Millennials Are Ready to Run

young man voting

Despite all the nonsense stereotypes about the youngest generation of adults, lots of them have moved out of their parents’ basements, joined the workforce, and started families. And now they’re gearing up to put their values into action by running for office.

According to the Pew Research Center, the millennial generation includes people born between 1981 and 1996, so the oldest members of the group are well into their 30s and the youngest have been able to vote for a few years. They came of age during the Great Recession and haven’t, as a group, recovered financially. They’re the most racially and ethnically diverse cohort ever to be defined. They have grown up aware of climate change and even millennial-age Republicans believe the government should be doing more to protect the environment.

They’re also about to overtake Baby Boomers as the largest group of living adults, and they’re starting to feel like it’s their turn to be in charge.

The organization Run for Something works with “progressive millennials who are running for local office for the first or second time.” The group was started in January 2017 with the goal of supporting a few young progressive candidates to help fill out a bench of politicians for the future, but the response it received led to an expansion, and now Run for Something is supporting candidates in all 50 states. Its website lists almost 270 candidates that it has endorsed for offices ranging from city council to sheriff to school board to statehouse positions all over the country. The organization supports candidates with training, organization-building, and seed money, and it also helps potential candidates learn more about the process—in 2017, 15,000 millennials communicated with the group, expressing interest in running for public office.

Of the candidates Run for Something supported last year, 35 won their races—half of those identify as women and 40 percent as people of color. One of those winners was Danica Roem, 33, the only openly transgender person in a state legislature after she won a seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates by beating the then-73-year-old man who wrote the state’s “bathroom bill.”

But millennials aren’t just going for down-ballot races—some are jumping right into national office, like Conor Lamb, the 33-year-old Pennsylvania Democrat who won the special election this spring to replace Republican Tim Murphy, 65, who resigned last year after a sex scandal. (Lamb’s 60-year-old opponent, Rick Saccone, lost a Republican primary afterward to a 35-year-old member of his own party, Guy Reschenthaler.)

Fresh-faced progressive candidates like Colin Allred, 35, are gearing up to compete in this year’s midterms as well. Allred, who won the Democratic primary for a House seat in Texas’s 32nd District, which includes northeastern Dallas, is a civil rights lawyer who used to play professional football for the Tennessee Titans. His resume isn’t long, but it is interesting. And it doesn’t have a lot of the missteps (embarrassing votes, pandering to donors) that drag down more experienced politicians.

The New York Times recently profiled Jess Phoenix, a 36-year-old volcanologist who is running to become the Representative for the 25th District in California. The seat is currently held by Republican Steve Knight, 51, who serves on the House Science Committee despite having called climate change preparations foolish. That made Phoenix rethink her whole career, focusing on public office rather than continuing her research.

It’s obviously time for new priorities in national, state, and local government, and it looks like maligned millennials will be the ones to break us out of our rut.