MARSHALL — Just days before her 21st birthday, Worthington High School alum Doria Drost filed an affidavit of candidacy last week to run for the District 16A seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

When Drost graduated from WHS in 2017, she had already earned an associate's degree from Minnesota West Community and Technical College. She went on to complete a bachelor's degree in marketing and political science at Southwest Minnesota State University, and is currently pursuing a master's of business administration, also from SMSU.

Drost said she has always wanted to run for office, but didn't imagine it would happen this early in her life. Knowing the 16A seat, currently held by Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, was nearing the end of its election cycle, Drost's former undergrad forensics coach, Ben Walker, encouraged Drost to run. Drost decided to go for it, and Walker became her campaign manager.

In studying the voting record of incumbent Swedzinski, Drost came to the conclusion that the promises he made during his campaign were inconsistent with his actions after being elected.

"People should expect more than that from their representatives," Drost told Walker and his wife, Julie. In that statement, she found her campaign slogan: Expect More. Drost began campaigning in late February under this rallying cry.

Drost describes her platform as comprehensive, with a specific focus on strengthening rural communities.

"I'm always trying to solve problems that people know exist but don't necessarily know how to fix," she said.

Infrastructure

Drost's platform includes a call for rural infrastructure development, which she says is essential for farmers and rural businesses to compete, including investment in Greater Minnesota roadways.

She explained that she has been researching an eco-friendly, phosphate-based alternative to road salt, which costs more up front but is cheaper to apply and more effective than traditional rock salt. Moving to this alternative would not only preserve roadways and save money in the long run, but is also better for the environment, Drost said — which fits in with her goal of increasing clean energy and environmental protections.

Health care

Drost named a number of health care reforms she believes are in the best interest of Minnesotans.

For example, she noted that the state's health care plan, MinnesotaCare, limits the number of health care providers who accept MinnesotaCare and the number of MinnesotaCare patients each of those providers can accept. Drost is in favor of increasing allowances for both.

One problem rural residents face, she explained, is that specialized services are centralized in metro areas like the Twin Cities and Rochester, meaning patients have to drive a long way for treatment. Drost calls for expansion of specialized services throughout Greater Minnesota — a move she said is not only good for patients who need these services, but one that would also strengthen local economies.

Drost not only wants to make health care better, but also more affordable. She supports two major pieces of legislation: the Prescription Drug Pricing Transparency Act, which requires pharmaceutical drug manufacturers to justify price increases, and the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act, which helps low-income Minnesotans secure access to insulin. Although both bills passed, Drost noted that Swedzinski voted against them.

While the newly passed acts are victories, Drost added, they are not enough. She would like to see more legislation that holds Big Pharma accountable, as well as additional accountability for insurance providers. Namely, Drost calls for a pricing cap on privatized insurance and a requirement that all medical bills be itemized, in order to justify expenses.

Education

As a student working toward her third higher education degree, Drost said she is personally familiar with some of the most pressing problems in education. In fact, since she is set to finish her MBA in spring of 2021, if elected, she would still be a student for the first few months of her term.

Students need better mental health resources, Drost said. She would like to decrease guidance counselor workload by increasing the number of school counselor, as well as by shifting counselors' energy away from help selecting classes and filling out college applications so they can focus on providing mental health care.

Another educational change Drost supports is the elimination of school lunch debt.

"I don't think students should be punished for the socioeconomic status of their parents," she said.

The race

Since Drost began her bid for election in Februray, "it's been a whirlwind," she said. In addition to learning how to run a campaign, she has also needed to adapt to the limitations coronavirus has put on traditional methods of electioneering.

As a result, most of her efforts have so far been digital — a strategy that has actually proved to be advantageous, Drost said. A candidate can only knock on so many doors in a given day, but the internet allows her to connect with an infinite number of people.

Drost has already secured endorsements from the Minnesota DFL, Women Winning and Minnesota Now.

When the election filing period opened May 19, Drost showed up bright and early to get her documents notarized and in the mail. As soon as her paperwork is processed by the Secretary of State's office, Drost will officially be a House DFL candidate in District 16A.

"I don't think age has to do with how much experience you have," she said., adding that ever since her undergraduate studies, she has advocated for issues that are important to her.

Drost has spoken at national conferences in support of women's rights and other domestic and international policies. An internship with Countryside Public Health gave her a firsthand look into the health care system. Business school has provided Drost with diversity training, business ethics education and practice with maintaining a budget — all assets she believes make her a strong candidate.

As she virtually interacts with voters, Drost asks members of her district to research the candidates beyond the surface level and consider their policy positions.

"Look at how the candidate is willing to work for their district," she said.