WASHINGTON – A 19-year-old mayor and a political advocacy group are fighting for millennials to take public office.
“The next generation, us, under the age of 40 years old, have the most to lose if nothing is done to address the large and growing problems facing our nation,” Laquan Austion, the group’s founder and CEO, said. “Yet, we are the least represented in Washington, D.C.”
The National Conference of State Legislatures found that in 2015 millennials held 5 percent of state legislative positions while they make up 30 percent of the population. Baby boomers make up the same percentage of the population but hold 55 percent of legislative positions.
Brandon Paulin, 19, was elected last year to be mayor of Indian Head, Md., a town of 4,000 that is 30 miles south of Washington.
He spoke about his support for the group’s effort. Paulin is the youngest mayor in the history of Maryland and he said he started going to town meetings at age 10 because he thought the community was stagnant or in decline.
“We have to start now so years and years from now, maybe 200 years, they still remember us,” he said. “They still remember the impact that we put towards this country.”
Action for America was created with the idea that the political system is antiquated. Citing Uber and Airbnb as change agents in transportation and travel lodging, Austion said the political system needs to see the same kind of change that only young people can bring.
“Campaigns have been running the same way for the last 150 years with no sense of innovation, no outside the box thinking, same amount of money is spent. In fact, it’s only getting worse,” he said. “As a result of it, only a select few and a handful of people are actually able to step up to the political table and run for office. That’s not what our democracy is designed to do.”
The group plans to visit college campuses and so far has recruited 75 millennials who plan to run for office sometime soon. Austion said the group is funded by thousands of individuals from across the country, most who have no political ties.
Austion said the group hopes to inspire and prepare 100 young people to run for office by 2026.
Reach reporter Tia Rinehart at tia.Rinehart@scripps.com or 202-408-1490. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
Download photos: Millennial-politicians.zip