Zak Ringelstein, a former teacher who at one point aspired to be a country music star, is vying to be the first millennial in the US Senate.
Ringelstein, 31, is the Democratic candidate for the US Senate in Maine. He faces stiff competition from the popular incumbent, Sen. Angus King, but is determined to bring fresh leadership to both Congress and the Democratic Party.
“I think millennials need to step up,” Ringelstein told Business Insider. “I am a millennial. I will be the first US senator who comes from the millennial generation and I think that’s pretty powerful.”
Coming on the heels of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning victory against Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley in the New York Democratic Party congressional primary, Ringelstein is feeling positive about his chances of defeating King.
Ringelstein said he “can’t wait” to work with Ocasio-Cortez in Congress.
“The establishment is morally corrupt and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s values are exactly what the Democratic Party needs in order to lead America for decades to come,” Ringelstein said. “Like Ocasio-Cortez, we find it disgusting that big money in politics controls policy in Washington. We are living in a time of crisis and it is our duty to stand up for the American people by enacting Medicare For All, raising wages, defeating climate change, and abolishing ICE.”
The congressional hopeful thinks his generation has gotten the “short end of the stick” in a lot of respects and has been unfairly maligned by the media and older generations.
“Millennials are defined in a way that is inaccurate,” Ringelstein said, rejecting the notion his generation is lazy, entitled, and disengaged. He’s hopeful a significant amount of young voters will turn out for the 2018 midterms and thinks this bodes well for his prospects as well future millennial candidates.
Though he identifies as a Democrat and says he’ll always be one, Ringelstein pegs himself as a progressive, anti-establishment candidate, and many of his standpoints are reminiscent of former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Ringelstein said getting money out of politics is his top priority, contending it impacts every aspect of policy.
“We need to get money out of politics and actually talk about issues that the working class care about and not what the corporate elite care about it,” he said, emphasizing that he’s not taking any money from corporations, lobbyists, or PACs.
“I want to be a candidate who actually listens and isn’t influenced by any special interests,” Ringelstein said.
He believes in Medicare for all, wants to lead the charge for renewables to combat climate change, and fight for more living-wage jobs.
‘I’m not afraid to say we have a void of leadership’
In his conversation with Business Insider, Ringelstein also spoke of the need for the Democratic Party to reshape itself and work toward truly representing the working class.
“I 100% think [Democrats] need fresh leadership and new leadership across the board, and I’m not afraid to say we have a void of leadership,” Ringelstein said.
The young Senate candidate from Maine said Democrats can’t just be the “party of anti-Trump.”
“We need to as Democrats be the party of working class… and actually work with it to create polices that support economic growth, health care, infrastructure, and jobs,” he said.
Ringelstein might lack political experience, but he seems to view this as an asset.
“I am not political, I am literally just trying to be a public servant,” he said. “I’m a working class kid who likes to stand up for working class kids.”
On the subject of foreign policy, Ringelstein noted he has a close connection to the military — his brother is a Navy helicopter pilot. Ringelstein said he would be a fierce advocate for US soldiers, but added he believes the military industrial complex is “very real” and he will not be “complicit” in it. In this sense, he hopes to see America avoid “misguided” wars like Iraq and Afghanistan moving forward.
In addition to Sen. King, Ringelstein faces another millennial in Maine’s US Senate race. Republican State Sen. Eric Brakey, 29, who has been endorsed by Maine Gov. Paul LePage, is also running.
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