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Student runs for state rep

CAS’08 student campaigns in state primary

Emery Markles (CAS'08)

As if being a college student weren’t hectic enough, Emery Markles wants to add the duties and demands of a Massachusetts state representative to his schedule. Despite his youth and academic commitments, Markles (CAS’08), who is seeking a two-year term as state representative from the 1st Worcester District, is confident that he can win the primary with his grassroots campaign.

A political science and history major, Markles is campaigning as a Democrat for the state’s primary election on September 19. A win would earn him a spot on the ballot in the state election on November 7 against the incumbent representative, Lewis G. Evangelidis (R-Holden). Under contention is the district that covers Holden, Markles’ hometown of Hubbardston, Oakham, Princeton, Rutland, Westminster, and a portion of Sterling.

The thought of running for office first occurred to Markles in 2004 during an emergency election for state representative in the district that covers Boston University. “I casually joked with my roommate that I should throw my hat in the ring for that election,” he says. As the months passed he began to seriously consider the idea, especially since Evangelidis ran unopposed in the last election.

“I thought, why not challenge him in 2006? I really have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Markles says. “I truly believe in the democratic system and I feel that the good people of the 1st Worcester District should have a choice.”

Markles has long been interested in pursing a career in politics. About 10 years ago, he and his family were active in the political career of his cousin, Arthur Chase, who was a state senator from Worcester at the time. In 2004 Markles campaigned in Nashua, N.H., during John Kerry’s bid for the White House, and last summer he interned for Democrat Harriette Chandler, state senator from Worcester. “Over the course of that summer, I learned how our state government really works,” he says.

He feels that voters should not be concerned with his age. “I know I’m young, but I believe I can use my youth as an advantage,” he says. “I present a fresh outlook on how the government should serve the people of the commonwealth, and I also have the energy to work hard for my constituents.”

He is certainly not the first twenty-something to run for state office. According to the Massachusetts State House Library, the youngest person to serve in the Legislature was Thomas R. Lussier, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 1977 at age 19. In 1974, at 20 years old, Karen Swanson became the youngest woman elected to the House of Representatives.

Markles’ opponent in the primary is 24-year-old Nate Kaplan, a former legislative aid to state Senator Stephen Brewer (D-Barre). Kaplan did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but is quoted in the August 9 Worcester Telegram and Gazette on Markles’ ability to serve as state representative while studying full-time.

“Certainly what our district needs is a full-time state representative,” according to Kaplan. “People should never hesitate to pick up the phone to speak to their state representative or stop by the house for a cup of coffee, and that’s something I’m willing to do as a state representative. I would always be accessible and dedicate myself fully to the district.”

Markles, however, says the fact that he is at school in Boston, miles away from his district, is a “nonissue.” He would be in the same position as 75 percent of the members of the legislature, he says, who have jobs in addition to their State House positions. If elected, he would treat his academic responsibilities as a job; getting to the State House and back to his district is a quick train ride, he says.
 
And although he’s running as a Democrat, Markles says he dislikes partisan politics. He’s pledging to follow the will of the people and vote the way his constituents want him to vote. If he were elected, he would make funding for local aid and public education two of his priorities.

“Local aid for my district fell short by roughly $800,000 this past year. That should not happen,” he says. “It would be my goal to unite central and western Massachusetts and to get more money out there, as opposed to keeping the majority of it in Boston and points east.”