A student of political science and physics at Washington State University will run for Congress next year, pushing the message that anybody can run for office, no matter his or her age.
If Democrat Matthew Sutherland, 24, were to unseat Republican incumbent Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in Washington’s 5th Congressional District, he would be 26 when he takes office.
His campaign revolves around a grassroots-centric movement called the New Blue – an effort to reorganize and re-energize the Democratic party by getting newer and younger people involved in the party, putting them in leadership positions and turning the party’s focus to the interests of people rather than elites.
“The New Blue idea is that we’re not the Democrats of yesteryear,” Sutherland told the Daily News.
In fact, Sutherland has already challenged a more well-known Democrat name in the area to a debate: Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart, who is also planning a run against McMorris Rodgers. Sutherland said his request was denied.
Stuckart recently told the Daily News he would not be debating anyone until 2018, or until he has visited the district in its entirety to gain a better understanding of the issues the area faces.
“Well then he should stop asking for endorsements until 2018,” Sutherland said when provided with Stuckart’s response, calling debates a staple of democracy.
“The more we have of them, the more people get engaged with the Democratic party,” Sutherland said.
When asked for his qualifications, Sutherland said they are not the point.
“We have to get rid of the idea that you’re only qualified if you’re an executive, a lawyer or if you have political experience,” Sutherland said, adding his primary qualification is being a member of the working class.
Despite those remarks, he did list a few things.
Sutherland has a seat on the Pullman Board of Adjustments and the Pullman Police Advisory Committee. He was elected to the board of directors of the Michael F. Lange Foundation, which promotes global social change, and he also is an officer candidate in the U.S. Army reserves.
Even with his qualifications and associations with city government, Sutherland said he wants to dismantle the idea that only the political elite can run for Congress.
“We’re trying to make running for office as accessible to the American populous as possible,” Sutherland said.
And though Sutherland said issues affecting students will not be his sole focus (his platform expands on energy, economic and health care issues), they will certainly be a target.
“Student issues are issues as well,” he said.
The Young Democrats of WSU recently endorsed Sutherland’s campaign bid in a Facebook post.
Matthew Sutherland’s title was corrected from an earlier version of this story.