14 against incumbent Tim Grayson, D-Concord.

The thought of running came up when his literature teacher suggested he run for Concord City Council as his senior project. But Yahya had a bigger idea.

“Ever since I was a young boy, I knew what I wanted to do—effect change, not only in Concord … but to empower other youth to feel as if they too can speak up and stand up.”

The largest voting block in the country is between 18 and 25 years old, notes Yahya. “This means that the course of our nation rests in the hands of those who are youngest.”

Fevered by passion in the wake of the Parkland school shooting, young voters are speaking out through social media—and being heard. But passion must translate to action, he says.

“Participation is great, but we must dedicate ourselves to creating legislation and actual change, not just being ‘angry’ or ‘frustrated.’ ”

Grayson and Yahya are the only two Democrats in the June primary for District 14, which means they both will advance to the November election.

Yahya points out several recent bills where he differs from the incumbent, including a key gun control bill. Grayson abstained on AB 424, which prohibits anyone from entering a school with a gun even if they have a permit.

“I would have voted yes,” Yahya says of the new law.

With a war chest of less than $1,000—not even enough to pay for a ballot statement— and a cadre of volunteers all under 18, Yahya knows a win is unlikely. But winning is not the prize. Putting action behind words is the result he seeks.

“Freed from the need to raise hundreds of thousands, the lack of funds allows me to focus on what matters – listening to issues and responding,” he says.

Throughout high school, Yahya has listened and responded and is committed to social change, says Concord High principal Rianne Pfaltzgraff. “Aasim is one of the most driven, talented and global-minded students I have ever met,” she told the Pioneer.

He’s taken on economic inequality, raising thousands of dollars for scholarships for graduating seniors, distributing school supplies throughout the school district and setting up free SAT prep classes on campus.

Leadership roles come naturally to him. The week we spoke, he had just returned from a California Association of Student Leaders conference in Ontario. After a week’s rest, he was heading to Atlanta as a nationally recognized Coke Scholar.

Between now and the end of the school year, Yahya will decide where to go to college—Georgetown, Brown, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Howard University or Harvard. In the meantime, he will deal with finals.

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