Love pursues winning election

Washburn foundation Garrett Love talks with individuals while he campaigns for a Kansas House of Representatives position. Love graduated from Washburn last year and was WSGA President, along side former vice president and current president Caley Onek.

Regina Budden

A former Washburn Student Government Association member is one step closer to turning his political aspirations into reality.

Garrett Love, president of the Washburn Student Government Association in 2009-10, is running to be the representative for District 115 to the Kansas House of Representatives using many of the tactics he learned when running for WSGA president.

“I went to see him this summer, and it was funny because his campaign looked a lot like ours did when he ran at Washburn,” said Lucas Mullin, current WSGA vice president and Love’s WSGA campaign manager. “He’s all about going door-to-door and really meeting people.”

Love, a resident of Montezuma, Kan., said his involvement with WSGA and the Leadership Institute were the most formative experiences he had that led him to his current run for office.

“Definitely if I hadn’t done those, I wouldn’t have obtained the skills necessary to campaign,” said Love. “A lot of the skills I have now come from learning it at the Leadership Institute and then putting it into practice and really working it out in WSGA.”

Those skills benefitted him when he went up against Melvin Neufeld, the former representative of District 115, who had served in that position since before Love was even born. Despite the incumbent’s vast experience, Love won twice the votes in the August Republican primary. The voting turnout was a record for a primary in that district, which was surprising considering that Love is a 22-year-old running in an arena where few are under 30.

Although one obstacle of the campaign is over, Love will still have opposition from 31-year-old Ashland resident Jeremy Luedke. Luedke, an Independent and associate of the Tea Party, is running a write-in campaign against Love because he believes all politicians should have a competition.

Love decided to run for the House of Representatives only at the end of May, after his graduation from Washburn with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration, so his success has come relatively quickly. That kind of success seems natural to Love, though.

“Before his run for WSGA president, Garrett didn’t have any real experience with politics,” said Mullin. “He had been appointed to the senate his sophomore year, and he was elected his junior year, but he hadn’t really taken on any of the bigger staff roles.”

It was there that Love said he had key campaign experiences that set him up for his current success.

“Getting face to face with people was key for him,” said Mullin. “We made a list of people around campus, and then just went and talked to them and checked them off.”

Love’s current campaign has been similar, listing registered voters and then trying to talk to them. He said his campaign has been mostly door-to-door.

“It’s a lot like at Washburn, but where there I was walking all over the place to talk to people, now I’m driving all over the place,” said Love. “But it’s very rewarding, and I’ve gotten pretty positive feedback.”

Jeff Mott, the director of the Leadership Institute, was able to serve as a mentor for Love his senior year when he joined the Leadership Institute.

“He got involved a lot later than our other students,” said Mott. “He was one of the only upperclassmen in Leadership Institute 100, the intro class, but he really benefitted from it. He really engaged in the learning process.”

Love said getting involved with the leadership classes helped him because he wanted to serve people, and the classes allowed him to decide how best to carry out that personal plan. The strategies he learned have allowed him to reach out during this campaign.

“The people of our state are looking for a fresh perspective,” said Love. “You have to know you’re working for the people and not for personal gain. I was really glad to see that so many people got on board with that vision.”

Mott said he was not surprised to see Love excelling with the experiences he had gained in school.

“A student like Garrett, who is interested in getting involved with the learning process, does not come along every year,” he said.

Love’s attention in both WSGA and Leadership Institute led him to a complete victory in the primaries, and all that remains is the Nov. 2 elections. But he won’t stop there, because the campaign is only the first step in his political journey.

“I really want to focus on fiscal responsibility,” said Love. “It’s got to be about people, and not all about politics.”

That attitude is what Mullin sees will get Love far in politics.

“We disagree about a lot of things, politically,” said Mullin. “But I always liked working with him in WSGA because he was dedicated to working things out for the people we represent. He takes that seriously. Sometimes he takes a long time to talk things over, just because he wants to understand his decision completely, inside and out.”

Mott said a lot of that was what attracted Love to the Leadership Institute.

“He got really energetic when we discussed how sometimes you face decisions that are right versus wrong, but other times it is right versus right,” said Mott. “Then you have to understand that someone is going to lose. And you have to know how it will affect all of these people. That’s what got Garrett really interested, was learning how to make those tough decisions.”

Love’s tough decision-making days may be coming, but for the moment he’s content in meeting as many people as he can on the campaign trail and occasionally stopping in to help with the corn harvest at his parents’ farm.

His quick climb up the political ladder may have started with WSGA, but that hasn’t prepared him for everything he may face.

“WSGA was the biggest factor in why I was confident to run, but I wouldn’t say that’s what qualifies me for it,” said Love. “It’s very different in some ways because if I win there will be a lot more responsibilities, and more people that I represent.”

There is one more difference about this race, aside from the responsibilities, seriousness and size, that keeps confronting Love.

“People keep asking how old I am,” said Love.