Youth to Power

“Run For Something” Helps Young People Get Elected

Whether you were for Biden or Trump, we can all agree that they’re both really old. That’s no knock on either of them, but more on a system in which elected officials at all levels of government are up there in years. For example, the average age of the 117th Congress is 59 years old. And that number has continued to grow as congresspeople are serving longer terms into old age. Where are the younger folks? Where are the fresh ideas and  new perspectives?

As a millennial, The Local’s POC (aka Tamara Russell) has been bothered for a while that she doesn’t see the younger faces in politics who can represent her interests (or most of the country, considering that the median age of Americans is 38). A group called Run For Something, which recruits young candidates to run for office in down-ballot races, caught her attention and led to an interview with its Northern Regional Director, Manny Espitia about the group and how young people can run for office.

So what exactly does Run for Something do?

We recruit young progressive candidates from non-traditional backgrounds to run for state and local offices, and hopefully create the next generation of political candidates that will seek higher office in the future. We focus on “down ballot” races (that is, local and state office races) because local legislatures have such a big impact on many areas of our lives, including infrastructure, reproductive care, development, zoning, and voting rights to name a few. Once we’ve found the candidates, we help in lots of ways from media support, to finance, to mentorship because the people we recruit usually don’t have political experience.

What makes your organization different?

One of the main things is our focus on young folks. We work with 18 to 40-year-old candidates, because they don’t see young officials representing them and they want to change that. They also generally have a more progressive outlook, are more diverse and reflective of our country’s population, and they can inspire younger voters not only in local offices but maybe in national offices one day.

To give you an idea of the type of candidates we’ve recruited/supported, our endorsements in 2021 (across 38 states) were:

53% women
55% people of color
2% non-binary
31% were women of color
23% were men of color
13% were LGBTQIA+ folks of color
31% were under the age of 30
15% were people with disabilities
14% don’t have 4 year college degrees
5% were veterans
34% were caretakers of kids
61% come from a low-income background
29% were immigrants or children of immigrants

What’s been a challenge?

Turnout in non-Presidential elections. It’s clear Philly was there for the Presidential election – Biden wouldn’t be in office without Pennsylvania or Philly. But local and state elections during the so-called “off years” have more direct impacts on Pennsylvanians’ everyday lives.

What successes have you had?

Well a local one is Malcolm Kenyatta, now running for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. senate. He was one of the candidates we endorsed back in 2018. He kind of proves our model in that we start with local reps and hope eventually they’ll set their sights on higher goals, like the Senate. From an organizational standpoint, we’ve helped elect more than 600 people to local offices all across the country (since 2017). Our candidates come from all walks of life and they represent communities that have been historically excluded or discouraged from running for office.

How can young people get involved with Run for Something?

Sign up on our website,! After signing up, potential candidates are invited to join a conference call, where they will get the basic run-down on working with us.

They’ll also have access to training, mentors, and support from other aspiring candidates as well as those who’ve been through campaigns. You’ll have plenty of resources to decide if you’d like to run. It’ll also show you what offices are available to run for in PA.

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  1. Who cares about age? I care about competence. Relevant knowledge about what has been tried, and DETAILS about why it did, or did not work. New ideas are great, but do you just implement them without seriously trying to predict unintended consequences? BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and folks who don’t fit those groups have been severely hurt by not fully vetting new ideas. And new ideas are not the exclusive domain of young folk, contrary to how you’re being influenced. This ‘Run for Something’ appears to be just the latest means to attract influencers who are easy to manipulate. Phooey.

    • Thanks for your comment! Agree that new ideas are not the exclusive domain of young folk, and will take that a step farther to echo your point about qualifications: obviously competence is important in our leaders. I guess the challenge is how best to broach new territory in our government? I’m sure there are many ways to try to change the Establishment, Run for Something is just one way. I appreciate that they’re trying. I’m not so sure that leaning into social media influencers is a manipulation tactic — would love to know more about why you feel this way. To me, it’s just logical to meet voters where they are.

      • To me this has the feel of encouraging political would-be’s. IMO, personalities which gravitate toward the political class are the last people to whom political power should be given. If the individuals in the establishment are corrupt, change them, but this ‘change the establishment’ vibe sounds like the baby will be thrown out with the bathwater. Also, ‘Run for Something’, it just sounds so desperate. Flibeldy flue!

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