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Rising second-year student Leon Sit runs to represent 59th Assembly District

Leon Sit (pictured), a rising second-year materials engineering student, is running to represent California State Assembly District 59 in the 2022 general election. (Courtesy of Leon Sit)

By Lex Wang and Anna Dai-Liu

July 21, 2022 1:47 p.m.

This post was updated July 24 at 8:36 p.m.

When Leon Sit noticed the incumbent assembly member for his district was running unopposed, he saw an opportunity to provide voters with another choice on the ballot.

Sit, a rising second-year materials engineering student, is running to represent California’s 59th Assembly District, covering the northeast of Orange County and Chino Hills in San Bernardino County. According to the California secretary of state, to participate in the primary election, write-in candidates like Sit must obtain 40 signatures from district residents for a voter nomination petition. As one of the top two candidates in the June 7 primary alongside incumbent Phillip Chen, Sit will advance to the November general election against Chen.

If elected, Sit said his priorities would include reducing single-use plastics – a particular concern for younger generations – as well as suspending the gasoline tax and investing in mental health services.

Sit said his initial interest in politics was influenced by statistics – specifically how demographic characteristics, such as economic status, might influence voters. Currently, Sit is one of four partners at Split Ticket, an election data analysis organization.

“We try to write about things that we think are underrepresented in modern-day discourse, not from an ideological perspective, but from a data perspective,” said Lakshya Jain, a partner at Split Ticket.

As a no-party preference candidate, Sit extends this nonpartisan approach to his campaign as well. 

When collecting the required signatures, Sit said he gained support from people with a wide range of political beliefs. Emphasizing accountability from elected officials instead of advocating for policies helped Sit quickly obtain signatures, he added.

However, Sit said this strategy differed because he lacked connections and resources. He added that as a younger candidate, he also found his capabilities being questioned – both by constituents and himself.

“One question I would continuously get is: ‘Are you old enough?’ Technically, yes, I am old enough. If you look in the California state constitution, the requirement is to be 18 years old,” Sit said. “But am I really old enough to go to Sacramento? You know, cast votes on bills that reflect the interests of my constituents? That’s a different question.”

Sit also said older people, who view younger candidates as less experienced or qualified, tend to have higher voter turnout. Sit has used platforms such as Reddit and Snapchat to campaign, said Armin Thomas, a partner for Split Ticket and Sit’s unofficial campaign manager.

“If we can get to 40%, 45% (of the total vote), with 1/100th of the resources that Phillip Chen has to marshal in his favor, I would call that a symbolic win for team Leon Sit,” Thomas said.

Sit’s colleagues also said his data skills make him a strong candidate for office.

“Leon is much more tech-savvy, much more data literate and much more mathematically inclined than just about anyone we have in politics,” Jain said. “And that’s an important thing to discuss and an important thing to have in there. Because without that, people start to make decisions that aren’t necessarily tethered in reality.”

Both Jain and Harrison Lavelle, who is also a partner at Split Ticket, said Sit’s honesty also makes him a good fit for the position.

“I think honesty is incredibly important in politics, so if Leon is ultimately elected, I have no doubt that he will remain genuine and honest to his constituents,” Lavelle said.

As the general election draws near, Sit said he wants to encourage his constituents to get more involved in politics, especially on the local level, where representatives have a more direct and tangible impact on constituents.

The district currently favors the Republican party – the platform Chen is running on – by 7.6 percentage points, according to the Orange County Register. Though Sit said he doesn’t anticipate getting over 45% of the vote, he added that winning was never his primary goal – it was to get competition on the November ballot.

“I think at this point, I’ve already won because my main goal was to have a competition in November,” Sit added. “And that’s what we’ve had.”

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Lex Wang | Assistant Opinion editor
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