Zach Brown wakes up at around 5 a.m. each day. He finishes his class assignments and heads to his first course of the day at the University of Richmond School of Law. As a first-year student studying constitutional law, Brown balances long school hours and a social life as a 23-year-old. But, unlike his peers, Brown, a 2018 Chapman alumnus, happens to be running in the 2019 election for the Virginia State Senate.
“Right now, young people are stepping off the sidelines and are getting into the arena and making our voices heard,” Brown said. “Young people are demanding a seat at the table.”
After graduating from Chapman with a bachelor’s degree in peace studies and a minor in political science, Brown started his law education – but he has a deeper desire to improve the lives of his neighbors in Virginia, which motivated him to represent the state’s 10th district.
“For far too long, the state government here has not been representing the interests of the people,” Brown said.
Brown will run against Democratic candidates Eileen Bedell and Ghazala Hashmi, both established Virginia residents. But Brown isn’t balking – despite his age, he’s ready to talk policy with his opponents.
“After that conversation, you will not be thinking about my age,” Brown said.
If he wins the primary in June, Brown will run against Republican incumbent Glen Sturtevant, who is backed by the NRA.
Brown’s campaign is managed by fellow University of Richmond law students, with a team of six women, minorities and his friends.
At Chapman, Brown was a member of Chapman University Young Democrats – a club that he says motivated him to become a politician due to the experiences it exposed him to. He also worked with Mitchell Rosenberg, student government president, at Chapman’s chapter of Camp Kesem, an organization that helps children whose parents have cancer.
“Zach is a fighter, he’s passionate,” Rosenberg said. “People need someone to represent them that is actually going to listen and who is going to fight for them, not just fight themselves. That’s exactly what he would do if he was elected.”
Brown’s campaign will center around fighting what Brown describes as a “growing wealth gap” in Virginia which, according to The Washington Post, consists of impoverished neighborhoods “tucked inside” wealthy suburban areas. His campaign is also dedicated to raising the minimum wage, expanding health insurance and supporting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s (D – N.Y.) proposed Green New Deal.
Brown told The Panther that he finds his young age to be an exciting factor that motivates him to become involved in politics.
“It feels energizing and inspiring and a little intimidating because you are taking on a lot of established forces and people saying, ‘Hey, wait your turn.’ But we don’t have time to wait,” Brown said.
Lisa Leitz, the chair of Chapman’s peace studies department, was a motivating factor behind Brown’s interest in politics.
“She took the time to find out what was important to me, what I wanted to do and my goals in life,” Brown said.
While Leitz didn’t know about Brown’s run for state senate until she saw his campaign Facebook page, she isn’t surprised.
“He will be the kind of person that will make people feel comfortable on a one-on-one setting,” Leitz said. “It’s great to see young people getting involved in politics and trying to make a difference.”