Meet the mayoral candidate: Kasai Guthrie
Kasai Guthrie, a 21-year-old university student, entrepreneur and rapper, is focused on improving communication between all of Newark’s constituents.
Associate News Editor
This article is the second installment of a series profiling candidates for the mayor of Newark. The election will take place on April 9.
CODEBoy Sai is quiet before he performs.
When the Newark-based rapper’s feet hit the stage, everything else stops and his focus turns toward the performance.
Although a crowd’s energy feeds the 21-year-old entrepreneurship student, the newest fuel to Kasai Guthrie’s fire is his campaign to be the next mayor of Newark.
“People are most fearful of my age because they look back on what they were doing at 21, and that scares them, but I’m not really doing what they were doing at 21,” the Newark native said. “My life ever since 15 has built on service. Every single business I have done has been built on service.”
His passion for helping others drove Guthrie to start two projects called We Need Our Fathers and Neggster.
We Need Our Fathers is a campaign Guthrie started while he was in high school that empowers people who grew up without a father and shows dads how important it is to remain a part of their child’s life. Guthrie said that his mother, aunt and grandmother were the ones who were present as he grew up.
Neggster is an app that Guthrie said he is working on that teaches financial literacy and mobile banking.
These experiences combined with his desire to help others and the proactiveness of his campaign are what Guthrie said differentiate him from other candidates with more political experience.
Guthrie said he first developed an interest in politics after he was arrested at a party. The run-in with the law showed him a side to policing and government that he had never seen, Guthrie said.
“… I do respect and appreciate all who serve in the capacity of protecting us at the risk of their own lives,” Guthrie’s campaign website states. “My engagement with the Newark Police was the catalyst to my running for office. It inspired me to dig deeper into how the City is managed, the issues from the perspective of all residents and how I can help improve the City as a whole.”
The Review could not obtain police records of the incident prior to publication.
“I threw the arrest out there because you always have to throw out your dirty laundry first,” Guthrie said, explaining why he believes the arrest will not prevent people from voting for him. “I wanted to show them why I got involved in the issues.”
Hoping to build upon his past and open lines of communication between police and students, Guthrie said that he is planning an event with the Newark Police Department and university police to improve students’ interactions with law enforcement. This public event is still in the planning phase, but Guthrie said he anticipates scheduling it in late March.
Most of Guthrie’s campaign focuses on this principle of improving existing relationships. One such relationship Guthrie looks to improve is that between the city and the university.
Guthrie said he believes Newark lacks a clear plan to grow Newark’s business community, but he thinks it can reverse its path by working closely with the university in its development plans.
If elected, Guthrie plans to help attract companies to STAR Campus, which he said would increase home values in the surrounding neighborhoods and allow the city council to reduce property taxes.
“I see [Newark and the university] growing together,” Guthrie said. “I see it being a partnership, us growing together as one.”
These incoming businesses are also a target for Guthrie’s plan to keep students in Newark after graduation. He intends to encourage these businesses to offer internships to university students and hire from recent graduate pools, helping the city grow by retaining some of its transient residents.
Further addressing some concerns of permanent Newark residents, Guthrie wants to cutdown on students’ house parties by creating alternate nightlife options, which he anticipates will also reduce the frequency of alcohol-related crimes.
If Guthrie wins the election, he said he would take more time off from school to focus on the position. He is currently on a leave of absence from the university, focusing on his campaign.
Guthrie said he is on track to graduate with the class of 2021 and does plan to eventually earn a degree from the university, regardless of the election’s outcome.
“I’m already trying to make Newark a great place,” Guthrie said. “I’m not waiting for April 9 to come by.”