PA sees the mix of millennial candidates and community focus for the upcoming primary election.
There’s been young candidates in the news who have political dreams of holding office. Most notably, Democrat Jon Ossoff, 28, who nearly won Georgia’s special House election without a runoff. The trend is not specific to Georgia. Other states, like New Jersey, who have millennial Lindsay Brown, 28, and Run for Something is recruiting 1,200 millennials to run. PA is seeing lots of local races with young faces.
“What [we] bring to the table that non-millennials lack is the millennial perspective,” Councilman Mark Barbee of Bridgeport, PA said. Barbee, 28, is running for a second term on the Democratic ticket and has successfully instituted a better recycling program for his community.
“The demographics in my town are changing,” said fellow Democratic candidate for Bridgeport Council and 33-year-old millennial Kyle Shenk, “and I think the local government needs to reflect that.”
Shenk is making the community engagement approach as his campaign focus. He has spent hours knocking on doors for the opportunity to directly engage with Bridgeport. His goal is to listen to the natives, the newcomers, and the millennials’ thoughts about making the borough better.
Making communities better is a prevalent theme in millennial campaigns. On the opposite side of PA, 32-year-old millennial Stephanie Byrne is running to be her municipality’s first woman mayor.
“I saw the need for change in our community and I believe when one wants change, you have to step up to make the difference,” the Monroeville, PA candidate said. Byrne has served her local school board and volunteers as a Manager of the Free Store, a store where all items are free and typically help those in need. “Millennials need to get involved because it is now our time as the growing population bloc to serve and get involved in government.”
The idea of change, updating, and helping the community spans both political parties. Republican Andrew Kuzma, 21, and one of the current Commissioners of Elizabeth Township, echoes that sentiment.
“One of my fellow commissioners is 86-years-old; he will not have to answer for his actions 60 years from now, but I will,” young Kuzma said. Aside from aiding his community, he wants to update the township’s website to create easier accessibility and more transparency for his voters.
“I believe there should be more transparency of how our tax dollars are distributed and the community should have more input on what is working in the district and what is not,” School Board Candidate for Woodland Hill School District Akeya Kester said. Recently turning 30 in March, she announced her candidacy on social media after a disheartening school board meeting.
Millennials are the largest living generation, but aren’t synonymous with high voter turnout at the polls. Kester has advice for anyone, especially millennials, planning on sitting out of the next impending election.
“Change begins at the local level! Your mayors, councilmen, school board members, and other local officials decide the fate of your community. Educate yourselves on who is running, what they stand for, and go vote!”