World’s oldest freshman? 101-year-old Fla. man seeks House seat

The Constitution mandates that the minimum age to serve in the U.S. House is 25. That won’t be a problem for Joe Newman.

Newman, 101, is seeking the House seat held by Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., As a write-in candidate. Florida’s 16th District is currently listed as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report.

Newman’s age isn’t the only unique part of his biography. In an interview with USA TODAY, Newman says his parents, who disagreed with the czar of Russia, were exiled to Siberia around the turn of the 20th century. They were later allowed to leave and came to the United States around 1902 or 1903, he says.

While this is his first run for public office, this isn’t his first foray into public policy. Newman says he was hired by the Social Security Administration in the 1930s to go out to explain the new federal entitlement program “to whoever would listen.”.

He would later advocate on behalf of the mentally handicapped while living in South Bend., Ind., After he and his wife had a daughter who was born with disabilities. He says his proudest achievement was his work to establish a guardianship program within the Logan Center, a school for the mentally handicapped, which he and his wife helped found.

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As for politics, he says he’d never given serious thought to running before, but that changed recently. He described himself as an “archaeological progressive” — his website refers to him as an “anthropological progressive” — and says reaction to his candidacy has been “amazing.” So much so, he notes, that the odds of victory are “probably down to 1 million to 1.”.

Why now? He says he wants to be able to discuss issues — for instance, he doesn’t think the Affordable Care Act went far enough — and says he feels a certain responsibility.

“I see a school bus, I’m 101, and these kids come off, and I wonder what’s there for them,” he says.

Age certainly hangs over his campaign. He jokes that he’s “not in the minority as far as age is concerned” in Sarasota, though he notes there aren’t too many 101-year-olds even there.

And there aren’t any in Congress.

The oldest current member of Congress is 90-year-old Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, who is also the oldest person to ever serve in the House, according to the Congressional Research Service. Newman would claim that title by a mile should he pull off the upset, but says he doesn’t want to be considered a “sideshow” because of his age.

“I know I’m old,” he says. “And I know that I have to pace myself,” adding that he wouldn’t be up for rounds of golf with the president. He says, though, his health is good and that he still drives.

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The chances of any first-time candidate winning a write-in campaign to unseat a House incumbent in a safe district are long. When that challenger is 101, they’re probably even longer. But Newman says his hopes are that his campaign will get people to think about his issues.

“To me, that’s victory,” he says.

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