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Mr. Hands goes to Annapolis: What a Loyola senior learned from running for state delegate

| By Stephanie Weaver
Zach Hands
Zach Hands, senior, was a Democratic candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates in the 5th district.

Loyola University Maryland senior Zachary Hands did more than just go to the polls yesterday. He was on the ballot.

The 21-year-old Carroll County resident was a Democratic candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates in the 5th district. He filed to run for office in December, and at the time was the only Democratic candidate against three Republicans. Later, another Democrat filed to run. Hands was the only candidate in the county that was openly in the LGBT community. 

Hands, a communication major with a specialization in journalism and political science minor, lost the race, receiving 7,885 of the total votes. Although disappointed, Hands isn’t discouraged from politics.

“I was very disappointed across the board. My party lost badly. I lost very badly. The issues I believe in lost badly,” Hands said. “But I’m taking it with a grain of salt. You have to work with what you’ve been given. It’s not going to stop me from working to address the issues.”

He won’t necessarily run for office again, but he wants to continue to be involved in politics. After Loyola, he plans to attend graduate school for public policy to build a deeper repertoire and understanding for how governing works.  

With school and other commitments it was difficult to find time to campaign. Hands was against fundraising, so he relied on free media placements and word of mouth. He and his campaign manager wrote letters to the editor, sent his bio to various print media, and went door-to-door to spread the word about his campaign.

“It’s a tough game, and not one I’m sure I’m suited for,” Hands said about running for office. “I think my talents might be better suited and more effective to something else political.”

Hands expected his age to be an issue with voters, but no one openly told him he was too young. However, there were odd looks from people who opened their doors to find a college student planning to run for office. But that never swayed Hands to stop.

“I know what I am. I know how I think. I know what I’m ready for, and what I’m not ready for. I wouldn’t have run if I wasn’t qualified or prepared or able to push on issues and get things done,” Hands said.

Hands said the biggest struggle was name recognition, which is generally built over time with experience.

“I do have a very recognizable name,” he said, with a laugh.

Recognition can also be gained through marketing, including signs, mailers, and email blasts. Hands didn’t fundraise, and didn’t have much time to dedicate to the campaign trail.

The time spent talking to voters was beneficial, and he was surprised by how educated voters were on the issues. He was encouraged by those who pushed him to view his stances differently.  

Hands is hopeful that more young people will step up and run for office.

“I think we need more young people to duke it out with these six-term delegates,” Hands said.

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