Riley Horan, who reaches legal drinking age on Oct. 7 and will be on the ballot as a legislative candidate in St. Paul on Nov. 8, would if elected be the Legislature’s second-youngest member since statehood.
Unfortunately for Horan’s shot at the record books, he’s probably not going to win. It’s OK — he knows that. “It’s incredibly uphill,” said Horan, a 20-year-old junior at the University of St. Thomas this fall.
Horan is the Republican candidate in House District 64A, comprised of St. Paul’s Merriam Park, Macalester-Groveland, Summit Hill and a few other neighborhoods. DFL Rep. Erin Murphy has represented the area since 2007. In 2014, she got 81 percent of the vote against the Republican.
But for an ambitious young man interested in elected office, losing a legislative race isn’t the worst way to launch a political career. Horan agreed to run to give voters in the district another option. He grew up in northern California in a conservative Catholic family. Asked what got him interested in politics, Horan betrays his youth: “I really started paying attention toward the end of the Obama versus Romney race.”
Horan unsuccessfully ran for delegate to the Republican National Convention earlier this year, catching the eye of some St. Paul Republican activists. Ben Golnik, the top aide to GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt and a resident of 64A, recruited Horan to challenge Murphy.
“I’m glad he’s running. Having recruited candidates myself, I think it’s important we have competition in every election,” Murphy said. Horan described his politics as “conservative Republican” and shaped by his faith. He gets most animated, perhaps unsurprisingly, in talking about the need to lower the cost of college tuition. As a student, he said, he sees schools spending money on frivolous things while ignoring the financial burdens left on their graduates.
A high-profile lawmaker who served as House majority leader in 2013-14, Murphy is considering a run for governor in 2018. Horan questioned whether Murphy’s St. Paul constituents are still her main focus.
“I don’t think she’s been doing much campaigning around here,” Horan said — but then quickly added that to date, he’s hasn’t either. Murphy said she’s been upfront with constituents about possible future plans and that they have always supported her interest in issues beyond those affecting residential St. Paul.
Horan plans to do a lot of door-knocking before his fall semester starts on Sept. 7, and will debate Murphy on Oct. 5. “I’m really going to be focusing on finding votes at St. Thomas,” Horan said. “I joke that it’s probably the biggest concentration of Republicans in the district, but that’s, like, actually true.”
If he loses in November, Horan said he’s likely done running for office — for a while. He’s considering law school and hopes to gain some private sector experience before returning to electoral politics. He also wants to stay in Minnesota.
“I love it here and I’m planning on sticking around,” he said.