GV student joins growing number of Gen Z Americans running for office


Courtesy / Facebook (Ivan Diaz for Kent County Commissioner)

Jacob Welch, Staff Writer

As Generation Z enters the political arena with perspectives formed by a number of recent national and global narratives, a Grand Valley State University student is aiming to bring the collegiate perspective of the modern age to local government.

For Ivan Diaz, a GVSU senior running for Kent County Commissioner, it’s just a matter of representing his district.

“After the 2020 census, there was redistricting for all levels,” Diaz said. “The Kent County Commission added two seats, and the seat I’m running for is one of these two seats. It was specifically drawn to be a minority-majority district, and if I’m not mistaken the district is 52% or 55% Latino. Unfortunately, although the issue of gerrymandering was fixed at the state level, it was not fixed at the county level.”

The Kent County Commission is responsible for all legislative and policy-making decisions in Grand Rapids and the surrounding areas.

“If I win, I would specifically be in charge of things like the county budget, the health department, the sheriff, the parks and implementing a lot of the money that’s been passed these last few months at the county level,” Diaz said.

Diaz arrived at the decision because of his interest and his urgency to help people.

“I work full-time, so I go to school part-time,” Diaz said. “After the pandemic happened, I switched tracks as well. I was originally planning on going into education and being a high school English and Spanish teacher.”

Before moving on to his eventual ambitions, Diaz said he feels a need at this moment to enter the political scene.

“After the pandemic, I decided I want to go into higher education someday,” Diaz said. “In the meantime, I want to work for the government or be part of the government somehow.”

Diaz is far from alone. Generation Z’s growing political impact has been one increasingly seen on the national stage as more public figures have shifted their messaging to cater to younger voters.

As more voters of Generation Z become eligible to vote, more diverse and better educated than previous generations, they bring with them engagement fomented by growing political awareness and discourse throughout the country.

For Diaz, his interest in politics was sparked because of what he thought he could do for people like him.

“Right after I graduated high school, I got interested in politics and, over time, I became much more interested in politics than what I originally was studying,” Diaz said. “So, I just made that switch, and I saw that trend happening all over the country: regular, working-class people getting interested in politics and involved in politics, and then I started thinking about what I could do.”

He’s connected to the district he wants to represent, having roots all around the community.

“I was born and raised in Kent County,” Diaz said. “I was born in Grand Rapids in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood. I’ve lived here my whole life. In this area specifically, there’s a lot of needs that have gone unaddressed for the longest time.”

While he has opted for pragmatism in regard to the limits of his power to instill change should he take office, Diaz says he is optimistic when it comes to growing support and momentum for his values and those of the upcoming generation.

“I’ve just been talking to different people, different candidates running in the area for different levels of office and working as a whole to just push Democratic politics in West Michigan,” Diaz said. “That’s still an issue, we still expect to be in the minority this year. But we’ll build that level of support at all levels.”