Millennials did it again -- we were instrumental in some of 2013's biggest elections. Whether it was Terry McAuliffe's success in scaring and sharing "the crazy stuff Ken Cucchinelli said," Bill de Blasio's ability to turn out Brooklyn hipsters, or Chris Christie's straight talk, young voters turned out in droves. Politicians love us -- or if they don't, they at least fake it until they make it. I suppose this means young people are gaining ground.
But where no one was watching, young people had even bigger wins this year -- as candidates.
P.G. Sittenfeld, Cincinnati's youngest city council member, won re-election in his race this month. He received 10,000 more votes than any other winning council candidate. Thirty-year-old Antonio Reynoso, a born and bred Brooklynite, won a New York City council seat by defeating the old Democratic Party machine. Boone, North Carolina, elected community organizer Andy Ball, who at age 30 will be the city's youngest mayor. Young Americans across the country, representing the latest Millennial trend to bring bold leadership to government, ran and won this year.
Young people are running for office everywhere. They're not waiting for older candidates to get Twitter-trained, and they're not waiting for political parties to craft the perfect messaging for young voters. This smart, connected, solutions-oriented generation is jumping into politics head first and running for office on the local, statewide, and national issues they care about. Take for instance, Montravias King, a senior at Elizabeth City State University. A local GOP chairman challenged King's candidacy for city council, claiming he wasn't able to run for office because he lived in a dorm. King fought back, earned his right to run, and won his council seat in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, campaigning against the state's controversial voter ID law.
Young people in the past tended to have smaller networks, limited public speaking experience, and were less politically engaged. But this generation of young people can easily create large networks through social media and connect to hundreds of leadership training programs conducted by now-seasoned campaign staff and youth engagement experts. Maybe most importantly, we are self-motivated to run for office. Millennials see an opportunity and we seize it. We see a problem and we solve it. We see a need and we fill it.
The 2008 presidential election brought the youth vote into the mainstream. Five years later, we are seeing a marked shift -- another unique opportunity -- young electeds. If political parties want to keep young voters engaged, if progressives and tea partiers want to create lasting change, they should follow the lead of this year's young elected officials and run young candidates. They represent real wins for young people.