04/12/2012 03:42 pm ET Updated Jun 12, 2012

The Good Guys: Young Candidates Demonstrate What Politics Could Be

This election cycle has worn on the nerves of even the biggest political junkies among us, so I do not have to imagine what it has done to the general public. We are just on the cusp of the general election, and the day's news cycle is revolving around a comment made from a Democratic strategist about the wife of the "newly anointed" GOP nominee upon the exit of Rick Santorum. We need not belabor the veritable circus that has been the GOP primaries.

Since 2000, the disdain for politics has grown at a time when many in my age cohort had their first opportunity to vote. People frequently complain about politicians generally and the fruition of these complaints about politicians, money in politics and politicians being out of touch with the issues, and reality, has sparked the Tea Party movement, the Occupy movement and most recently, mass online activism against legislation like SOPA, and soon, CISPA. While each of these is not like the other, they represent a common theme: it's time to clean House, literally and figuratively.

Yet, we should not give up. There are still the "good guys," candidates who want to make a difference in public office and have already demonstrated their ability to do so outside of public office. They may not come with the requisite life experience (not sure what that even really means), but you may want to take pause and look at the 10-15 years of experience these candidates have as student organizers, community advocates and individuals who generally embrace a civic ethos. Since I know two Millennials who have announced their candidacy for office in California within the last six months, it's appropriate to illustrate what the "good guys" look like.

If you happen to live in Corona, California, there is Aaron Hake, running for Corona City Council. Aaron is the Government Relations Manager for the Riverside County Transportation Commission and has a long list of involvements both within Corona and the larger Inland Empire community. His personal Facebook feed is always littered with his involvement in Corona events, notably as a volunteer coach for a local children's fitness program, The 100 Mile Club.

If you happen to live in San Francisco, there is Matt Haney, running for the San Francisco Board of Education. As public higher education becomes embroiled in further turmoil, Matt is right in the middle advocating for students as the Executive Director of the University of California Student Association. Like Aaron, running through his litany of community involvements would take paragraphs, but you have likely come across him at political events across the state of California or during the Obama campaign.

Within my circle of colleagues and friends, some running our nation's civic engagement non-profits, a handful in California state government shaping policy and others in the trenches this election cycle, many are planning runs for public office within the next ten years. They may not come with tax records they do not want to release, tawdry affairs or seedy corporate pasts, but what they do come with is pragmatism, determination and a commitment to change.
There is a cohort of well-educated, common sense 25- to 40-somethings who could be on Wall Street, but are not. They could be at big corporations, but work for government, started non-profits or chose to be small business owners. A dozen or so of them have run for office in the last four years; unfortunately, few have been elected.

"Good guys" get elected when we stop electing the bad ones; we don't have to kowtow to large campaign budgets, flashy commercials and robocalls. If we are willing to take grassroots hard work and effort and direct our small dollar donations and time volunteered elsewhere, we can begin to change the game.

The choice is fairly simple. Elect the "good guys." Start with the above.