The Iowa Teen Who Gave A Passionate Speech About Marriage Equality Is Running For Office

"I am running because I believe all Iowans need a seat at the table."

In 2011, then 19-year-old Zach Wahls delivered an impassioned speech before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee about growing up with gay parents. He was there as part of a public forum to oppose House Joint Resolution 6, which would have ended civil unions in Iowa.

In that speech, which you can see below, Wahls declared that even though he has two mothers, his family is not that different from anyone else's. "The sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other to work through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones, it comes from the love that binds us. That's what makes a family," he said at the time. "So what you're voting here isn't to change us, it's not to change our families, it's to change how the law views us, how the law treats us." 

Now 26 and in the midst of pursuing a master's degree in public policy from Princeton, Wahls intends to run for the Iowa Senate seat held by Bob Dvorsky, who has said he will not seek re-election in 2018.

"I'm running for the Iowa Senate for one simple reason," Wahls, a Democrat, announced to a large crowd on December 21, according to the Quad-City Times. "This is an all-hands-on-deck moment that will determine the future of our state for generations to come, and I feel responsible."

In a Twitter thread also shared on December 21, Wahls went into a bit more detail regarding why he's decided to run for office.

"I'm running for a simple reason: our state is at a crossroads that will define the future of our state for generations to come," he wrote, adding that Iowa had the biggest swing from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016.

Per the Twitter thread, Wahls explained the main tenets of his campaign are improving health care, fixing Medicaid privatization, and making education affordable and equitable for all.

"I am running because I believe all Iowans need a seat at the table. That absolutely means more women running, it means more young people, it means more people of color," he added. "I am going to listen to women. I am going to hold myself and the men around me accountable for our behavior. For our generation, this is a basic qualification, but I feel it is one that is important to name and to say out loud."

As it turns out, Wahls was scheduled to graduate from Princeton on the same day as the primary election, but he explained that although he won't be able to attend commencement, the university has allowed him to finish his degree while living and campaigning in his home state. As he put it, "I won't be able to walk, but I will be able to run."

Per the Press-Citizen, Wahls, who has interned at the White House, written a book about growing up with gay parents and co-founded Scouts for Equality — a group that worked to end Scouts of America's ban on LGBT members — already has support from fellow Iowans. Coralville Mayor pro tem and Wahls' former teacher, Mitch Gross, had considered running for Dvorsky's seat, but was even happier that Wahls decided to run instead.

"As I think about the issues facing the people of this district, I can't think of anyone better to send to Des Moines than Zach," Gross said in a news release, per the local publication. "Zach listens carefully, he works hard, and he's been a powerful and effective advocate for those who have been left behind and left out."

#yeswedid

A post shared by Zach Wahls (@zachwahls) on

Added Wahls, "It seems like we're really at a crossroads between a situation where it's every man, woman and child for him or herself and getting back to the morals that have defined this state."

According to The Gazette, Wahls has at least one opponent in fellow Iowan and former foreign service officer Janice Weiner. The primary election is scheduled for June 5, 2018, while the four-year Senate term will begin in January 2019.

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