SDSU student running for House of Representatives

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SDSU student running for House of Representatives

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Ian Lack

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Zachary Kovach is getting an early start to a career in politics.

At just 22 years old, the senior political science major is running for a District 7 seat in the State House of Representatives this November.

“I always knew that I wanted to run for political office. It was my dream to,” Kovach said. “I just didn’t think I would be doing it now.”

Kovach faces competition from opponents over twice his age. Among those are fellow Democrat Dwight “Bill” Adamson, independent Cory Ann Ellis and Republicans Doug Post and incumbent Tim Reed. The two candidates with the most votes will be elected.

The District 7 seat spans the city of Brookings, Brookings Township to the north of the city and Medary Township to the south. Like all seats in the House, this seat’s term is for two years.

Kovach said his age shouldn’t deter anyone from casting their vote for him.

“I wouldn’t say I lack political experience at all,” Kovach said. “I’m majoring in political science. I have more of a background in politics than a number of legislators. I think that I can represent a youth advocacy within politics that shows age isn’t as important as determination.”

Kovach is focusing on making college education more affordable in his platform. He said he understands the issues more personally as a student his age.

“I’m $50,000 in student loan debt right now. I know there are a lot of people who think it’s impossible to put themselves through college,” he said. “We have to fix that and find newer, more innovative ways to spend our funds to give kids better access to services and learning materials.”

Kovach also thinks the future of health care in the country should be a single-payer system.

“A lot of people, even Democrats in South Dakota, are afraid to say the words ‘universal healthcare.’ I’m not,” Kovach said. “We have the money to pay for this. We can afford this. It’s completely reasonable and it’s compassionate.”

The opportunity to run for District 7 House surfaced when the South Dakota Democratic Party asked the SDSU College Democrats if any members were interested in running. Kovach accepted the offer in March, then announced his candidacy a month later.

Ann Tornberg, chair for the state Democratic Party, said she is confident in Kovach running in “an active, more progressive Brookings County.”

“We’re a big-tent party. It’s important for us to reach out to every generational group and I think he’s done a great job at that,” Tornberg said. “He’s doing exactly what he needs to do to run a solid campaign.”

But with a progressive, independent candidate like Cory Ann Ellis on the ballot and an incumbent Republican like Tim Reed, some think the race is a longshot for Kovach. This includes David Wiltse, an SDSU political science professor. Wiltse had Kovach as a student in a number of his courses.

“Especially because of an independent candidate, it’s really tough to get a sense of how this will shape up,” Wilste said. “[Ellis is] going to do far better than most independents would because she’s been working this for months now. She has name recognition.”

Wiltse said who wins could depend on how many votes Ellis could peel off from the other candidates.

Democrats have also spoken of a “blue wave” this election season – a shift in the country toward more progressive Democrats in November. Tornberg said she has noticed this shift herself, even in the reliably Republican state of  South Dakota. She said this blue wave could benefit Kovach’s campaign as well.

“The enthusiasm being led by the candidacy for [Democrat] Billie Sutton for governor has been amazing all over the state,” Tornberg said. “I’ve had more faith in this cycle and [in] Billie Sutton than my entire life being a South Dakota registered voter. I think that applies for Zach [Kovach].”

Election Day is Nov. 6, with the deadline for voter registration set for Oct. 22.

No matter the turnout in the election, Kovach said he is determined to be a part of local politics.

“I want to continue to make a difference,” Kovach said. “No matter the outcome of this election, I want to continue with politics into the future. I see this more as just a way to make people’s lives better.”