Zachary Meyer knows that people think he's young to be running for the Illinois House, but he considers his age to be an asset instead of an obstacle.
At 23, the Du Quoin resident and candidate for House District 115 said it's time for his generation to step up and set the course for their own future.
"Most people see me as young and inexperienced," said Meyer on Monday, 11 days shy from getting his law degree at SIU. "But (my age) connects me better to the future and disconnects me from the policies of the past, the ones that don't work.
"The way that my generation thinks is different from the current ideology that is failing us."
Meyer is one of six candidates running for the Republican nomination to House District 115, the seat being vacated by Republican state Rep. Terri Bryant. Bryant is running instead for the 58th District state Senate seat, where state Sen. Paul Schimpf, also a Republican, is retiring at the end of his term.
The Republican field for the District 115 March primary is Will Stephens, the mayor of Murphysboro, Clifford Lindemann of Bluford, Johnnie Ray Smith II of Ashley, John R. Howard of Texico, Paul Jacobs of Pomona and Meyer.
A 2014 graduate of Du Quoin High School, Meyer said he knew he would run for public office when he was still a teenager. He singled out his government class, taught by Ryan Summers, as helping to crystallize his thinking.
But his 6-year-old daughter is a big reason, too, he said.
"I have to fight for her generation, too," he said, saying the state has to quit passing the buck to younger citizens.
"We can't keep kicking things down the road," Meyer said. "Whenever we pass laws and budgets we have to plan for their impact, not just today but five years and 20 years ahead."
Meyer said his focus is also on helping small business -- he owns the Tropical Sno store in Du Quoin -- and lowering taxes to keep Illinoisans from leaving.
"You have to stop the flood of people from leaving the state for states with lower taxes," he added. "It's better to have lower taxes on a lot of people than high taxes on a few people."
Meyer says he is anti-abortion. He also wants to fight for the future of Southern Illinois University, which he said will be good for the 115th district and all of southern Illinois.
Meyer worked for the Perry County state's attorney's office as a law clerk while he was in law school and said he still volunteers there. He said if he wins the March primary and the November election he'll put his law career on hold to focus his attention on the legislature. He is scheduled to take the bar exam in February.
Should Meyer win, he would not be the youngest member ever sworn into the Illinois House. That record is held by state Rep. Avery Bourne of Raymond, Ill., who was a 22-year-old law student when she was appointed to the 95th District seat in 2015.