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Politics for the Under 35 Set

OPB | April 21, 2008 midnight | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 8:41 p.m.

What voice do young people have in politics?

LISTEN TO “Politics for the Under 35 Set” (24MB MP3)

Take a moment to let your mind go back to your college or high school days — or if you’re in one of those fine institutions right now, just pause a moment… think of that great energy that takes over the school when it is time to elect a new student government. Hopeful leaders canvas the campus with their friends, taping photocopied election signs on every empty lamppost, pinning them on every available bulletin board. These leaders believe they can solve the problems the school — and sometimes society — faces.

Then they graduate and the enthusiasm fades into the realities of day-to-day life.

Well, that happens for some of them. Then there are those who continue canvassing. They end up leading our communities long before many people think they have the experience to hold office.

Right now in Oregon there are a number of political leaders who are still very young. A group of legislators in the state government have bonded together under the banner “Five Under 35.” They’re working to highlight the issues facing youth, and to inspire other young people to run for office. Then there’s the mayor of Gresham — he’s 35 — and the mayor of Union who is a mere 19 years old.

What unites these young leaders? What issues do they come together to deal with? They cite the access to post-secondary education, economic development, environmental concerns, and increasing voter turnout, to name a few. What else should be on that list?

Are you a Millennial or a Twixter? A Gen Xer? The parent of a Gen Yer? What issues are most important to you? Do you feel well represented in politics? Does the political process inspire you, or does it feel like a hindrance to participation? Are you going to vote?


Ben Cannon: State Representative from Portland. He?s a Democrat, a teacher and community activist. He?s Chair of the Bus Project and the organizer of ?Five Under 35? ? a group of legislators working for the interests of young Oregonians. He?s 34.

Shane Bemis: Mayor of Gresham and the owner of three local restaurants. He is 35 years old and was first elected to the Gresham City Council when he was in his 20s.

Kyle Corbin: Mayor of Union City. He?s 19 years old and was first elected to office as a write-in candidate when he was 18. This year he?s running for County Commissioner as a Republican.

Sara Gelser: State Legislator representing Corvalis and Philomath. She?s one of the ?Five Under 35.? She?s running as the incumbent for House District 16. In the primary she?s uncontested. Her Republican contender is Rockne Roll ? a 21 year old.


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