Zachary Dorholt, a St. Cloud State University graduate, got an unusual and unexpected start in politics. In 2010 he was the campaign chair for Larry Haws, who withdrew last minute from the race for family matters. In return, he gave Dorholt his endorsement for his first political campaign.
With minimal time to prepare for the election, Dorholt was defeated, but remained dedicated. In 2012, he ran for the district 14B seat, which includes St. Cloud, and won. Dorholt has been part of the two most expensive House races in Minnesota history – 2012 and 2014, yet says the vast majority of that money came from third party Political Action Committees (PAC’s).
In 2012 and 2014 Dorholt voluntarily abided by the campaign spending limit, which in 2012 was $35,000 and in 2014 was $60,000. He thinks the money candidates raise is more than enough for local elections and strongly opposes the spending by outside groups that aren’t required to report who their donors are.
“You can force non-profits to disclose what they call dark money. At the state level you can force them to do that. We tried to do it when I was there,” Dorholt said.
Getting big money out of politics is an important issue for Dorholt because he thinks the late season attack ads that are so routine actually discourage people from voting. This led him to denounce the Citizens United case, which used the argument of free speech to allow unlimited political spending by independent corporations.
“We need to undo Citizens United. We need to get money out of politics, if only to allow people to breath and be part of the process,” Dorholt said. “A million dollars  for a local race is disturbing. It’s disturbing when we see that much outside money influencing local elections.”
As a member of the House of Representatives, in 2012 Dorholt focused his attention on education, where he froze college tuition through the Minnesota State College and University System (MNSCU) and paid K-12 schools over $2 billion they were owed due to IOU’s the government had been handing out for years.
Dorholt said education is a personal issue for him because during the time he was in college, from 1999-2005, he saw tuition at SCSU double, and the income plan for public universities go from 40% student funded and 60% state to the other way around.
Dorholt has been out of office for almost 12 months and has continued his service as a certified counselor for the Central Minnesota Mental Health Center. Many of his passions in politics stem from his work as a mental health counselor, as clients routinely come straight off the streets, which has highlighted the poverty issue in St. Cloud.
Many children in the St. Cloud school district are living below the poverty line and receive free or reduced lunch, which is another reason Dorholt increased the states spending per pupil during his one term in office.
Among serving as a voice for underrepresented groups in the St. Cloud area, Dorholt is also a founding member of the Central Minnesota Independent Music Collaboration, which makes sense given his history as a bass player for the band Nelson Flavor, which made an appearance on KVSC’s Monday Night Live in 2009.
With a wife and two children, Dorholt says he doesn’t have much time for playing music these days, but he still finds time to take his bass out of the case and play with friends when possible.
A wide range of interests has made Dorholt a busy man his entire life, but he’s still committed to returning to the Minnesota State Legislature in 2016, when the next election is held.
He’ll be going against the incumbent Jim Knoblach next fall, who has been elected to the state legislature seven times in his life and made his return to politics in 2015 after an eight-year absence.
Stay tuned for stories on additional area candidates.