“It shows that young people should have a seat at the table.” Stephanie Hausner
By Susan Youngwood
Stephanie Hausner of New City, NY, was inspired to run for office partly thanks to the Young Democrats of America, an organization she joined in college. And the Young Democrats supported her campaign, helping her win a seat on the Clarkstown Town Council.
“When I first ran, friends from the Young Democrats from states including Connecticut, Indiana and New Jersey came and knocked on doors for me,” she said.
This week, Hausner, 32, is one of the delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, representing New York’s 17th congressional district.
Young Democrats of America is the largest youth-led partisan organization in the country, with 46 chapters and hundreds of thousands of members. They are well represented at the convention, staffing a booth in a public space for all four days and signing up new members.
“Our mission is to elect Democrats, advocate for progressive issues and train the next generation of leaders,” said Kristina Contreras Fox, 30, a vice president of the Young Democrats. “And this is the year for it.”
Members nationwide are knocking on doors, making phone calls and discussing issues ranging from student loan debt to reproductive rights. This year, the organization is working hard on its Millennial Vote initiative, to encourage greater voter participation.
“When it comes to policies, we are the generation that is going to be impacted the most,” Fox said. A native of Rhode Island, Fox is president of the Rhode Island chapter of the Young Democrats. “I do everything I can to elevate the voice of young people,” she said.
“I make sure those people know where to go,” said Fox. She uses email, social media and even old-fashioned methods like phone calls to tell young people the issues being discussed by local officials. “I’m an old-form organizer,” she said.
Like many DNC attendees, Fox is elated to see a woman nominated for president. Tears pooled in her eyes when she discussed it.
“When I was in kindergarten, we were having this discussion, ’What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I remember I said, ‘I want to be presIdent and they’ll call my husband the first man.’ The entire class laughed at me,” Fox said. “I’ve been thinking about that so much. We’re going to nominate Hillary Clinton. I feel like a 5-year-old in kindergarten again. Now there will be little girls in their kindergarten class saying they want to be president and people won’t laugh at them. … it makes me speechless.”
Hausner is equally as thrilled to see Clinton nominated.
“I was a Hillary supporter in 2008. I ran for office after seeing Hillary in 2008. To be able to be on the floor (this week) will be quite an experience,” said Hausner.
This is Hausner’s fourth convention and the second as a delegate.
“I started as a Young Democrat when I was in college,” Hausner said. She benefited from many of their trainings and advice. She first ran for office when she was 25, and leaned heavily on the Young Democrats.
“My campaign was run by all Young Democrats. Some of those people later ran for office themselves. Others served as campaign managers in larger scale races,” she said. “It shows that young people should have a seat at the table.”
The Young Democrats can use creative strategies to reach out. Hausner said that earlier this month, to register young voters, Young Democrats camped out at a local library which doubled as a Pokemon Go stop. When players walked by to play the game, a volunteer asked them to register to vote.
“Our campaign strategy is peer-to-peer campaigning,” explained Hausner, “young voters talking to young voters.”