If you think midterms are rough, try running for Congress at the same time.
Zane Starkewolf, a UCD alumnus and current graduate student in chemistry, is the Republican candidate for Congress in California’s 1st Congressional District.
Starkewolf, who describes himself as a “Green Republican,” has made a push for clean, renewable energy the center of his campaign. He said that while he identifies with the Green Party in many respects, his libertarian views on other issues more closely fit the Republican Party line.
He also said the need for green energy and current congressman Mike Thompson’s failure to deliver motivated him to run for office.
“Thompson is a Democrat but on ideals that would be liberal he’s not very liberal,” Starkewolf said. “I see these as constitutional. I saw that he wasn’t really representing our district.“
Even so, it may seem a bit strange to some that as a business owner and a grad student, Starkewolf would run at this time in his life. He said in defense that his decision to run actually happened 20 years ago.
“I decided to run when I was seven,” he said. “I guess I’m keeping a promise to a 7-year-old boy. I said I would run when I was 27, so I thought, well I have to do it.“
As a chemistry TA at UC Davis, Starkewolf made an impression on many of his students, including student Matthew Girardi.
“He’s someone who’s very professional but easy to get along with at the same time,” said Girardi, now a senior chemical engineering major. “He wants to fit in and help you out but he never crosses that line.“
Starkewolf said that when he put his name in for nomination, he did not really expect to win. He did not campaign very much outside of some newspaper interviews. Also, he said winning the primary was an awakening to the time commitment he had gotten himself into.
Since his nomination, Starkewolf said he has taken a side role in his Davis-based business, Mesolytics. The company uses UC Davis spin-off technology, especially nano wires, to diagnose disease.
Despite stepping back from the business world to focus on the campaign, Starkewolf said he still has a lot on his plate. Between teaching, research and campaigning, Starkewolf said he has had to manage his time carefully.
“It’s hard to juggle the time but I’m doing the best I can,” he said. Starkewolf jokingly added, “It just means I’m drinking a lot less than I’d like to.“
Even with the time constraints, Starkewolf said being a student puts him at an advantage. He said being surrounding by idealists helps him to see a broader picture. Also, he said being a student gives him a different perspective than other candidates.
“I think I’m looking more toward the future, long term,” he said. “Us as students, I think we can have a little more long term, broader horizon picture of things.“
In addition, being a student lends the advantage of a local workforce. Starkewolf said all of his interns are students at UC Davis and his campaign manager is also an alumnus.
Despite a lack of political experience, Starkewolf said his training in business will help him in working with budgets. Also, he said most other members of Congress do not have political training, so his business background is not unusual.
“Most of the people who run for Congress usually are not politicians,” he said. “I’m similar except that I’m younger and have no money – which is challenging.“
Girardi also expressed confidence in Starkewolf as a politician, mostly because he is not a politician.
“I think Zane’s the kind of guy who would actually do what he thinks is right, not just try to get reelected,” Girardi said. “He has the backbone to get things done.“
Starkewolf said no matter how you vote in the November election, it is important to vote, especially on local issues.
“Don’t vote based on a party,” he said. “Vote on issues, and really get into local elections. When it comes down to affecting change, this is where it’s going to happen.“
ELYSSA THOME can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.