In election, UST junior stood up for values against tough odds

| Bridget Ryder | November 18, 2016 | 1 Comment

He lost by a landslide, but Riley Horan wouldn’t change a thing about his campaign for a seat in the Minnesota State Legislature.

For Horan, engaging intensely and personally in politics was a way of standing up for the values his Catholic faith has given him, especially against staggering odds. Plus, at age 21, Horan still has a lot of time to make a comeback. With a win, he would have been the second youngest legislator in Minnesota’s history.

Riley Horan

Courtesy Riley Horan

Horan ran as a Republican in the Minnesota House of Representatives District 64A, where Democratic incumbent Erin Murphy won with 80 percent of the vote in the previous election. Had he not stepped up to the plate, Murphy, a supporter of requiring health care plans to cover contraception and who had proposed legislation that would have counter-acted the conscience protections won in the Hobby Lobby case, would have run unopposed.

“That was why I put my name on the ballot,” Horan said. “I understand when people feel frustrated. I was giving people a chance to vote their conscience and to vote for ideas they think will work.”

Horan’s platform rested on three ideas that he said are informed by his Catholic upbringing — family, faith and freedom. He thinks these are ideas that the state of Minnesota needs, but politicians aren’t bringing to the table.

The California native and junior at the University of St. Thomas first started paying attention to politics after the 2012 election. As a college student, he has realized how politics affect people’s lives. That understanding prompted him to get involved, and he wanted to go to the Republican national convention as a delegate. As he started attending caucuses, he met Republican activists. He didn’t make it to the national convention, but at the state convention, Ben Golik, aide to Republican Minnesota House leader Kurt Daudt, invited Horan to run as the Republican candidate for his district. Such political involvement hadn’t crossed Horan’s mind, but at the last minute, he decided to take the opportunity. On deadline day, he filed his candidacy.

“I really saw it as a calling from God, how the opportunity presented itself,” he said.

Once he had gathered a campaign crew together and saw the amount of support he had, he went in wholeheartedly. Instead of just being another check box on the ballot, he decided to see if he could actually bring his values to the Capitol.

He started a campaign website, a Facebook page, raised money and secured a couple of television interviews.

He also initiated a debate with his opponent. While the League of Women Voters holds a candidate forum that allows the public to ask questions directly of candidates, these campaigns have not typically included a back-and-forth, one-on-one debate. Riley said Murphy was difficult to reach, but he persevered, and she agreed to meet.

The university’s administration helped Horan secure a space at a nearby nursing home and promoted the event through its website and internal online publication, Newsroom. The turnout for the debate was disappointingly low, which Horan believes was partly because of the venue. For Horan, the debate was an important part of the political process and a way to promote Catholic values.

Horan entered the election with hopes of enlivening that debate, not only with his stance of faith, family and freedom, but also as a “a new face and fresh voice.”

“I had a lot of fun,” Horan said of the debate. “I love doing that kind of stuff — getting up and fighting for [my] values and making a case to the voter.”

Despite the tough district and his inexperience, he said he received positive feedback. Some attendees told him that in a more competitive district, he would have had a chance at winning the election.

Horan isn’t done with politics. He will likely devote his first years after college to private-sector work or law school, but he could see himself throwing his name in the hat for office further down the road. In the meantime, he will continue to stand up for faith, family and freedom as the opportunities come along.

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