Community Of Young Politicians Grows In Wisconsin

Public Service Often Described As 'Tough Sell' For Millennials

State Rep. Katrina Shankland, who is 25 years old. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin State Legislature.

Getting young people to run for political office is a tough sell, but some 20-something politicians across Wisconsin are bucking the trend.

Poy Winichakul, a Wisconsin native, started an organization called “LaunchProgress” about a year ago. It provides organizational and financial support to young people running for office.

“It’s very, very hard to get young people to run for office,” said Winichakul. “I mean, we’re a generation that was shaped heavily by 9/11 and this huge economic recession, and so our political system hasn’t always really been there to support us.”

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Paul Taylor, a senior fellow at the Pew Research Center and author of “The Next America,” said millennials may be hesitant to get involved in politics because they generally dislike conflict and gridlock.

“They’re doers,” he said. “They believe in solutions. And I think, you know, part of what is perhaps a turn-off to them about our modern politics at the moment is the national political discourse is very ideological.”

However, a community of young politicians is nevertheless growing in Wisconsin. For example, two high-profile candidates in the Madison mayoral race are millennials.

There’s also state Rep. Katrina Shankland, who was elected to the state Assembly when she was just 25 years old. She’s part of a group of young office holders who swap stories and share challenges.

“We face the same hurdles, we hear the same jokes from our older counterparts who look at us once and say, ‘I have shoes older than you,’” she said.

Shankland said that last year, the Assembly’s Democratic caucus had six officials under the age of 35, and she’s expecting that number to grow after the upcoming mid-term elections.