By Charly Frisk
Two months ago, Jim Read announced that he will be running for Minnesota State Legislature for District 6 against incumbent Jeff Howe, who is unsure of whether or not he will be running for office again himself. Along with this announcement comes the start of Read’s campaign.
To preface his campaign, Read duels as not only a candidate, but also a professor in the political science department at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University.
“It’s like having two full time jobs,” Read said. “Teaching political science and being a candidate are two different things…but each one to me adds energy to the other.”
While Read has realized the challenges that acting in both these roles may play, he maintains a positive and analytical outlook—observing how each may feed into each other.
“As a teacher of American politics, for instance, I have been really concerned about the polarization of American politics,” Read said. “That concerns me as a teacher and political scientist. Also as a candidate, I believe that a candidate for office, especially going door to door as I aim to do, to thousands of households, that in my own way is an attempt to bridge those divisions.”
Read not only finds how the jobs may mutually benefit from one another, but also finds parallels within his teaching and political career.
“I don’t have a future as a teacher unless the students have a future,” Read said. “I invest myself in what they are going to know, what sort of civic skills, and public service they may have twenty, thirty, forty years from now. In a different way, that’s also what I see myself doing as a candidate…win or lose, I also want to set an example that if things are going really badly, you know that’s the time to step up in politics, not to withdraw from it.”
In addition to being a candidate, teacher and political scientist, Read is also an author. Published in 2008, his book, “Doorstep Democracy” discusses the importance of meeting with the individual to the political field. If a student chooses to enroll in one of Read’s political science courses he audits, they will get the chance to read the book.
The value of the individual resonates throughout every part of Read’s campaign.
While discussing the importance of social media in politics, Read spoke about the benefits as well as negative consequences that have arrived since his campaign in 1992.
“There are positive and negative ways of social media,” Read said. “In a positive sense, you can use social media as a diary of your door knocking. The old fashioned door knocking campaign can be magnified. The negative is when people see social media as a substitute for face to face politics.”
Running Read’s campaign are two CSB/SJU juniors Laura Berry and Nathan Williams, who both had two classes with Read last year. This year, they both reached out to Read after hearing his announcement, eager to assist in his campaign.
“I think he can win it this time,” Berry said. “As soon as I saw his email that he was running my immediate response was, ‘Do you need help?’”
Although running the campaign proves to be “intense” and “way more complicated than [she] thought,” Berry finds inspiration.
“Seeing how motivated he is helps us be more motivated,” Berry said.
Williams expressed similar sentiments.
“Dr. Read puts a strong emphasis on that every person is talked to and that person is listened to,” Williams said. “That is why I chose to work on the campaign because at the end of the day, working for someone who really cares about the individual personal connection that they make with voters is not only necessary for democracy but also inspiring. Just seeing who really values the person and democracy as a whole is something inspiring and something that I think we all need to work on a bit more.”
Read, referring to the campaign, said “It’s about persons not doors.”
Next Tuesday, Oct. 10, over the lunch hour at Gorecki Fireside, there will be a meet and greet for students to meet Read. In addition to this meeting, the campaign will also be conducting dorm visits to encourage students’ involvement in government.