This year's election buzz is all about who will win the Senate majority and control Congress for the next two years. Talking heads are going crazy featuring polls from Kentucky, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana and other states with tight U.S. Senate races.
But these candidates didn't just start out as U.S. Senate candidates.
Mitch McConnell was 35 when he first won elected office (the age Alison Lundergan Grimes currently is). Mark Begich was elected to the Alaska legislature at 26. Mark Pryor was a state legislator at 28. Cory Gardner was 31 when he joined the Colorado House. Mary Landrieu was 25 when she served in the state House.
More than half of Congress was first elected to a political office by age 35. And many of our national political leaders started their careers in local office. If we want better political leaders, if we want better choices of who will lead us in higher office, we better start now by supporting candidates at the state and local level.
This is why my co-founder and I started LaunchProgress PAC, an organization founded and operated by young people to help millennials run for and win state and local office. Just like the candidates running for U.S. Senate, we started small. We've endorsed ten candidates in three states this year -- Michigan, Ohio, and North Carolina. Each of them have the potential to be national leaders one day -- they just need our help to get started.
Take for instance, Uriah Ward who is a senior at Eastern Carolina University. He's a first-time candidate running for State Representative in Greenville, North Carolina. As a student and a candidate, he's taking on the establishment and has been speaking out against the restrictive voting laws that were put into place by the North Carolina state legislature this year.
Or Micah Kamrass, who's a 25-year-old running for State Representative in Ohio. He is in one of the most competitive races in the state -- he's one of only three Democratic candidates in Ohio who has the capacity to air television ads this cycle -- and he's neck and neck with his opponent.
Or Stephanie Chang, a community organizer running for State Representative in Michigan who would be the first Asian-American woman to ever serve in Michigan's state legislature.
For most of us, it's often easier to follow federal news closely. After all, local elected officials don't have a say in how the federal government a war on ISIS, addresses (or doesn't address) the national debt, or confirms federal judges. Perhaps that's why the media are fixated on the Senate. While the media may never focus their political attention on even the most exciting and promising local candidates, we should. Uriah, Micah, Stephanie, and our other candidates may not be drafting national level bills in their state legislatures, but many of their races are no less competitive than the Kentucky Senate race. And when you take a look at the issues facing the states--voting law changes, access to reproductive choice, creating jobs, enacting healthcare reform--you'll find a myriad of debates, decisions, and actions with serious influence on our lives.
LaunchProgress PAC's young candidates are already making a big impact in their communities, and in their states they are already engaging in issues that affect us nationally. These are our future leaders. They are already creating change in their communities. It's time we get out and vote for now for our future national leaders.
Poy Winichakul is the co-founder of LaunchProgress Political Action Committee, a state-based PAC that supports young progressives running for state and local office.