In the Hudson Valley, young voters (and soon-to-be young voters) are becoming more involved in politics on both sides of the political divide.
Nationally, political pundits have been forecasting a “blue wave” this year, meaning that the U.S. Congress may shift from mostly conservative representation to more liberal representation. The Millennial demographic (those between 22 – 36) is considered a critical vote in making this “blue wave” happen.
Millennial interest in politics is certainly increasing in Dutchess County. Frank Mazzella, president of the Dutchess County Young Democrats committee, says that the 2016 presidential election alerted younger voters into voting in this year’s midterm election. “The election honestly made more people motivated to vote,” he said. “The attention has turned more towards midterm elections, and younger voters tend to vote Democrat.” A draw for younger voters this year is more qualified candidates, according to Mazzella. “In my humble opinion, there are better candidates this year,” he said. “We’ve woken up now, but we are also looking at better candidates.”
One of those candidates appealing to young liberals is Gareth Rhodes, 29, who is among the seven Democrats hoping to win a primary election on June 26 and contest incumbent Republican Congressman John Faso’s seat in New York’s 19th Congressional District. Other Democrats include Jeff Beals, David Clegg, Erin Collier, Antonio Delgado, Brian Flynn and Pat Ryan. Rhodes is optimistic about the Democratic Party’s chances to win this year: “We have really energized the younger generation, and when we do so, they see real change.”
On a more local level, Millennials are seeking office to bring fresh ideas to Albany. Orange County Legislator Kevindaryan Lujan, a Young Democrat, is seeking the seat left vacant by the late New York State Assemblyman Frank Skartados, while current Assemblyman James Skoufis, also a Young Democrat, is running for retiring State Senator William Larkin’s seat.
Lujan, 31, who worked after the 2016 election to make the City of Newburgh a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants, ran for county legislator in Orange County after making a speech at the Newburgh Democratic Committee. “In helping [the city’s population of undocumented immigrants] find a voice, I found my own,” he said. “I found amazing young people who told me that we can run a campaign, a grassroots effort with no money coming in.” Since his win and his run for the 104th Assembly District, which covers parts of Dutchess, Orange, and Ulster Counties, Lujan explains that he has his detractors who object simply because of his young age, but he does not let that get to him. “They’re always going to tell you it’s not your time and to wait your turn,” he said, “but the future leaders in our community need to look like us. If you’re running for the right reasons, you have to let the people decide if you’re the one.”
The younger generation (under age 22), or Generation Z, is also getting involved before they can legally cast a vote. In the wake of high school activism that has emerged since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, a rally for gun control was held on June 3 in the City of Poughkeepsie, co-organized by Arlington High School students Angela McDevitt and Sabrina Goldfischer.
The Hudson Valley also has plenty of politically active young conservatives. Republican Dutchess County Legislator William Truitt ran for office as a student at Marist College (Class of 2017) and has represented Hyde Park and the Town of Poughkeepsie since 2016. There is also a Dutchess County Young Republicans committee. Marc Boissey, another recent graduate of Marist College who works at the Dutchess County Board of Elections, is the chair of the committee.
For more information on Dutchess County Young Republicans, visit DCYoungRepublicans on Facebook. To learn more about Dutchess County Young Democrats, visit DutchessYoungDems.com online.