The first time Chowdhury ran for office he was just 16 and seeking election into the state senate. Not even old enough to vote, the child of Bangladeshi immigrants was certain he could do a better job than the adults running things at the time.
“If you’re able to find the issues that matter to people in the community and build a strong message, it doesn’t necessarily matter who you are,” Chowdhury told In The Know. “What matters is how effectively you communicate that message to people and how effectively you educate the voters.”
While Chowdhury didn’t win that first election, he did successfully engage his community on issues like how diversity in New York City schools, immigration and affordable housing.
Chowdhury grew up in East Elmhurst, Queens. His parents first immigrated to the area in the 1990s.
“Queens is the most diverse place in the world,” he said. “That diversity really makes you grow up in a bubble, it also makes you grow up in a place where you’re accepted and you’re able to speak up.”
So when Chowdhury noticed that there weren’t a lot of South Asians in elected office, it was natural for him to make his voice heard even as a teen. Today the political wunderkind is focused on Viz, a consulting agency that builds communities of voters.
“What we’re doing is we’re primarily targeting first-time voters that wouldn’t have otherwise voted,” he said. “We’re an issue-first consultancy. We look at the issues that matter within a district first and then we find who cares about those issues.”
Candidates seek out Viz to help get their campaigns off the ground and give shape to their messaging so that it resonates with communities.
“I think Gen Z is unique in the fact that they’ve grown up in a world filled with technology where their voice has been able to be amplified,” Chowdhury stated. “They’re comfortable with publicly expressing their opinions and their issues. They don’t stop if they care about something and I really appreciate that. I’m proud of that and I hope that we keep doing it.”
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