The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Those who say that young people are not involved with politics can look to Pennsylvania to be proven wrong.

Young people from Pennsylvania colleges have a history of running for political positions. This year, a student from Penn and a student from Penn State are running for delegates in the presidential primaries. Neither is the first at their schools to become a candidate at a young age.

College and Wharton senior Charles Gray, a Daily Pennsylvanian columnist, is running for Republican alternate delegate for the state’s second congressional district, which includes the University. Gray collected the 250 signatures from registered Republicans required to get on the ballot by today.

Alternate delegates go to the Republican National Convention and cover actual delegates’ duties when they are absent.

William Van Saun, a Penn State senior, is running as a delegate for Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Democratic delegates are bound to a certain candidate in the primaries.

“The Obama campaign chose me,” he said. “They were excited to have young people interested in being delegates.”

Sean Meloy was a Democratic delegate while he was a Penn State senior in 2008. Like Van Saun, he was contacted by the Clinton campaign in part because of his age.“They were looking for younger people to get involved.”

Both Gray and Van Saun have had prior political experience before attempting to get on the delegate ballot.

Gray became a committeeman in the 27th ward during his sophomore year at Penn. A ward committeeman represents the Republican party locally, Gray said.

“I got involved in the process through that… and I got involved in the Republican party in Philadelphia,” he said, adding that he had always been interested in politics.

Gray still isn’t sure which Republican candidate he favors. According to Gray, Republican delegates in Pennsylvania are not bound to a certain presidential candidate.

Van Saun had internships including one with Hillary Clinton’s campaign and another at the White House. In addition, he has attended several party conventions.

“I love party meetings and getting to know people, and that’s essentially what the Democratic committee meeting is.”

Other Penn graduates have also gotten involved in politics as a student.

Josh Maxwell, who received a master’s degree from Penn’s Fels Institute of Government, was sworn in as the youngest mayor of Downington, Pennsylvania in 2010 at age 26, when he was still a graduate student. He is currently running for state representative.

Being a young politician can have advantages, Maxwell said. He ran for mayor against someone of a similar age.

“If you’re young, you care, and you can prove that, it definitely does help,” he said. But he cautioned young politicians to “know what you’re talking about.”

Maxwell said throughout his time as mayor, he’s focused on issues such as drugs and building a new Amtrak and SEPTA station in Downington.

“So far, I’ve kind of taken it one step at a time,” he said when discussing his future plans.

Both Maxwell and Meloy, veterans of campaigning while still in school, also offered advice and opinions for college students seeking office.

“I think it’s very important to get people involved in a young age,” Meloy said.

“Be genuine and have fun,” Maxwell advised.

“I hope [that], Republican or Democrat,” Meloy added, “young people get involved.”

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.