Running as a Young Conservative in Illinois

This week’s national political scene has most Americans full attention. However, as LI’s President Morton Blackwell writes in his 27th Law of the Public Policy Process, “Remember it’s a long ball game.”

Initially, politics starts locally.

And, for 27-year-old Zachary Holder, he’s running as a Republican for circuit clerk in his home county of Richland in Illinois.

Richland County is comprised of 16,233 people and has not elected a GOP circuit clerk since 1968.

“The race is turning out to be very competitive and I am using all the Leadership Institute tricks I learned,” Zachary said. “A conservative win would allow a different approach to county government. A conservative would look at the office differently. I would look to see how they can make the office more efficient, save money, and integrate technology to be more productive.  Currently, the circuit clerk’s office does not have a website or accept any electronic form of payment.” 

The circuit clerk serves as the administrative arm of the judiciary. 

“I have worked for the Republican National Committee, the Illinois House Republican Organization, and other races,” Zachary said.  “It is not too different to be the candidate running in your hometown.  My days are spent making phone calls, walking door to door, attending dinners, and trying to raise money.  I am taking on the last liberal strong hold in the county.” 



Zachary first learned of the Leadership Institute when he attended LI’s Wednesday Wake-Up Club Breakfast in March 2006 featuring Congressman Mike Pence (ID-6). One year later, he was working for the Institute as a development fellow.

“I worked in different areas of LI’s development department,” Zachary said. “This allowed me to build my resume and attend different LI courses.” 

Now, he’s has taken 14 trainings at the Leadership Institute including the Campaign Management School in June 2008, Conservative Career Workshop in November 2007, and several TV trainings and new media workshops.

“I used this time to become more politically savvy,” Zachary said. “LI’s training taught me many things that I have used.  I still remember learning that you lose IQ points once you become a candidate.  My training through the Leadership Institute allowed me to avoid many of the pitfalls young candidates make.”  

Go here to read the ten worst mistakes of losing candidates. Similarly, here are the ten worst mistakes of winning candidates.

 “I could not have achieved many of my dreams if I did not start out at the Leadership Institute,” Zachary said. “I was asked to manage a 2008 Presidential Campaign Victory center at age 24.  This allowed me to see a presidential campaign first hand.  I managed campaigns in Illinois and I have used my training for private sector jobs also.  The Leadership Institute gave me the knowledge and experience to run as a candidate in my home county.” 

Are you considering a run for an elected office?

Then, perhaps you would like to attend LI’s Future Candidate School coming up the first week in December. This training will help you think through all the necessary things that will be thrown at you as a candidate, and will help you prepare now to run the best campaign possible. Register now to enjoy a $50 discount.

To register for one of LI’s 41 types of political trainings, go here to see the full schedule.

“LI is a great place for conservatives to develop skills to utilize in their communities, states, and federal governments,” Zachary said. “You can also build a good network of colleagues, friends, and advisors.  I still consult with people I have met from the Leadership Institute and they direct me to other people connected with the Institute.” 

Please welcome Zachary Holder as LI’s Graduate of the Week.

To nominate a Leadership Institute graduate or faculty member to be featured as LI's spotlight of the week, please contact LI's External Affairs Officer Lauren Hart at