Independent candidate running for congressional seat | Politics

A Rochester man who backed Bernie Sanders for president and left the DFL over frustration how the presidential candidate was treated is running as an independent for the 1st Congressional District.

Johnny Akzam, a website developer, said he has always wanted to run for political office.

“I don’t call myself a liberal because I don’t even know what that term means. I’m a progressive. A progressive to me is somebody who is always looking to the solution to whatever the issue is,” the 44-year-old said.

Akzam grew up in California and moved to Minnesota in 1999. He said he was inspired by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, who was killed in a plane crash in 2002. Akzam said he believes the senator was murdered because of his opposition to the Iraq War. The National Transportation Safety Board determined flight crew errors led to the crash.

Asked what his priorities would be, Akzam said it depends on what is going on at the time of the election. He has pledged not to accept Congress’ health care insurance for members until single-pay health care is approved. He also supports legalizing marijuana and boosting investment in education.

Incumbent Rep. Tim Walz, D-Mankato, chose not to run for re-election and instead is running for governor in 2018. So far, two other candidates have formally announced they are running. They are Blue Earth Republican Jim Hagedorn and former Owatonna DFL Sen. Vicki Jensen.