Students Running for State House: Lucas Paper

JOSEPH RAVITS | THE SPECTRUM North Dakota State senior Lucas Paper talks about his campaign and life Monday in the Memorial Union.
North Dakota State senior Lucas Paper talks about his campaign and life Monday in the Memorial Union.

Election Day is less than two weeks away, and North Dakota State has two Bison on the ballot this fall. Today, The Spectrum talks with Lucas Paper.

Lucas Paper is a senior majoring in political science with a business administration minor. He helps people find their dream homes as a buyer’s agent’s assistant for Hatch Realty. Paper is also running for the North Dakota House of Representatives seat in District 21, up for vote Nov. 4.

Paper is running with fellow NDSU senior and political science major Robert Lauf for the two contested seats held by Democratic incumbents Steve Zaiser and Kathy Hogan.


Involved in Delta Tau Delta, THON ND and other organizations at NDSU, Paper has kept his plate full as a student.

“Every semester I tell myself ‘I’m going to be less busy; I’m going to be less busy,’ but it never happens,” Paper said. “It’s fueled by a lot of coffee and Red Bull, but it’s always fun.”

Paper received the Republican nomination last spring with Lauf. The two will try to defeat incumbents Zaiser and Hogen, who have served District 21 for 12 and five years in the House, respectively.

Balance is essential in maintaining school, work and campaigning efforts afloat, Paper said.

“There’s 18 working hours in a day,” Paper said. He said he uses all of them to the last minute, campaigning continuously.

Door knocking is a time-consuming yet rewarding task, Paper said. He, Lauf and State Senate candidate Cindy Pfeiffer challenged one another to knock on every constituent door before the election.

Paper said he and Lauf have knocked on 4,000 doors, some of which hold extra sentiment for Paper.

Growing up in District 21, Paper said it is interesting to go and ask old neighbors for votes.

The Fargo South High School graduate said sometimes people are surprised that he is running for office.

Although politics do not run in Paper’s family, he said that it was his calling to serve.



The campaign started last spring with one clear objective.

“You have to just talk to as many people as you can,” Paper said. “I think it’s really important (to be running for public office). There are a few key things I’d like to do and advocate for, and I think I would be a very good person to do so.”

He listed four topics on which he builds his platform: tax relief, flood protection, education and infrastructure.

While North Dakota’s income taxes are low compared to other states, Paper thinks that the state should not altogether eliminate taxes. Rather, he said he is a proponent for “slow, marked deductions.”

In terms of flood protection, Paper said he believes a permanent solution for Fargo is needed. He is in support of the current diversion plan causing strife in Minnesota and upstream.

“The diversion is a very politicized and convoluted issue,” Paper said.

Paper also mentioned communication should be an important element with this topic. Working with Minnesota and Governor Mark Dayton is essential.

“I would like to see all stockholders get on to a table and completely hash it out, instead of one side saying one thing and the other, another,” Paper said.

He called for protection for citizens living upstream, people who have “been living there in their hundred-year homes.”

“Right now,” Paper continued, “the diversion is the viable answer for our flood protection. We need to make sure every party is brought to the table. The reality of the situation is sometimes you can’t fix everything, and nothing is perfect.”

He cited his campaign website’s claim that Fargo generates $4.35 billion from non-farming wages annually.

“It’s important to protect that from the flood,” Paper said. “It’s important to protect our families and our businesses. Bringing permanent flood protection to North Dakota is something I’m very passionate about.”

Furthering education is also essential. North Dakota voters will also decide on Election Day whether to pass Measure 3.

Paper will vote against Measure 3, which will discontinue the part-time, eight-member board of higher education. He said Lauf may vote differently on the subject.

Proponents of the measure worry about higher education in the state’s accreditation.

The accreditation issue is a “red herring,” Paper said. He is more worried about the board having autonomy from North Dakota’s legislature.

Having a student-voice on the board, as there is with the current system, is important as well, Paper said.

If elected, Paper said he would fight for better wages for teachers, too, which has consistently been below average in the United States.

“Ultimately, and in my opinion, (teachers) have some of the most important jobs in the world,” Paper said. “Making sure that we keep young, passionate people in our state to teach our young people is important.”

Lastly, Paper does not care for the argument North Dakota is not doing enough to address the infrastructure woes in the western part of the state.

Paper said if the state would have known 10 years ago the Bakken oil boom would happen, they still would not be adequately caught up.

The oil boom is fantastic, Paper said. But we need to continue to help out the afflicted counties.


Paper and Lauf are running together to give the pair more visibility, but that does not mean they are a package deal.

Split tickets do occur during State House elections, stemming from the plurality vote that picks the top-two vote receivers, not the party ticket with the most votes.

Paper said that he and Lauf disagree on some issues.

“We come from two very different places with two very different perspectives,” Paper said.

Paper grew up near one of the lowest income areas in Fargo, a neighborhood filled with new Americans, some of whom are Paper’s friends.

“We are very similar and very excited and passionate about moving the community forward,” Paper said.

The duo also shares an uncommon demographic that is a rarity in the capital: youth.

“The demographics out in Bismarck – there’s not a lot of young people out there,” Paper said. “There are a lot of young people in the state. The median age for just our district is 30 years old.”

“We think with our passion and our unique perspective,” Paper continued, “we can bring that representation out to both young people and students.”

Paper said he thinks their youthfulness will be an asset to their constituents and state. Opponents who believe their youthfulness will make them puppets to older members, Paper said, will be sadly mistaken.

“I hope that they don’t think that’s going to be an issue – that we will get pushed around,” Paper said. “We are willing to advocate for the district and what’s good for the district.”


In 2012, Paper took a year off from school for military training.

He is now in the North Dakota Air National Guard, where he serves in the security forces at the Minot Air Force Base.

While serving his country is important, finishing college “has always been a goal,” Paper said. He will be the first in his family to complete college.

Paper believes serving in public office is service as well.

Paper said there should be a “reaching-out process” all of the time. He said it upsets him that public officials do not reach out to constituents until election day is approaching.

“I don’t necessarily think that our opponents haven’t done that, but I definitely know from living here that you only hear from elected officials right before they’re trying to get you to vote for them,” Paper said. “And that kind of irks me.”

Graduation depends on the outcome of the race.

If Paper loses the vote, he will graduate next semester. If he wins, graduation will be next fall.

Paper was born in Phoenix, but grew up in Fargo in a single-parent household with two sisters and a brother.

“My dad is my biggest role model,” Paper said, calling his father, a blue-collar plumber and pipefitter, his best friend.

“My father worked extremely hard to put food on the table,” Paper said. “That determination and that willpower for him to be able to do that and really make a better life for us than he had, that drives me every day.”

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