Activist state

App State student sets record as youngest candidate for House of Delegates – The Appalachian

A 20-year-old App State student is making history as the youngest candidate to run for the Virginia House of Delegates.

Music therapy student Zachary Coltrain campaigns in Virginia 98th district of the House of Delegatesone of 100 representative districts in the state.

Coltrain said he was first inspired into the world of politics at age 15 when an interaction with then-Congressman Scott Taylor left him disillusioned.

“We started having a dialogue and I gave him a little bit of context about who I was,” Coltrain said. “As we were talking, he stops and says, ‘Wait, aren’t you 18?'”

Once Taylor realized Coltrain couldn’t vote yet, Coltrain said, Taylor immediately got up and left the table, abandoning their conversation.

“It led me to work for my first campaign, which was for his challenger, Elaine Luria,” Coltrain said.

With help from campaign workers like Coltrain, Luria defeated Taylor.

While in Coltrain High School, a legal studies program furthered her interest in politics and campaign work. This training, coupled with his previous experience, has earned him an official internship with the Luria team during the next election cycle.

Coltrain said he gained valuable experience in campaign management and political networking during his internship. His involvement did not stop there.

“I managed to convince a few friends to help me out,” Coltrain said. “After that, we did a state delegate campaign.”

He was also involved in local politics, including a campaign for city council.

Coltrain’s major also allows him to help people in other ways. As the recipient of an endowed scholarship from the Hayes School of Music, he pursues his passion while simultaneously working on his campaign.

“I’ve always been attached to music,” Coltrain said. “I knew it was something I had to continue.”

Coltrain said he views music therapy as a form of “mental health care” through which he can give patients the “comfort of what they know”.

Balancing 16 credit hours on top of a full-fledged political campaign requires “self-discipline and a tight schedule,” Coltrain said. On top of all that, he spends his weekends working at a BobaBing food truck.

Speaking about his work with BobaBing, Coltrain said they were “really supportive” of his campaign.

Coltrain explained his time management.

“The campaign work is between the holes and the night mostly,” Coltrain said. “I’m slowly finding a balance as I’ve become more communicative with my professors, and they’ve been supportive of me as a student and candidate.”

In some cases, Coltrain was able to combine courses with its political platform.

“I can help plan our female songwriter concert next semester and make it a fundraising event for a reproductive charity,” Coltrain said.

Coltrain is on track to graduate from App State in May 2024. He has acknowledged the possibility of a degree in fall 2024 if elected.

The 98th House of Delegates District, abbreviated as VA-98, includes the central peninsula counties of Essex, Gloucester, King and Queen, Matthews and Middlesex, and part of King William County. It also encompasses Virginia Beach, of which Coltrain is a native resident. VA-98 has been in the hands of Republican Keith Hodges since 2011.

“It’s a very interesting neighborhood because it really brings people together from across the city,” Coltrain said. campaign website bed. “I want to be a voice for those in the district who didn’t feel truly represented by their current delegate.”

Coltrain’s main opponent, 68-year-old Republican Barry Knight, currently represents VA-81. The 2020 district reshuffle incorporated much of VA-81 into VA-98, which is why he will face Coltrain in the 2023 election.

“He’s a millionaire. He owns his own helicopter,” Coltrain said.

By contrast, Coltrain runs a grassroots campaign that requires close relationships with advisers and potential supporters.

Coltrain launched his campaign after a call from William Reid, a political activist whose father, also named William Reid, became the first African American elected to the Virginia General Assembly during Reconstruction.

Reid encouraged Coltrain to race in VA-98 as part of the 90 for 90 Initiativewhich aims to provide a Democratic challenger in all Republican-controlled districts.

Coltrain operates on a platform that emphasizes youth engagement in politics, environmental protection, intersectionality, reproductive health, cannabis legalization and increased education services special.

His background in music therapy led him to seek greater resources for public schools.

“I think the real part of education that deserves airtime on a General Assembly floor or on a school board is, ‘How can we make these services more accessible? ‘” Coltrain said.

Music served as a means of expression for Coltrain. Now, he wants to do the same for VA-98’s diverse population.

“Overall, whatever issue we’re talking about, my goal is to be there and to be representative of the people I’ve always lived with,” Coltrain said.

As the successor to the House of Burgesses, a prominent colonial assembly and first elected legislature in the New World, the House of Delegates has a long political history. It was created in October 1776, shortly after the Chamber of Burghers had its last meeting in May of the same year.

Despite political advocacy from an increasingly troubled generation of young adults, members of the House of Delegates have an average age of no less than about 54. This reflects a national trend that politicians are to get old. The average congressman in the House of Representatives is currently 58.4 years oldand the average senator is 64.3.

In response to the politicians’ age slant, Coltrain pointed out that “his entire team is under 25”. Coltrain said he hopes to pass on the skills and experience he has developed over years of campaign work collaborating with other college-aged activists.

One such activist is Eric Hesslink, a 20-year-old App State student majoring in political science. Hesslink manages Coltrain’s campaign finance, which includes reaching out to donors.

“Zach is a very driven person,” Hesslink said. “He works extremely hard to achieve his goals.”

Hesslink is Coltrain’s roommate. Both are committed to increasing student engagement in public administration.

“A big thing for us is that he’s so young, and having the voice of Gen Z heard is definitely important,” Hesslink said.

Coltrain campaign manager Haley Gammage, 20, expressed similar sentiments.

“Zach is just very passionate about what he does,” Gammage said. “He’s always been like that.”

Coltrain and Gammage attended the same high school.

“Making a difference and actually seeing change is something he really strives for,” Gammage said.

Although Gammage admitted that the whole experience “still doesn’t seem real” at times, she and Coltrain, along with the rest of the team, are working across state lines to make it a reality.

“I really think Gen Z needs to get involved in politics so that we have a voice for our own future,” Gammage said.

In November 2021, the youngest person to win a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates was 26. Nadarius Clark. If Coltrain wins his election, he will set a new record at 21.

A general election will be held on November 7, 2023, at which time Coltrain will be fully eligible to serve as a delegate.