September 8, 2016

Steven Zilberg, a student, world traveler, and liberty advocate, was featured in the St Cloud Times. He is the Libertarian candidate for State Senate District 14. Supporters can follow his campaign via his Facebook page.

The original article can be found here.

* * *

A different kind of candidate

Kirsti Marohn,
10 a.m. CDT September 5, 2016

Steven Zilberg

Steven Zilberg

Ask Steven Zilberg a question about his political beliefs or the key issues in his campaign for the state Legislature, and don’t expect to get a simple answer.

He might quote Nelson Mandela or Malcolm X, or talk about his belief in the right of everyone to carry a weapon. He’ll mention his teaching and travels to two dozen countries in five years, including far-flung places like Yemen and Indonesia. The conversation might drift from the war on drugs to the Black Lives Matter movement to fighting AIDS in Africa.

Zilberg is running as a Libertarian Party candidate in Senate District 14, against Republican candidate Jerry Relph and DFLer Dan Wolgamott. In many ways, he is emblematic of young voters’ disillusionment with the traditional political parties that often don’t represent their views in a system that offers few alternatives.

“I’m just someone who’s very cynical when it comes to two parties and just like, give people choices,” he said. “Let people believe what they want to believe. Why does it have to be so restrictive?”

Zilberg knows his candidacy is a long shot. But while he’d like to win, he’s not focused on achieving a certain percentage of the vote. It’s more about helping to shape the debate and ask questions no one else is asking.

“It’s more or less the ideas, and the fact that if more people talk about issues that are important – I mean, whether I lose or win, OK, fine,” Zilberg said.

Zilberg grew up on Lake Street in Minneapolis. By age 9, he was an orphan after both of his parents died of drug overdoses. He still has photos of his parents and memories – mostly bad ones, like seeing mirrors with lines of cocaine around the house.

“Growing up with that – it’s very impactful,” he said. “You don’t walk around the same when you’re 25, and you don’t have the same thinking on issues that other people do.”

Zilberg spent a year in foster care, then was adopted by a Jewish father and Catholic mother when he was 10 or 11. He attended college as an undergraduate at St. Cloud State University, studying linguistics.

Then the travel bug hit. Zilberg studied in South Africa during his freshman year in 2010, where his roommate from Somalia gave him a Quran. He converted to Islam, taking the Muslim name of Khalid.

“I like the difference of opinion,” Zilberg said. “There’s tons of differences of opinion, and there’s not a right one and a wrong one.”

In the next few years, he would travel to 25 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. He met his future wife in Indonesia, where she remains awaiting a visa.

The travels weren’t always smooth. As a Muslim with a passport stamped in numerous war-torn countries, he’s frequently stopped at airport security checkpoints and was once detained by Toronto authorities for a week.

Zilberg is now a graduate student at St. Cloud State, pursing a master’s degree in social responsibility. He decided to run as a Libertarian candidate because of his dislike of both political parties.

It’s hard to cubbyhole Zilberg into traditional positions. He likes former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and shares the libertarian view that all taxes are theft.

But many of Zilberg’s social views are liberal. His parents’ deaths have shaped his views on drug policy. He believes marijuana should be legalized and thinks too many people are in prison for drug offenses.

“They need rehab. They need healing,” he said. “They don’t need to go behind bars.”

Although he’s white, Zilberg frequently talks about racial disparities and wants to see more accountability for police shootings of civilians. He believes officers should be required to be trained in non-lethal methods.

“We have to make sure the police officers understand that’s first, before taking out their gun,” he said. “The gun is there for the worst-case scenario, not just for you to pull it out because you’re trigger happy.”

But Zilberg also believes in civilians’ right to carry a weapon, believing it deters crime.

So far, Zilberg’s campaign has relied on his involvement on campus and social media. He hopes voters will be more open this year to choosing a third-party candidate, such as presidential contenders Gary Johnson from the Libertarian Party or Jill Stein from the Green Party.

“I just wish that more people would run that way, because then it would make people easier to vote based on are they actually good candidates,” Zilberg said. “Rather than, ‘Oh, he’s a Democrat. I’ll just vote Democrat, because I have for the last 40 years.’ ”

Follow Kirsti Marohn on Twitter, Facebook, or contact her by phone at 320-255-8746.

Concerned about the expansion of government control and the erosion of individual liberty? Please consider joining and becoming active with the Libertarian Party of Minnesota. Libertarians support liberty on all issues, all the time! Libertarianism is a philosophical and political movement to promote personal freedom, strong civil liberties, a genuinely free marketplace, and peace.

Want to comment? Join this conversation on our Facebook thread.