Ever wanted to run for office? One Southern Miss student did, and he decided to do so even while still in school. Austin Howell, a senior economics major, will run as a Democrat for the Mississippi House of Representatives in District 107, which includes George and Stone Counties.
The Democratic primary election will be uncontested, which means that Howell is guaranteed to run against the Republican nominee in the general election Nov. 3. The Republican nominee will also run uncontested in the primary, which is common for incumbents. In this case the incumbent is Doug McLeod, a business owner who has been the representative for District 107 since defeating Democrat Douglas Lee in 2011.
According to the official Mississippi House of Representatives website, McLeod was born in December 1960, putting him at 54 years old this year, making him more than twice as old as his 22-year-old challenger.
“I have always intended to enter public service at some point in my life, but the current state of Mississippi has inspired me to throw my hat in the ring,” Howell said.
“Mississippi is home to the most hard-working, creative, spiritual and giving people in the whole nation. This is why we deserve better from our state government. Our schools remain underfunded, our infrastructure is subpar and our unemployment rate is 7.8 percent—the highest in the country. This is unacceptable.”
Howell runs on a platform which focuses on fiscal responsibility, economic development and education, as well as attempting to inspire millennials to get out there, enter the political arena, run for office and try to make a difference. He said his campaign will attempt to broaden the voter base, and that he will “reach out to people who are often forgotten about by the legislature when making major decisions.”
These people include students, rural residents, educators and blue collar workers. Howell also has an idea of how he wants to reach out to these individuals.
“I plan to publish newspaper and radio ads, deliver political rally speeches and walk door-to-door to spread my platform,” the candidate said.
Students seemed to think it was interesting that one of their own – regardless of party – is running for a state office.
“It’s pretty neat to see someone who is still in college attempting to win higher office, and I think that SGA definitely helped put him in the position to do that,” sophomore SGA senator Rachael Reeves said.