Meet The 26-Year-Old Running Against The Man Who Made Benghazi A Thing
Chris Fedalei didn't appreciate inspirational quotes until he began his run for Congress.
He told Elite Daily:
Every cliché you've ever heard about chasing your dreams or fulfilling your goals is exactly true. When opportunity knocks don't ask questions, just kick the door down and go for it.
Fedalei is doing just that in his campaign as a Democrat for South Carolina's fourth Congressional District, which he announced earlier this spring.
Fedalei is 26 years old and graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law last year.
He is running against one of the country's most well-known congressmen: Rep. Trey Gowdy.
Gowdy made a name for himself on a number of Congressional committees. You may remember his staunchly anti-abortion statements at the Congressional hearing on Planned Parenthood last fall.
If that doesn't ring a bell, you may know Gowdy as the chair of Congress's seemingly interminable committee on Benghazi, which held an 11-hour testimony with Hillary Clinton that Gowdy basically admitted was useless.
So Fedalei doesn't necessarily see it as a negative that he's running against a well-known incumbent. Fedalei said:
Just because you're nationally known doesn't mean you're nationally known for the right reasons. I think Trey Gowdy is known for all the wrong reasons. He's known for a wasteful -- to say the least -- congressional investigation that has spent over $6 million and taken longer than it took to investigate the JFK assassination and 9/11.
Fedalei also believes Gowdy's national focus has taken away from local interests. In his district in South Carolina, Fedalei said, there is low education, increasing poverty -- especially childhood poverty -- and a loss in job opportunity.
Fedalei's campaign is focused on public service. His main platform pieces are criminal justice reform and veterans' issues.
Fedalei is concerned about mass incarceration and its disproportionate effect on minority people. He actually went to law school to learn more about criminal justice and get into public policy.
Along with taking a person away from their family, work and education, mass incarceration costs the public money, Fedalei said:
It's not just a moral disaster, it's also a financial disaster, and it's a set of policies that does not make us any safer.
Veterans' issues are close to home for Fedalei, who comes from three generations of army officers.
Working at a veterans disability law office prompted his drive to serve his community. While working to get her benefits, a veteran's wife wrote him a letter about how PTSD changed her husband after fighting in Vietnam. This letter inspired Fedalei to go into politics. He said:
It's just a shame. The budget is unlimited when it comes to creating veterans…but when they come home from war, all of a sudden money is tight.
So far, campaigning has been a big mix of activities where “no two days are the same.” Fedalei and his team have been volunteering, giving speeches, going into communities, fundraising and spending days in the office just going through calls and emails. They are ramping up for the November election.
Fedalei's team includes many local young people. Of his main staff, only one is from outside of the district.
To me, it's kind of important symbolically to have a staff full of locals who are really dedicated and care about the fate of our district and our homes.
Fedalei described his team as a sort of young, political version of "The Avengers":
It's kind of like a movie where you go around and find the specialists and bring them together.
Although Fedalei is all in on getting involved in politics, he understands why so few young people are motivated to even vote. He said:
I wrestle with the same idea -- sometimes you feel so powerless in the context of how our political system is today. But the number one thing I would say is don't let that become a self-fulfilling prophecy… ...a lot of the negative things that happen in politics are enabled by people who give up on the process.
Ultimately, though, Fedalei said it's an “ironic tragedy” young people tune out of politics since we're the people who will be most affected by it. One thing is clear, he said:
Things do not get better by lack of participation.