The current state of politics may be exasperating to most, but it takes a certain mentality to dive in and try to personally bring about change. One of GamePolitics own community members has had enough and decided to do just that.
Zachary Knight is a GamePolitics moderator, ECA Chapter President and burgeoning game developer, and he’s made the decision to run for State Representative in his home state of Oklahoma. EZK, as he’s known around here, will be running in District 46, which comprises Newcastle, Noble and Norman.
EZK was good enough to take a few minutes out of his day in order to answer a few questions for us.
This is your first foray into politics correct? What prompted you to jump in now?
This year, Oklahoma's legislative session ended with no real solution to the budget deficit. They ended with increased burden on small business operators. They ended with no progress on opening ballot access. Additionally, my opponent was running unopposed as of the end of the second day of the tree day filing period. That solidified my decision. I don't believe that anyone should run unopposed.
How do you think your background as a game developer and advocate has assisted in preparing you for a role as a politician?
Prior to my work with the ECA and Game Politics, I was not active politically. Since then I have taken great interest in following the state and federal government's decisions. By starting a chapter of the ECA, I have gained a greater understanding of the needs of not only the gamer community but also others. Gamers come from all walks of life and although they share a common interest in gaming, they hold differing opinions and interests in other aspects of their lives. By learning of common interests and needs of those I will be serving as State Representative, I will better understand what needs to be done to improve the lives of the people of this state.
Why did you select the Independent party?
I have never agreed completely with either the Republican or Democratic Parties. Since Oklahoma makes it extremely difficult for new parties to gain ballot recognition, I am not able to register under any party with which I agree.
What issues are you going to focus on in the campaign?
I have several issues I plan to focus on. Primary among them is that of ballot access reform. Oklahoma is the nation's toughest state to gain party recognition on the ballot. The restrictions put in place are preventing people from having a stronger voice when it comes to those who lead them.
Next is the need for a more ethical government. While Oklahoma has some very strong campaign laws and ethical standards, politicians still receive far too much in contributions and gifts from lobbyists. Several Senators and Representatives sought the creation of a “No Gift List” on which legislative and other elected officials could register and thus make it illegal for lobbyists to give them gifts. Only seven Senators and Representatives signed a letter requesting this list.
I will also focus on the need for a more open government. Oklahoma's bill tracking software is painful to use and does not provide the necessary information needed to follow a bill from introduction to signing by the governor. Additionally, I support efforts to broadcast all public meeting online and on public broadcasting stations.
Finally, I want to promote economic development in the state. This will be done by lowering the tax burden on citizens and businesses. The amount of taxes that businesses and citizens pay in this state are not in line with those in surrounding states. I want to repeal the estate tax and work on eventual repealing of the state income tax in favor of a tax system based on sales taxes. By focusing on a sales tax rather than income taxes, the government will have a stronger incentive to pass legislation that promotes economic growth within the state. With a stronger economy, people will spend more and the government will gain more income.
I see that you want to “lower the tax burden” on OK citizens… in light of your state’s sizeable budget deficit, how can you make that happen?
The key to decreasing any deficit is to cut unnecessary spending. Any personal finance counselor will tell an individual or family that if they are having financial difficulties, they need to first cut spending on frivolous items. Things like cable or satellite television, expensive clothing etc will make the cut. Why should it be any different for our government. Oklahoma spends a lot of money of projects, agencies and services that do nothing but cost the state money. They provide no tangible economic benefit to the state and should thus be cut. Raising taxes and fees is like a family getting second or third jobs. Sure it will ease the burden in the short term, but the long term stresses will be detrimental to the state's economy.
Any thoughts of creating interactive material to support your candidacy?
I don't have any solid plans at the moment. I have been considering a game that illustrates the hurdles that new political parties must jump to gain access to the ballot.
Have you been out talking to people in your district yet? Any indication how people are feeling… are they ready for change? Would they be willing to vote Independent?
I have not begun actively campaigning. So what knowledge I have of the positions and feelings of the people of my district are only my own and close friends and family. Yet, if you look at things from a national perspective, people are far more willing to vote out incumbent politicians, whether this is through selecting new candidates in the Primaries or voting for new parties in the general election. Now is one of the best times to be running as an independent.
The biggest hurdle I can foresee while running as an independent is the fact that I have no party affiliation to fill in any policy gaps. The best way to overcome this is to allow people to contact me directly with questions and concerns. This has always been a concern of mine from trying to contact candidates in the past. Very few respond to emails and letters asking for clarification. During the last election cycle, I sent emails to all candidates for Federal House and Senate in Oklahoma requesting information on their stances on issues like game legislation and net neutrality. None responded back. During that same election cycle, I asked the two people running for state house in my district of their stance on ballot access reform and neither responded. The lack of response troubled me as a voter.
Thanks EZK, best of luck!
Disclosure: GamePolitics is a publication of the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA).