Robert Block, a 20-year-old junior at Appalachian State, is challenging incumbent Republican Jonathan Jordan to represent N.C. House District 93 as an anti-establishment candidate. Block said he will represent and lead the constituencies of Watauga and Ashe counties instead of prioritizing money and political party interests.
“Everyone has one vote,” Block said, “but not everyone has infinite money to spend on the candidate they want.”
For Block, the drive to influence change from leadership positions started immediately after high school when he was 17 and took a position as shift manager at a local Bojangles.
“Robert Block has the best work ethic of any employee I’ve ever had,” Block’s leading manager Keane Burton said.
As part of his job responsibilities, Block would help Burton with training new employees and even open the restaurant by himself at times, taking on responsibilities that Burton said were not expected of him.
“He set the bar so high for everybody else that I didn’t think anybody else would be able to beat it,” Burton said.
Burton said Block is still often brought up to current shift managers as a model of outstanding work. “They get tired of hearing his name,” Burton said.
Burton said Block was a model employee and a model citizen
However, some voters may not be able to look past Block’s age in the upcoming election. That is not the thinking that Block’s endorsers and Burton share.
“When I first met him, I actually thought he was older than what he is because of the way he carries himself,” Burton said.
Block’s campaign manager and best friend since junior year of high school, Ethan Beverage, does not think voters should focus on Block’s youth.
“This isn’t a job about experience,” Beverage said. “The government is there to do the will of the governed.”
It’s something that Lew Hendricks, a former candidate for representative for N.C. House District 93 who endorsed Block, said seems to be lacking in the current political system.
“You’re supposed to be voting in the best interest of the people you represent,” Hendricks said, “not necessarily the people who are giving you money.”
Hendricks said that experience can be a detriment to a politician as past experiences and knowledge can supersede the will and needs of the constituents.
“It’s not your job to know everything,” Hendricks said.
Ultimately though, Hendricks said that once voters look past Block’s age, they will see his maturity and intelligence.
“They’re going to go, ‘Yeah, he’s a young guy, but he’s not the normal 20-year-old that I was kind of picturing,’” Hendricks said.
Running as a Republican, Block’s campaign will tackle issues concerning what he believes is an urgent need to combat human-caused climate change, defying the norm for a Republican politician.
“It needs to become a party-wide ideology accepted by the Republican Party,” Block said.
Block said that he wants the Republican narrative surrounding the climate to change because he sees it as a key issue that has led to partisan divide.
“It’s kind of irritating to see that they want to play partisanship, not help the betterment of society and the people that they’re supposed to protect,” Block said.
Beverage said that the GOP in power now does not represent all Republican voters.
“The Republican Party that currently has control right now and the GOP is not the Republican Party I grew up with or remember,” Beverage said.
Despite these key differences between his own views and the majority of other Republican leaders, Block falls more in line with Republican ideology, such as fiscal conservatism, as opposed to Democratic ideology.
“I don’t particularly have a lot of money,” Block said. “I budget to the penny.”
According to his campaign website, other issues that Block wants to focus on are increasing the quality of North Carolina’s educational system, providing for the needs of veterans and focusing on small businesses that Block says will help grow and provide more for the economy.
“We need to stand up for ourselves and the people of our state as opposed to siding with the party,” Block said.
The primary focus of the campaign, Block and Beverage said, is to bring change to the way politics are normally conducted in North Carolina.
“We’re trying to change the way things are done. We’re trying to prove to people that you don’t need experience, that you don’t need a law degree, that you don’t even need a degree at all basically to be in office,” Beverage said, “as long as you’re willing to work for the people that voted for you.”
Story By; Ben Sessoms, Associate News Editor