Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=102291
Story Retrieval Date: 5/19/2013 11:13:00 PM CST
The economic crisis and the job market
Paying for college
Sources: Candidates Web sites and direct quotes
As Election Day gets closer the tone of the race often gets more volatile, but for a group of young volunteers in the 10th District, politics is about a whole lot more than partisanship.
Dan Seals (D-Wilmette ) and incumbent Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Highland Park) are engaged in a tight race for the congressional seat in their north suburban district. Ad buys from their respective national parties have flooded the airwaves, and a string of endorsements on one side, coupled with polling momentum on the other have made for one of the closest races in the Chicago area.
It is young volunteers, some of whom can’t even vote yet, that are providing an important push in the closing days of the race. The volunteers expressed strong support for their candidate’s stance on issues, but at the heart of their efforts is a desire to get involved in the process and encourage others to do the same.
“I think more young people are getting more politically aware,” said Janie Schumacher, 19, a Seals volunteer. “I know that as I’ve talked to people at school, they are much more receptive to engaging in conversation about congressional candidates as well as the presidential candidates. It’s very much on everyone’s mind.”
Aaron Goldstein, a freshman at American University in Washington, D.C., spent many of his high school years as both an intern and staffer for Mark Kirk’s campaign. He also sees this election as a unique one for young voters.
“I think there is more interest in this election than in past ones, because Barack Obama has directly targeted some of his issues toward young people,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein does not see this focus on Obama’s youth outreach as a problem for Kirk. He said that many people in the district cast split tickets and Kirk’s history with issues not normally associated with Republicans would be to his benefit.
Seals has noticed an influx of both new voters and young volunteers this election.
“I would argue that it hasn't been since the ‘70s that we have seen young people, young progressives, come out,” Seals said. “This time, hopefully not for the last time, young people are coming out and their voices are going to be heard.”
The Kirk campaign did not respond by deadline.
All of the volunteers named the economic crisis and college affordability as important issues in this election.
“My dad was unemployed over the summer, he found work thankfully, but the economic crisis is a major issue,” said Owen Marsden, 17, a student at Fremd High School and Seals volunteer.
“I’m extremely disappointed that I can’t walk into a booth and vote for Barack Obama,” Marsden said. “That’s another reason that I got involved: To say I didn’t cast a vote, but maybe I got 10 or 12 in there.”
Personal life experiences also shape the issues young people care about.
“My sister has cerebral palsy and she passed away, but embryonic stem cell research, I would say, is a crucial issue. I want to see Democrats in Congress turn the tide on that one,” Marsden said.
College affordability was also a major source of concern.
“I am very conscience of the education issues and how costly college is,” said Schumacher who is a student at Harper College.
While political issues and beliefs are crucial to the young volunteers’ passion for the campaign, the benefits they’ve gained and the personal growth they’ve been given have had a huge impact.
“I think I’ve gained an appreciation for all different kinds of viewpoints,” Marsden said. “I’ve come into contact with a lot of different people who I wouldn’t normally come into contact with. I have heard from people all across the political spectrum, and I’ve really learned that everyone has something to contribute, everyone has something to say that’s valuable.”
Goldstein, like other volunteers, recounted the professionals skills gained: communication, organization, teamwork. But for each young person there is something deeper that comes with political involvement.
“It showed me having more of a public life can really benefit the common man,” Goldstein said.
Similarly, Schumacher said if Seals didn’t win “that would be awful, but I’m doing this because I believe in what he stands for … I will for the rest of my life try to work on political campaigns and support candidates that I believe in.”