A Peruvian man running for parliament could be the first candidate with Down syndrome to seek office anywhere.
As part of his campaign, 27-year-old Bryan Russell goes door to door in an effort to take his message directly to the people.
Russell told The Associated Press he has used his campaign to raise awareness about people with developmental disabilities. He says he has also tried to present himself as a different kind of candidate – one who will try to fight government corruption that has historically caused political problems in Peru.
“I’m someone clean, honest, transparent,” Russell told the AP. He spoke to the news agency while campaigning along with his pet dog Amor, whom he rescued from the street.
He said a main purpose of his campaign is to break the image that people with Down syndrome cannot be independent. Russell may be the first person with Down syndrome to run for public office anywhere in the world, the Global Down Syndrome Foundation said.
“We are thrilled that Bryan Russell is running for Congress in Peru,” said Michelle Sie Whitten, president of the foundation. “As far as we know, he is the first professional who has Down syndrome running for a publicly elected office.” She added that Russell “is showing the world that we need diversity in all areas of society, including in our governments.”
Down syndrome is a genetic abnormality that causes developmental delays that can affect a person physically and mentally.
Russell is a candidate for Peru-Nacion, a center-right party that is not widely known and has had limited success in past elections. But so far, his campaign has received some attention heading into the January 26 parliamentary elections.
At one leftist gathering he recently attended, Russell asked people to fight for people like him no matter what their political beliefs are. “I want people with my condition to have a voice,” Russell said.
He studied communications at Peru’s San Ignacio de Loyola University. His parents, he said, always urged him to find his own way. “I learned how to read and write, walk, run and eat, basically to respect myself,” the candidate has written.
“Well this is really impressive, because Bryan is changing the history and that is the most important thing,” said Russell’s mother, Gladys Mujica.
On a usual day, Russell’s activities mostly involve him handing out printed campaign materials to voters, along with carrying signs that explain his positions.
“He’s looking to do his best,” said Carlos Maza, a retiree who said he planned to vote for Russell. Maza added: “The ‘normal’ people try to steal from the country. That’s a very big difference.”
Elena Saavedra is an office worker. She shook the candidate’s hand during a campaign stop. She said, “We have to give him a chance.”
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in This Story
transparent – adj. easily seen or detected
thrilled – adj. very excited and pleased
diversity – n. including many different kinds of things
impressive – adj. something moving, touching or admirable