Students enjoyed their run for Illinois State SenateJulia Morse
As if University students are not busy enough. In addition to attending classes, studying and participating in extracurricular activities, Charles Kinzer, a College fourth-year and resident adviser, and Physics graduate student Matthew Szydagis (A.B. ’05) added to their to-do lists this fall: campaign for Illinois State Senate.
“It wasn’t easy to find a spare minute,” said Kinzer, an Economics concentrator, who was the Republican candidate for the 13th District in Hyde Park in the race for Illinois State Senate. “I enjoyed the campaign, and I think it is extremely important that we ran.”
The Cook County Republican Party approached members of the student-run College Republicans last spring, encouraging some of them to consider running in the races for the Illinois State Senate in which Democrats were running unopposed. Kinzer and Szydagis both eagerly accepted.
“I think it is very important in a democracy to have a true competition, to shake things up a bit, not just to have these people winning only because no one ran against them,” said Szydagis, who was the Republican candidate for the 16th Senate District.
“It was a win-win situation for all of us,” Kinzer said. “The Cook County Republican Party wanted to increase the number of Republicans running and we were eager for some real political experience.”
Kinzer explained that the goal was not necessarily to win, but rather to increase student interest in local politics and to give Republicans a voice on the South Side of Chicago.
“Mine was a very low-key campaign, really not a huge operation, and one I geared mostly toward students,” Kinzer said, noting that he relied mostly on word-of-mouth and bumper stickers to alert the University community of his Senate race. “A lot of people on campus seemed really excited about a student running for the Senate. Even the Democrats on campus were receptive to my ideas,” said Kinzer.
When it came to his campaign platform, Kinzer said a few issues are particularly important to him. He believes there should be statewide funding for Chicago public transportation. “I understand why people who live far outside the city wouldn’t want to contribute to the CTA, but this is something I believe the state budget should pay for,” Kinzer explained.
Also a hot topic for Kinzer is corruption within Illinois politics.
“This state is known for it,” he said. “Although we can’t change that characteristic, that reputation overnight, I think we need to really look beyond the status quo, get some new faces in our government and erase corruption from Illinois politics.”
At the top of Szydagis’ political priority list are abortion and handgun laws. He said he promotes education about abortion “to change hearts and minds,” and that it should always be illegal. He also would like to see reform of gun laws in Illinois.
“Innocent people need to protect themselves from criminals,” Szydagis said. “Everyday people cannot carry guns, but the criminals do. We need that protection.”
Although he has a strong political stance as a young Republican, for Szydagis, like Kinzer, the campaign was less about winning as it was about the true nature of democracy, he said.
“It is a bad thing to have political races that aren’t races at all,” Szydagis noted. “Realistically, winning would have been a long shot in this case. Just by running, even without the win at the end, this was an important experience.”
Kinzer added that although he has great passion for politics, he does not plan on beginning a political career immediately after graduation next summer. His first priority after that is to attend law school—preferably at the University.
“I don’t want to dive right into the world of politics and government straight away,” Kinzer said. “If I were to do something in politics someday, I’d like it to be meaningful and important from the get-go. Law is something that I’m uniquely interested in. I find it fascinating—and the added benefit is that it can lead me to a significant career in the political world.”
Szydagis agreed, explaining that he will probably put his political dreams on hold until after he receives his Ph.D. in the coming years.
“It is possible that I will have politics in my future,” he said.
For now, both men are primarily focused on being students.
“This campaign was a very valuable experience for us,” Kinzer said. “Even more valuable is the overall experience I’m having here at the University.”