This is Part 7 of a daily series from The Ithaca Voice introducing voters to their potential next U.S. House of Representatives member. Chol Majok is the seventh in the series of eight total. Others will be published each day throughout the week.
TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Democrat Chol Majok, of Syracuse, believes in prioritizing community input within politics, which is exactly what he plans to do if elected for New York’s 22nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
After his father decided to join the Sudanese government to fight for South Sudanese liberation, Majok witnessed burning villages and scattered communities as a result of government retaliation for the liberation movement. Because of these experiences, Majok has been a refugee for almost as long as he can remember.
His aspirations for public services were inspired by his father’s dedication to serve his country and community, even when it meant leaving his family to head to the frontlines. “As his child, I didn’t see any other profession that I would rather be in, I was honored,” Majok said of his career.
The culture in Majok’s childhood community was true responsibility and dedication to neighbors. “I came from a community where people really, really care about one another. My father took that upon himself, in addition to his responsibility as a soldier, his responsibility as a father, he also had a responsibility as a community member.”
Coming to America and entering foster care before heading to Syracuse University, Majok got his foot in the professional door while working with former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner before moving on to work with New York State Senators Marty Golden and David Valesky before deciding to run for political office himself.
Majok got elected to the Syracuse Common Council, where he is currently serving his second term.
“I always believe that a job of a political leader is to make sure that they take care of their constituents,” he said. “I will work with anybody, [who] is able to provide resources for our district,” continuing on to say that regardless of who you have to work with, you do it.
One of Majok’s top agenda items is better housing, and he said that he wants to look at it with innovation in mind to fix the crumbling infrastructure particularly affecting poor communities. Looking at housing as the epicenter of his other top priorities, Majok uses Syracuse as an example of an urban center where he sees unsafe housing, a general lack of housing and displacements affecting children and seniors alike.
He believes that solving the housing problem will allow other issues to fall into place. “I know that, as somebody that has been in foster care and somebody that has watched other parents and families struggle, […] housing is a key component of challenging poverty.” Providing the basic necessities of housing includes moving toward home ownership, Majok said.
Throughout his campaign, it was also important to Majok to collect as many signatures himself as possible, which he told his campaign team. “The team was like, that’s almost impossible, and I said, ‘nothing is impossible when you start moving.’”
In support of President Joe Biden’s approach to health care, Majok’s primary goal is making it more accessible for more Americans. “Whatever plan gives more Americans more coverage is what we need,” he said, also saying that it is shameful to see how many people still don’t have access to adequate care in a first-world country.”
Another issue Majok holds in priority is a bettering of the educational system. While raising his children, he became aware of how important pre-K programs are as well as trade-school opportunities. “We have to invest in trade schools, give more Americans reason to advance their skills,” he said, adding that there should be more options for those who don’t want to pursue traditional schooling.
“We have to find alternatives where people can support themselves and their families,” he said.
Majok believes that the pandemic displayed how reliant the United States is on importation, particularly of oil, and believes that reducing dependency on foreign oil is both economically and environmentally more sound.
“We have realized that our earth is burning. And it’s time for us to start moving away from fossil fuel,” Majok said while explaining his support for the Green New Deal.
Above all, Majok believes in collaboration between politicians and their constituents, and he intends to continue working toward that goal. “My goal is not to stick on a party line, my goal is to make sure that whoever is in front of me understands that my most important job is to take care of my constituents, and to get them resources and to fetch their fair share because they deserve it.”
Jimmy Jordan contributed reporting for this article.