Update: This story has been updated to reflect that Sarah Carruthers says she is not for or against House Bill 454, contrary to an earlier version of the story.
On top of being a full-time student at Miami University juggling classes, homework and a social life, first-year Sam Lawrence is taking on political candidacy.
Lawrence, a political science major, is running for the Ohio House of Representatives in District 44, an area that includes Hamilton and Oxford.
Hailing from Maumee, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo, the 18-year-old first got involved in politics during the 2020 election as a canvasser for Pete Buttigieg. He later volunteered for Joe Biden’s campaign. Since then, he has helped with the U.S. Congress campaign of Allison Russo and currently acts as a Tim Ryan fellow at Miami, coordinating events that Ryan may want to do on campus.
Lawrence decided to run for an Ohio House of Representatives seat when he first came to Miami and saw there wasn’t a strong Democrat presence in the area to challenge Sarah Carruthers, the incumbent representative who Lawrence would face in the November election if she wins the Republican primary against real estate agent Cody Harper.
“It’s important to have young people active in making decisions because we have almost no say in what actually happens right now,” Brunton said. “If we’re a group of people affected by these decisions, why shouldn’t we get involved in things?”
Grace Brunton, a sophomore social work and international studies double major, is the director of outreach for the Lawrence campaign. She believes the fact that Lawrence is 18-years-old may help his platform prospects.
“[Young Democrats] make up a huge demographic,” Brunton said, “but we have no representation – I think it’s time to get more people of our age group in [the Ohio House of Representatives] because we’re a new generation and we are inheriting past problems.”
She said Lawrence’s youth gives him a unique opportunity to represent a younger demographic in Ohio if elected.
“I've been talking with a lot of people familiar with the process and familiar with the politics down here, and they've told me that Oxford and Hamilton will be in the same district and it will be renumbered 44, so that's what I'm running for.”
If elected to the House, Lawrence would be the youngest representative in the state’s history. The current record holder is U.S. state senator Sherrod Brown, who was elected to the office when he was 22 years old. Despite being young, Lawrence believes he’s qualified to run.
“Young does not always equal inexperienced,” Lawrence said. “I've worked on two campaigns, and I've lived in Ohio for most of my life. I grew up in Ohio. I know Ohio’s politics. I know Ohio's big players, and I've already started making connections.”
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If he wins the election, Lawrence plans to live in Columbus and take classes online for the duration of his two-year term.
Change is one of the campaign’s main priorities. Lawrence’s platform focuses on uniting people from different backgrounds to achieve concrete goals.
“My platform revolves around the concept of bringing everyone together to achieve common goals, even if we don't agree on 100% of the issues,” Lawrence said. “To expand on that, I believe progress is more important than pride.”
Lawrence said his campaign would present the incumbent, Sarah Carruthers, with an opposition that was nonexistent in 2020.
“There hasn't been a strong Democrat candidate to run down here in a few years, and [Carruthers] ran unopposed two years ag0,” Lawrence said. “I think that the voters deserve a choice, instead of just no name next to hers on the ballot.”
Lawrence’s campaign includes stances against House Bill 6, which has Ohioans paying taxes for coal and nuclear power plants, and House Bill 290, which would give vouchers for Ohio students to attend private schools instead of public schools while giving nothing to public schools.
The campaign also disapproves of House Bill 454, a bill that prohibits educators and counselors from withholding a student’s gender identity from their parents.
While Lawrence said that Carruthers supports House Bill 454, Carruthers said in a follow-up interview with The Miami Student that she doesn't advocate for or against the bill.
Lawrence has started making connections with other candidates running for Ohio House seats, such as Chuck Horn (running in District 45) and Larry Mulligan (running in District 46). He is also in frequent contact with the Butler County Progressive PAC, of which he was given a general body member position on its board.
One of his biggest sources of help, though, comes from other Miami students.
Sofie Myers is a first-year political science major who acts as the co-campaign manager on Lawrence’s campaign team, which currently has a volunteer team consisting of more than 20 students. She said Lawrence’s campaign was immediately attractive to her.
“I was planning on getting involved in a campaign this semester anyway – I saw Sam was running, and I’m all about bringing younger voices to the general body,” Myers said. “[Sam is] all for change, compassion and collaboration, and those are some of my biggest aspects that I look for in a workforce and in my politics.”
Kelsey Norris, a first-year political science and Latin American studies double major and a co-campaign manager for Lawrence, was optimistic about the explosion in online growth of the campaign.
As of March 3, Lawrence’s Twitter had more than 11,000 followers.
Lawrence hopes to use the growth of the campaign to defeat incumbent Carruthers, whom he believes is unqualified for office.
“[Carruthers] didn't have any political experience and she won her primary against Wes Rutherford,” Lawrence said. “So she pretty much walked into office, and she hasn't faced any consequences. She sponsors unsafe and unfair bills all of the time, and I think it's about time we start holding her accountable.”
Lawrence said if Carruthers wins the Republican primary, he wants to debate her.
“I am directly calling out Sarah Carruthers and saying ‘I would like to debate you if you win your primary,’” Lawrence said. “And if she doesn't [debate], she's neglecting her duty to give the citizens a chance to hear what we have to say.”