Not too many congressmen can say they’ve rocked out on
acoustic drums at a concert or recorded with the local blues
ensemble The Witch Doctors.

But if School of Information lecturer Hans Masing were to win
the congressional elections this November, he would become perhaps
one of the most colorful additions to the U.S. House of
Representatives.

The 39-year-old independent candidate from Ann Arbor will go up
against incumbent John Dingell (D-Dearborn) in this year’s
congressional elections for the 15th District, which was redrawn in
2002 to include Ann Arbor.

“My ideology, like most Americans’, doesn’t
fit into a Democratic or Republican bucket,” said Masing,
explaining his position as a “square in the middle”
moderate. Because of this, Masing believes he can be a voice for
his district’s voters.

“There is a transition between representatives and
politicians, and people that have been in (Congress) for more than
one or two terms are politicians,” he said.

His opponent is currently the longest-serving member of
Congress, looking to be re-elected for what would be his 50th year
of public service. Dingell has a record of successfully pushing
through legislation and remains popular with his constituents.

He is currently involved in the University as one of the
strongest adversaries of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative to
end affirmative action in state programs, an issue that Masing
views from a different perspective.

“One thing we’re lacking here at Michigan and at
other top schools is that we have ethnic diversity but not economic
diversity,” he said. “Are we in fact truly helping
people that need a leg up or those that have the socioeconomic
capacity but are of a different race?”

Masing also takes a conservative stance on gun control,
advocating the selling of guns to licensed buyers to preserve the
Second Amendment.

Mostly, though, Masing’s platform adheres to liberal
views.

He supports the nationwide legalization of same-sex unions,
questioning if the issue is any different than interracial
marriages were 50 years ago. When it comes to abortion, Masing is
pro-choice, but he also specifies the “need to educate people
(so that) abortion is the last choice a person would make.”
His platform includes tax incentives to help small businesses and
regulation of government programs to monitor cost-effectiveness.
Masing’s campaign as an independent candidate allows him the
flexibility to draw from Republican and Democratic views, but he
said he may have to run under a party affiliation.

“One thing that’s going to keep me off that ballot
is that (as an independent) I have to get three times as many
signatures as Republicans or Democrats,” he said.
“I’m thinking about maybe running (with a party) just
to get onto the ballot.”

Masing said it is unfortunate that moderate candidates do not
have a place in American politics, which he believes are controlled
by a bipartisan system closely tied to special interests.
“You can’t win as a moderate in this country because
the extreme left or right will paint you as wishy-washy,” he
said.

Even if Masing does make it on to the ballot, he may not have
much luck, political science Prof. Kenneth Kollman said.
“Third parties very rarely win seats in the U.S.
House,” Kollman said. “People that do what he’s
doing are trying to promote a set of ideas.” Currently,
Bernie Sanders of Vermont is the only independent congressman in
the House.

Dingell said he is confident that his service has met the needs
of the 15th District and for this reason, voters keep electing him
back into office. “We don’t worry about our opponent.
We just carry out our own campaign,” he said.

Even Masing will be the first to admit that Dingell’s name
recognition alone could win him the election without running a
single ad. He, on the other hand, “has to solicit every penny
he raises.”

So far, Masing has been running the campaign largely from his
own pocket with the help of a few small donations. To continue in
the race, Masing said he needs to raise between $80,000 and
$100,000 and gather 3,000 signatures within a six-month window.

Despite these obstacles, he said he refuses to bow to interest
groups and emphasized the need for new leadership for the 15th
District. “When you look at where (Dingell’s) money
comes from, you wonder if he knows what the 15th District is about
anymore,” he said.

Masing said involvement in the political process has exposed him
to the dirty side of politics, with its “back deals”
and “slick answers” — aspects of the
congressional race that he said have been disturbing. That is why
at the end of the day, Masing is content teaching
“Programming I” and working on the Coursetools Next
Generation revisions for the University while spending time with
his two children. And if his political aspirations go unrealized,
he’s always got his gig with the Witch Doctors.

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