Rivule Sykes announced their candidacy Monday for U.S. House in the Fifth Congressional District of Louisiana, launching a campaign that they say aims to bring “people’s attention to the issues we all face together.”
As a transgender woman who is a member of Gen Z, Sykes says they understand how both groups are “uniquely” challenged in the country today. With previous experience in property management, working as a resident assistant, and being a lighting designer technician, they also have a deep interest in the policies affecting the average American worker.
“There are broad common ground issues that are affecting all of us. Living through or the threat of poverty and income inequality, workers’ rights, the industrial prison complex, corporate greed, and lack of access to health care, to name a few,” they tell The Advocate, adding, “So when we talk about those issues, I can add in how LGBTQ+ people are often uniquely affected by them.”
While Gen Z are proven to be more progressive than previous generations, candidates still regularly struggle to reach younger voters. Part of this, Sykes says, is because they don’t see themselves represented. There is currently only one Gen Z member of Congress, and many racial/ethnic groups are disproportionately underrepresented across the nation. Beyond that, many of them do not see themselves economically represented.
“Gen Z and Alpha are facing a future of such wealth inequality across the board. Millennials as well. Over half of each of those generations that are working age still live with family, as do I technically,” Sykes explains, continuing, “I’ve had my viewpoints completely invalidated by people who don’t think I’m responsible or ‘grown up’ just because I don’t own my own house yet. And that is harmful to not only our generation but our democracy.”
Sykes’s platform aims to bridge these gaps, focusing largely on worker’s rights and economic growth through policies that benefit people before profit. Their plans for housing and urban development policies include affordable housing, anti-gentrification, and homeownership assistance programs.
They are also a proponent of universal health care and expanded access to mental health services. Sykes promotes education funding and development, including teacher support programs. Their advocacy for workers’ rights doesn’t stop at educators — the candidate is also in favor of raising the minimum wage and developmental programs that would support small businesses.
Hailing from the small towns of Hammond and Holden, Sykes has firsthand experience of wealthy state policymakers overlooking rural and low-income communities. They say that this “lack of diverse representation affects all of us,” as “when the majority of politicians come from wealthy backgrounds, they are less likely to vote in favor of policies that will help the most poor and vulnerable of our generation.”
“There needs to be diversity in our representation when it comes to who forms our policy,” they continue. “While older politicians are valuable for the experience they have and the knowledge of our systems, we need younger policymakers to inform on new perspectives and bring energy for action and change.”
Sykes is an advocate for systemic change in both government and the criminal justice system. Alongside transparency and restrictions on lobbying, they also seek the abolition of bail and the private prison industry in Louisiana in favor of restorative justice systems. Their lobbying restrictions are particularly significant, as Sykes cites the practice as one of the causes behind young people’s disillusionment.
“Some of the traditional action that we’ve been told is effective just isn’t getting through to our politicians, and that’s because of corporate lobbying,” they explain, adding, “So, we’re seeing that inequality not only in wealth but also in representation of voice.”
Sykes is running in the state’s Fifth Congressional District, which is currently represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Julia Letlow. Louisiana elections use the majority-vote system, meaning candidates all compete in the same primary regardless of party, and a candidate can win outright if they receive over 50 percent of the vote. If a candidate does not win at least half of the votes, the top two advance to the general election.
Sykes is running as a third-party candidate in “a traditionally heavily Republican district.” Because of this, they say that “knowledge of electoral politics would inform my chances of getting elected as slim to none.”
While they are aware it’s an uphill battle, they believe that the purpose of political campaigns goes beyond winning and losing — instead, they can serve as an opportunity to shed a light on important issues while uplifting marginalized voices.
“That is one of the biggest reasons I am running, even if I don’t get elected. We need more representation in our choices,” Sykes explains. “But I do feel like I have a lot of those unique perspectives. And I feel like I am well informed on a lot of the issues we are facing collectively. And collectively, the majority of us are working class and poor, and we need more people in Congress who understand that struggle.”
They add, “At the end of the day, my campaign isn’t about electing me, it’s about bringing people’s attention to the issues we all face together, and coming together to form community-focused solutions that won’t leave anyone behind.”
The primary for Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District will take place November 5. Should no candidate win, the general election will follow on December 7.