Nayab Siddiqui filed for a delegate seat in Howard County's District 13 on the day of the filing deadline. But, he said, he has been thinking about taking on a role in public service for much longer than that.
"I am nothing but a reflection of the people around me," he said of his decision to run. "And in that regard, I've always liked to serve. And that was the same reason I got into business."
Siddiqui, 57, is the president and founder of Columbia-based Scientific Systems and Software International and currently serves as an alternate on the Democratic Central Committee.
The Clarksville Democrat was not the only candidate to file at the last minute on Feb. 25. Democrat Vanessa Atterbeary, a Fulton attorney, decided to run for a delegate seat in District 13 that same day. And North Laurel Republican Jody Venkatesan filed to challenge Del. Guy Guzzone in his Senate campaign on the day of the filing deadline, as well.
In addition to Atterbeary and Siddiqui, Democratic incumbent Dels. Shane Pendergrass and Frank Turner are running for re-election. Oakland Mills community organizer Fred Eiland, a Democrat, has also filed to run for one of the district's three delegate seats.
On the Republican side, District 13 delegate candidates Jimmy Williams, Chris Yates and Danny Eaton round out the Republican ticket headed by Venkatesan.
Siddiqui's wife, Janet Siddiqui, is a Board of Education member and had originally filed to run for a delegate seat in District 13 before she withdrew to remain on the school board.
Nayab Siddiqui decided to run in her place. "It's about serving the community," he said. "I thought that if Janet had taken such a bold step, it was my responsibility, since I had that drive and that passion, that I stepped in. And I have absolutely no regrets."
Siddiqui said he wants to bring a small business-oriented perspective to politics.
"I don't like the same-old, same-old," he said. "I want to bring innovation in politics. I want to bring new ideas; I want to bring the approach which is not a Band-Aid approach, but to look at things from a whole new perspective, and I think I can do that. I have been innovative in my whole life in the things that I have done."
Siddiqui, whose business has grown from the one-man, part-time venture he started in 1985 to one of the largest IT consulting firms in the Baltimore region, according to the Baltimore Business Journal, said he thought government could facilitate the application process for new businesses.
"We need to make sure our policies are such that people who get into business or have a desire [to get into business]… are given an opportunity to succeed," he said.
In addition to streamlining start-up procedures, Siddiqui said he would support vocational training programs so that more Marylanders can learn technical skills such as plumbing, electrical and auto work.
And he said he agrees with efforts to raise the state's minimum wage, having struggled to make ends meet when he was younger.
"I know what it takes to tell a gas station attendant [to[ stop the meter at $2, because I don't have more than $2," he said. "I've been there, I know what it takes. And I think that's why I feel people should have living wages. We need to create an economy where people are able to work the jobs that they like and are able to raise their families."
The economy and education, including support for early childhood education, are two of Siddiqui's three primary goals, which he calls the three E's – the third is the environment.
Siddiqui said improving the environment should be a shared community goal. To do that, he said, the culture needs to shift.
"Have you watched any public service commercials that will show you how cool it is to share a ride? How cool it is to turn the water down when you're brushing your teeth?" he asked. "Those are the kinds of things we need to do to create awareness. If you want to motivate your employees, you don't tell them what to do. You create an environment for them to be able to go and do those things. Empower them."
Though Siddiqui was not chosen to replace his wife, Janet Siddiqui, on the District 13 Democratic incumbents' Team 13 slate, he said it was "a good thing" for both him and the team. He said his focus would be on earning voters' trust.
"I speak my own language; I don't speak anybody else's," he said. "This is who I am."