Q&A: UMN Law Student Joshua Preston talks House campaign and student engagement

Preston is campaigning for Minnesota House District 60B.

University law student Joshua Preston, who is running for state district 60B, poses for a portrait on Saturday, June 16. Preston is one of seven candidates, and his causes include criminal justice reform, increased access to health care and access to higher education. He said he wants student issues at the forefront of policy change.

Tony Saunders

University law student Joshua Preston, who is running for state district 60B, poses for a portrait on Saturday, June 16. Preston is one of seven candidates, and his causes include criminal justice reform, increased access to health care and access to higher education. He said he wants student issues at the forefront of policy change.

Helen Sabrowsky

The Minnesota Daily sat down with Joshua Preston, a law student and student representative to the Board of Regents at the University of Minnesota who is running for House District 60B to talk about his campaign. Preston filed to run for the seat currently held by Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis, who is seeking election to Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District. 

Why are you running for office?

Right off the bat, because this is such a diverse district, I was genuinely worried that the student voice would not be a part of the conversation. As all of this was kind of coming into place, in about a day, I knew that I could pull together a campaign in a short amount of time. And I also knew that given my experiences in the University and my own life experiences, I could be an effective advocate in the Legislature.

How does it feel to run against someone who is already a public figure [Mohamud Noor] and who has run for this seat before?

This is the largest primary of any State House seat in the state. There are seven people running. But I am just excited by the sheer diversity of the candidates representing different neighborhoods in the district. There are so many different life experiences that will make this discussion very rich.

What is it like to run for office as a student?

… One thing I think is very apparent being a student running for state office is that when I talk about student issues and the experience of students, I am not looking back on an experience I had 10 to 20 years ago, I’m not looking at some article on Forbes, I’m actually living that experience and I can go out and talk to peers who are going through that exact same experience. One of the things I am really passionate about is not only increasing access to higher education, but also making it more affordable … And as a representative for this district, I want to make sure I’m bringing that student voice to the conversation.

What issues are you focusing on in your campaign?

… Sometimes it’s hard to single out a single issue, but the three things I’m going to be very vocal about over the next few months are criminal justice reform, increasing access to health care, specifically mental health services and increasing access and affordability of higher education. 

How has your previous experience influenced your campaign?

By being a student representative to Board of Regents, it’s given me a big picture view of how major institutions, like Universities, interact with the state.

[One of your hobbies is asking public figures to draw giraffes]. If you could have any celebrity or public figure draw a giraffe for you, who would it be?

You know in your heart that Donald Trump probably doesn’t know what a giraffe looks like, but that he would probably try to bullshit it and it would be the most ridiculous, animal-like drawing that you would ever see. 

This story has been edited for length and clarity.