Sac State student runs for State Assembly: ‘I’m not your standard Republican’


Former Sacramento State College Republicans chairman Ryan Brown, center, speaks with freshman Jazmine Teodechi on Wednesday, September 7, 2016 as she signs up to receive emails from the club as College Republicans executive director Angela Wold laughs at a joke. Brown is the Republican candidate for California State Assembly District 7, challenging incumbent Democrat Kevin McCarty. (Photo John Ferrannini)

John Ferrannini

Ryan Brown probably isn’t the first 21-year-old Sacramento State student to admit that he is a “broke-ass college student.”

But between his classes and his work for the California State Student Association, Brown, an economics major, is taking up another extracurricular activity this fall — running for a seat in the California State Assembly against incumbent Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento.

“I don’t have huge donors and I don’t have special interests,” said Brown, a Republican. “I bought 25 yard signs and 500 business cards based on the donations that I’ve gotten. That’s it.”

Brown won a spot on the November ballot in the June primary after conducting a write-in campaign to challenge McCarty, who was running unopposed in a predominantly Democratic district.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to not have a choice for people,” Brown said. “I conducted a small write-in campaign canvassing, mostly talking to voters. I achieved almost 500 write-in votes.”

Brown said that he wants to conduct a “grassroots campaign” to bring attention to issues affecting college students. He said that the state legislature needs to make the California State University system a higher priority.

“The CSU is often the first to be cut and the last to be restored and it’s time for that to be over. We are lucky to have a fully funded CSU the last two legislative cycles, fiscal years, because of the work of student advocates,” Brown said. “We need to continue that trend because if we don’t we lose student success programs, our graduation rates fall, more remediation.”

“I’m openly bisexual. I’m pro-choice. I frankly don’t believe it’s the government’s business to be in people’s lives and to be legislating morality,” Brown said. “I’m not your standard Republican, but I think that in time that I will be because our party is changing.”

Brown said he developed a passion for education issues after he started working for the CSSA — a group comprised of student governments from across the CSU system — last year.

“I realized how important it was and how much I genuinely cared about the success of our students and the success of students across the CSU,” he said. In addition to his work with CSSA, Brown was the chairman of the Sacramento State College Republicans from 2015 until September 7, when he resigned because he “had a lot of things going on.”

Angela Wold, the executive director of the College Republicans, worked closely with Brown last year and said that she hopes more young people get involved in politics.

“A lot of people are apathetic about voting and getting involved because they don’t think they can change anything but they don’t realize that if they did then things would change,” Wold said.

Brown said that he is a Republican because he supports fiscal conservatism and is concerned about public safety, but he nonetheless maintains disagreements with the party.

“I’m openly bisexual. I’m pro-choice. I frankly don’t believe it’s the government’s business to be in people’s lives and to be legislating morality,” Brown said. “I’m not your standard Republican, but I think that in time that I will be because our party is changing.”

Brown also said that he is not voting for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, although he declined to say who he will be voting for.

“I don’t plan on voting for him. I don’t support his divisive rhetoric. I don’t find him to be a particularly strong conservative,” said Brown. “I certainly won’t be voting for Hillary Clinton.”

In spite of these unorthodox opinions, Brown received the endorsements of the Sacramento County Republican Party and the Republican Party of California.

Nikita Kostyuk, a Sac State alum and candidate for the Elk Grove school board, knows Brown from their time on the College Republicans.

“Brown came up with (my campaign) slogan and I stole it shamelessly,” said Kostyuk. “Ryan’s a very bright guy. I both respect him and look up to him in many ways.”

Nonetheless, Kostyuk disagrees with him on social issues.

“I would hope he’s wrong. I don’t know honestly; I can’t say if Republicans are changing on social issues.”

Brown is confident that, even though the possibility of him winning the seat is slim, he can bring attention to issues he feels are ignored.

“My campaign is going to community meetings, it’s going to fairs, it’s going door to door,” he said. “I don’t have the resources to run a campaign but I enjoy talking to people. I enjoy hearing what they need.”