Richard Ehrbar III is anything but a typical undergraduate student at Ohio State. He is a 29-year-old non-traditional student, and when he isn’t in class, he’s on the campaign trail, preparing for his run for U.S. Congress in 2012.
The Libertarian candidate and third-year in strategic communication has never held a government position before, but has been considering getting into politics for a while.
“I decided officially that I was going to run back in July, it was something I’d thought about and strongly considered for the past couple of years. I decided that the time was now,” said Ehrbar.
Erbhar is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for Ohio’s newly formed 3rd District, which encompasses the Ohio State Columbus campus, Columbus State University, Franklin University, and Capital University, as well as Clintonville, the East Side, Worthington, and part of the Short North.
There is no incumbent seat holder in the district and the field has yet to be narrowed down to a single candidate in the Republican and Democratic parties. One of Ehrbar’s opponents is Joyce Beatty, senior vice president for outreach and engagement at Ohio State, who recently said she is stepping down from her position to pursue the 3rd District seat.
Ehrbar, a Huron, Ohio native graduated from high school in 2001, and worked in the food industry to save enough money to go to continue his education at Bowling Green State University in 2006.
“I grew up in a lower-middle class family. At the time there really wasn’t much money to go around to pay for college, so after I got done with high school I went to work,” Ehrbar said, who described his path to Ohio State a “blue collar, no collar kind of journey.”
Ehrbar transferred to the university in March 2010, “I always wanted to be a buckeye,” he said.
Ehrbar’s childhood friend, Ryan Terry, said that Ehrbar hadn’t shown an interest in politics when he was younger, but “had always been interested in what’s going on in the world.”
While Ehrbar isn’t taking classes this quarter in order to focus on his campaign, he plans to take classes during the coming spring quarter and fall semester.
“I want to be visible on campus during the home stretch,” he said.
Even though he is taking a break from school this quarter, Ehrbar will have to find a balance between classes and campaigning.
“I think what’s really important is exercise, meditation, and prayer. The best way to stay focused on those things is to make sure that you are healthy outside of those. Health, nutrition, is very important to me,” he said.
Still a ways off from completing his degree, Ehrbar is planning to declare a second degree in psychology as well, which he said would add about a year to this expected graduation date. If Ehrbar wins the election, he plans to take more time off school.
“I would want to focus of course on my responsibilities, maybe an online class. I’d be so focused on going back and forth between Washington and Columbus, rallying, organizing, facilitating, I don’t think I would have much time to be in the classroom, he said.
After his term or subsequent terms end, Ehrbar plans to return to Ohio State to finish his bachelor’s degrees and pursue a master’s degree.
Robert Bridges, the political director for the Ohio Libertarian Party, doesn’t work directly with Ehrbar and his campaign, but is excited to work with him in the coming months.
“He has such new ideas and is an out of the box thinker,” Bridges said, “I can say for a fact that Richard has central Ohio on his mind, he wants to see Columbus and its citizens be successful.”
Ehrbar said to The Lantern on Jan. 21 that he wants to “bring our troops home” while also focusing on “restoring individual liberties, and restoring the economy,” if he wins the election.
If he doesn’t win, Ehrbar has thought about pursuing a different career path down the road.
“After school I would really love to have my own Italian restaurant. In a city, by a body of water, maybe looking at the downtown skyline or something like that. Just a little place where I can cook and serve people good Italian food,” he said.
However, he plans to finish his time at Ohio State first.
“I’m going to finish up my degrees. I’m going to keep working hard and keep being a poor, broke college student,” Ehrbar said.