Since President Trump’s inauguration one year ago next month, thousands of first-time millennial candidates have pledged to run in local elections nationwide.
Organizations and PACs that train aspiring politicians have sprung up to meet the demand, including Emerge America, Run for Something, Not Too Young to Run and Amplify.
Andrea Dew Steele is the president and founder of Emerge America, which trains progressive women candidates for local-office campaigns. Steele said in a statement that women from both parties are “up in arms.”
Often, most of the public discourse turns on the highest levels of the federal government. Yet the U.S. has over half a million elected offices, many of which are elected roles at the local level.
As millennials continue to upend traditional paths to adulthood, they are changing conventions on the local ballot. This month, City Lab reported triple-digit growth in numbers of candidates ending up on local ballots.
Amplify, an organization that boosts campaigns of candidates associated with American minority groups, typically trains between 300 and 400 people each year. This summer, it trained over 1,000 people.
Emerge America said that it trained 330 first-time women for 2017 and 2018 campaigns. Three-quarters of the women are running for local offices.
The Washington Post’s Philip Bump reported in 2015 that the millennial generation is by no means enamored with politics, but there are a lot of them. There are nearly 100 million, he estimated.
“Get 0.0005 percent of them to win election to Congress,” Bump said, “and the whole thing is millennials, on both sides of the Capitol.”
Perhaps the latest – and loudest – thrust behind young people running for office is the progressive organization, Run for Something. The group is committed financial support, training and campaign staff to first-time progressive candidates, its strategic plan stated.
In the months after Trump was sworn into office, more than 8,000 people under the age of 35 – representing all 50 states – registered through its web page, according to a statement.
Amanda Litman, a co-founder of Run for Something, said its focus is city councils, school boards, and county commissioners.
“They need to be the person who can actually fight back legislatively, using the bully pulpit.”
In a statement to ATTN, Litman called these elected roles “the first entry point into politics” for those dismayed by the 2016 presidential election results.
“They need to be the person who can actually fight back legislatively, using the bully pulpit,” Litman said.
Almost thirty first-time political candidates endorsed by Run for Something won this Nov. 8 – about 40 percent of its entire trained cohort, the organization said in a statement.
More than 130 races completed this year, 95 women won, including two-thirds of the candidates for Wisconsin’s spring election and nearly 90 percent of their candidates in New Mexico.
As candidates skew younger, some traditions among elected officials remain: still nine out of 10 elected roles nationwide are won by white people, according to Who Leads Us. And nearly two-thirds are white men.
The youngest U.S. politician ever elected
Saira Blair, a member of the Republican party, was the youngest person elected to a state or federal office in U.S. history.
Blair first assumed her legislator role in the West Virginia House of Delegates from the 59th district in December 2014 – as an 18-year-old.
Since then, Blair has split her years between undergraduate classes in economics and spanish at West Virginia University in Morgantown during summer and fall terms and her delegate sessions in the spring.
The idea to run for office first came to Blair when she attended a Youth & Government program as a junior in high school. During the YMCA program, students write novel legislation and negotiate it on the Capitol floor. The legislative process piqued her interest.
“It was everything I’m doing in my job today,” Blair said.
“Before, unless you were retired and owned your own business, it was highly unlikely you would run.”
Since 2014, Blair has heard from over 250 young people seeking advice about campaigning for political office. She said the surge in young people running could be, in part, because many young people aren’t restricted by life partners and child care.
If you are young, Blair said, “it’s a lot easier to pick up and stop your life for 60 days,” the duration of her state’s delegation. “Before, unless you were retired and owned your own business, it was highly unlikely you would run.”
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