Concordia alumni and broadcast journalist Cory Hepola announced his run for Minnesota governor in early March. Hepola, a Perham native, worked for KARE 11 as a news anchor before joining WCCO Radio in 2019.
Hepola is running as an independent candidate under the Forward Party, a new third party created by 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
Aiming to reduce political partisanism, the Forward party advocates for structural changes to the political system through open primaries and rank-choice voting.
“We’re not red, we’re not blue, we are purple. We are here for compromise and collaboration,” Hepola said in a social media announcement on Mar. 1.
Hepola characterized the current political climate as political leaders and followers yelling at each other, talking over each other—neither listening to what the other has to say. Hepola said he wants to focus on leading through empathetic listening in order to create a “culture of we.”
“We don’t deserve to live in a world where politics are consistently seeping into every area of our lives, negatively affecting us. The messages from our elected officials are so completely toxic that it’s turning people off,” Hepola said. “We have to remember that this is a democracy—we should be excited about the people representing us. I’m not here to serve a political party. I’m here to serve people.”
Hepola has not publicly announced where he stands on specific policies, but he has indicated that he will address public health, education and economic opportunities. Hepola also said he wants to increase mental health awareness and accessibility to services.
David Youngs ‘20 has been mentored by Hepola for the past two years and now works as the Director of Content for the campaign.
“Politics have this over-looming intimidation factor. But at the end of the day, it’s just leadership. It’s service,” Youngs said. “The best leaders are smart enough to know that they are not going to know all the answers, but they are able to surround themselves with people who do and can provide unique perspectives. And that’s something that Cory is very good at.”
Although he is currently running, Hepola never anticipated he would be going into politics until the past few years. Hepola worked as a journalist, radio personality and news anchor for the past decade, winning two Upper Midwest Emmy awards for Outstanding TV Anchor.
“I always took being a journalist very seriously and it was a place for me to affect change, and tell stories and help people. I felt like that was helping me and positioning me to something larger. I didn’t grow up thinking about politics. It was not something that I really ever intended to do, but then about three years ago, it just kind of shifted, and I felt like I have more to give.”
This February, Concordia awarded Hepola with the “Sent Forth Award,” which honors young alumni who have excelled in their career and in service. Hepola will be speaking on campus this April at the senior banquet about the award. Director of Alumni Relations Eric Johnson said the “Sent Forth Award” is not related to Hepola’s announcement to run.
Hepola said Concordia was important in his journey into journalism and now politics.
”Of course, it’s the friends, it’s the experiences, but I think more so to me, it was the professors and the opportunities. The professors who cared about me and their personal attention is the number one thing that has prepared me,” Hepola said.
Hepola is one of many Cobber alumni who have run for political office. Coya Knutson ‘34 became the first woman to serve in the MN House of Representatives in 1955.
“There is a history of Concordia alumni being interested in and involved in public service and government,” Johnson said.
Kent Eken ‘88 and Jeff Johnson ‘00 served on the MN House of Representatives. Morrie Lanning ‘66 was the mayor of Moorhead for 21 years and also in the MN House. Kevin Cramer ‘83 is a current senator for ND and served the ND House for six years.
“We absolutely want to support the political process broadly, but the college would never endorse a candidate, because we don’t want to be taking positions. It’s not our role to influence elections, but to support our Cobbers and be involved and engaged with our alumni,” Johnson said.
Johnson appreciates all the support Hepola has given as an alumni to Concordia and for modeling a meaningful life beyond graduation.