A Missouri independent candidate launched his campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley with one goal in mind: refute 200 years of political theory.

Tapping into voters’ cultural anxieties and class divides is the surest way to secure electoral success, he was told, but Brigham Young University alum Jared Young decided instead to build a campaign centered around pluralism and problem solving.

“Yes, the traditional political playbook is you feed on fear,” Young said in an interview with the Deseret News. “But what I’m hoping to show and prove is that a constructive campaign, that is aiming to be a positive force in our political dialogue, can be more powerful and can stand out and be just a breath of fresh air to voters.”

Young cites widespread voter dissatisfaction as evidence there is a path to victory outside of the two-party system. But his bid to replace Hawley has little chance of succeeding. He faces a 10,000 signature-gathering requirement, fundraising disadvantages and a polarized political environment that seems to incentivize disagreeing at all costs; the opposite of his campaign message — which mirrors an initiative led by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox — of disagreeing better or more productively.

Young sees the country’s polarization as a mirage, given substance by partisan showmanship and an irresponsible press. When you dig past the headlines and into the lives of everyday Americans, Young believes you can find common ground and a shared desire to find solutions to problems like immigration, election security and national debt.

“We’re not as divided as the media or as our current politicians would have us think,” Young said. “And so if we can just have the courage to step up and actually do something different than we’ve been doing for the last 200 years and put some independent leaders in place, then we can get America back on a path that we can be proud of.”

Who is Jared Young?

For Young, the father of six children under 12, faith has been a dominant force in shaping his worldview as well as his approach to politics.

Growing up in the American West, South and Northeast, Young said his parents taught him that “there are great people everywhere” and “that kindness is the most important attribute you can develop.”

These values, as well as his beliefs as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints, were tested and reinforced during Young’s church mission to Sweden, a study abroad to the Middle East as an Arabic student at BYU, and as a law student at Harvard Law School.

“It was just important for me to see that just because somebody disagrees with me on things that are very important and core to me, it doesn’t mean they’re a bad person and doesn’t mean that they’re idiots,” Young said. “You can be smart and well intentioned, and come to just completely different conclusions.”

After law school, Young and his wife entered the “rat race” at a law firm in Washington, D.C., which they quickly abandoned at the first opportunity to start an HR outsourcing company, and their family, in the calmer Midwestern environment of Joplin, Missouri. In 2022, the company was acquired by a national firm, providing some of the savings that are now making Young’s independent run for Congress possible.

Last summer, Young quit his C-suite position to pursue a long shot Senate bid, but not before researching the campaign with local political science professors and taking time for thoughtful consideration with his wife.

“This was not a decision we made because we thought it would be great for the family,” Young said. “But sometimes you just do what you gotta do.”

Young believes American voters are tired of politicians pitting them against each other — as he articulates in this campaign video — while the same old issues never get resolved. He points to the state’s 43% share of unaffiliated voters as evidence that there’s appetite for a third option outside of Democratic or Republican party loyalties.

Can Jared Young win in Missouri?

After 100 years as the quintessential presidential bellwether, Missouri cast aside its swing-state status with the election and reelection of Donald Trump, who won both contests by 15-20 percentage points.

Hawley was elected by a 6 percentage-point margin in 2018 at age 39 after serving one term as the attorney general of Missouri. In his short time as a U.S. senator, Hawley has spearheaded the effort to remake the GOP into the party of the working class. He has also made a name for himself by taking bold partisan stands, exemplified by his viral show of support for protesters before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Young, who voted for Hawley in 2018, said the senator is an “incredibly talented politician” who “knows exactly what his core supporters want to see.” In a video released Monday, Hawley is depicted as a champion of Christian beliefs at an event in Joplin where he railed against political corruption.

While Young shares many of the same values, he believes civil rhetoric and a willingness to compromise might be just as important as one’s ideological perspectives: “I just think we need fewer cultural warriors and more problem solvers in Congress. And that’s what I aim to be is a problem solver.”

To qualify for the November general election, where he will stand off against Hawley, and the likely Democratic nominee, activist and former Marine Lucas Kunce, Young needs to gather 10,000 signatures from Missourians who want to see him on the ballot.

Young currently has about 5,000 signatures but is on pace to reach 10,000 by the end of March, he said.

By the end of 2023, Young had raised nearly $100,000 and had loaned his campaign over $200,000, with $113,000 in cash on hand. Hawley, by contrast, had raised over $18 million by the end of last year, with nearly $5 million still in his coffers. And Kunce had raised nearly $5.5 million with over $2 million on hand.

Recent polling shows Hawley with a comfortable 10-15 percentage-point lead over Kunce. Young doesn’t appear in the poll results.

But Young insists his venture is necessary to give voice to those who are tired of elected officials “trying to convince us that there is no common ground.”

“We’ve become so jaded and so frustrated, so cynical about our politics, but it actually doesn’t have to be that way,” Young said. “And that’s what I’m aiming to prove, is that we as voters can be better, and we as leaders can be better, and as we make that choice to be better, to disagree better, ... we can actually tackle these problems that the country is facing.”