University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student K.C. Cayo runs for District 9 City Council

Sophie Byrne, Social Justice Reporter

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student K.C. Cayo announced their write-in campaign for the April 6th City Council race on January 31st of this year. Cayo is running for the District 9 seat. The Racquet Press reached out to Cayo to hold a Q&A session on their campaign.  

Sophie Byrne: It’s no surprise to see you running for office. But why city council?   

K.C. Cayo: I’ve been living in La Crosse for the past three years and the main reason why I’m running for this specific position is becayse my opponent [Chris Woodard] is unopposed and he’s been posting some problematic things on the internet. 

He [Chris Woodard] went into the comments section of the La Crosse Independent, attacked his constituents there, and threatened to run a well-respected activist out of town. A bunch of different people in La Crosse were like, ‘hey, we don’t want this guy on our council, can someone run against him?’” After radio silence for about a week or so, someone I used to work with on a political campaign called me and asked if I would run for city council. Without thinking about it I said yesand here I am. 

It’s become so much more than that, though. I might be the first queer person on the council, and if not that I would for sure be the first intersex and non-binary person, who uses neo pronounsto be on that council. I’m a renter, I take the bus every day, and I’m a student. I would be representing renters specifically in a very apartment-heavy district. It would just be a lot of firsts for the council, and there’s going to be a very high turnover this April. There’s a big potential to have a lot of really progressive people there. 

Sophie Byrne: Is running a write-in campaign daunting?   

K.C. Cayo: Absolutely. But I work better in high-stress environments, and I love being afraid and overcoming things that scare me. If I can be doxed by Kavanaugh supporters, and if I can be attacked online because of the Joe Biden photo… I can do anything. Nothing could be worse than those two experiences were for me, and I’m very comfortable stepping into this role.  

Sophie Byrne: What has been your approach to campaigning?   

K.C. CayoSo far it has been creating social media platforms and just being very transparent online. I intend to do phone bankingtext banking, and door-knocking as well. In this COVID-19 environment, most of my outreach will be via mail and via the online community. I’ll be trying to touch base with as many voters as I can, just to get my name out there. Hopefully, I will be able to garner enough monetary support where I can do all that, but at the very least nothing’s going to stop me from going out there and knocking on doors.  

Sophie Byrne: You’re promoting Housing First and a Tenant’s Bill of Rights in your campaign platform. Tell a little bit about these.  

K.C. Cayo: Housing first is specifically regarding homelessness. There are a lot of houses that have been vacant for a really long time in La Crosse, in Wisconsin, and in the United States. Even though people think that the answer to homelessness is mental health resources or getting them food, it’s actually getting them a house. If you have shelter, you can work on other things like getting a job, accessing mental health resources, going and getting support if you have an addiction, and so on and so forth.  

A housing first initiative would get homeless folks off the streets and into homes, so they can start focusing on other issues. Some of those issues may have put them into this very systemic situation that is homelessness… because it is systemic, especially if you’re a part of the BIPOC community.  

Some other progressive groups in the [La Crosse] area and I got this idea [of a Tenant’s Bill of Rights] from Kansas City, Missouri. It’s for renters and tenants, and it lists out specific rights that they have as renters. For example, the properties they rent from must be updated to ADA standards, will have water, heating, and electricity; and everything else you need that should be constant in every rental propertybut isn’t.  

It also covers more than that, like you can’t discriminate based on disability, you can’t discriminate based on being a person of color, being queer, so on and so forth. It keeps landlords from retaliating against you if you report them or if you ask them for maintenance support, which right now landlords can legally do. This isomething that we would like to bring to the city council, regardless of whether or not I am on it, in the next year or so.  

If you know a student, you know at least one landlord horror story. I think that a tenant’s bill of rights here, in a college town, would be monumental. Campaign or not, this is something La Crosse needs. 

Sophie Byrne: What other issues might you advocate for if you were to be elected?   

K.C. Cayo: I am very interested in queer politics because I’m a queer person and policies very much exclude me just by using gendered pronouns, for instance. I would love, love to update prior legislation and include new legislation that is centered around safety for queer people. Especially since there are lots of policies in Wisconsin that are very dangerous to us.  

I would like to advocate for BIPOC folks in the community, and I would love to reach out to organizations and touch base and be like, ‘I know I’m white, but what is the best thing I can do to support you and uplift you on these issues?’  

Those are two very big ones, but I’m also interested in sustainability. I know that the city council has committed to transitioning La Crosse to sustainable energy by 2050… we could do it sooner. We should do it sooner. I would love to be a part of a conversation around moving different businesses toward greener ideas. There’s so much we could be doing. We do not need to wait until 2050 and we honestly can’t risk waiting until 2050.  

I don’t know, name a progressive policy and I would like to advocate for it the best that I can as one council member.  

Sophie Byrne: Tell us why you believe you can serve District 9 better than your opponent.  

K.C. Cayo: I’m someone who is a student, who is working, who’s queer, who’s been homeless, who’s traveled, who’s already familiar with Robert’s Rules, who’s written legislation on a campus level on my own and with partnerships, who’s familiar with progressive and social justice-related organizations in the area, who knows how to connect to all these different identities that may not holdbut would like to represent anyway—because someone needs to.  

Although I might not be the perfect person for the job, I think that I have more experience and more drive than he does, and we could use fresh new voices and fresh new ideas on this council that has historically had very little of either of those things.  

At the very least, I’m hoping that even if I lose this council race, I will have pushed him [Chris Woodard] on some of his ideas and behaviors and maybe he’ll do better later. 

 

For more information on the District 9 race, readers can visit Facebook:  

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