I have four things to say about this.
These days, Kylie Mugleston spends a lot of time on street corners, piquing drivers’ curiosity with a sign that says “Talk to Your Future Politician.”
The 19-year-old is heading a political campaign in her hometown of Vidor, northeast of Beaumont. A young independent in a mostly conservative area, the freshman at Lamar University has surprised the small city’s residents with her plans to run for mayor in 2019.
“I’ve always wanted to be in office,” she said, touting her nonpartisan approach as a political strength. “I like to solve things problem-by-problem.”
Mugleston was one of more than 100 millennials who gathered at Rice University on Saturday for an introductory course on how to run for office at an especially divisive time in politics. It offered those with little or no political experience a guide to organizing campaigns and chairing a county precinct for both major parties.
Houston Millennials, a nonpartisan nonprofit, organized the event, which was held for the first time. Ivan Sanchez, the group’s president, said he received overwhelming response to the idea and plans to offer similar courses in the future.
“I had no idea what I was creating,” he said.
Angie Hayes, president of Houston’s Clinic Access Support Network, expressed her dismay that women make up about half of the U.S. population but account for less than a fifth of the Texas Legislature. She used the event to announce for the first time her candidacy for District 134, which is currently held by Houston’s Sarah Davis.
“We have to stand up and run,” Hayes said.
Mike Floyd, an 18-year-old high school senior, noted that today’s elected officials have the power to shape the lives of young people for decades to come. He is the youngest candidate running for a seat on the Pearland ISD board in the May 6 election.
“We should have a seat at the table because the decisions being made today are going to affect us more,” he said.
1. I heartily approve of efforts to get more people invested and involved in elections and politics, especially at the local level. I would caution that anyone who may think about running for office should be careful to choose an office where their participation would add the most value. Don’t run for the sake of running, but seek out an office where you can say with confidence that your presence on the ballot represents a clear upgrade to the current field. If there is already a good candidate in a race, it makes more sense to support that candidate than to oppose them – we have seen enough examples recently of how having more good candidates in the same race does not lead to better outcomes. The goal is to get the best people elected.
2. Recognize that providing a good alternative will often have to be its own reward. A lot of races are not going to be competitive, for a variety of reasons – entrenched incumbents, gerrymandered districts, ideological cohesion in a given area, etc. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying, and yes lightning can strike, but a bit of perspective (which this event did seem to provide) is necessary.
3. My sense is that there will be more opportunities outside the Houston/HISD nexus than within it. City Council races like the 2005 contest between Shelley Sekula-Gibbs and James Partsch-Galvan, where the only sensible choice is to rage against the cruelty of one’s fate, are pretty rare these days. I’d have to do some study to get a better feel for this, but I do know that a lot of the smaller towns around Houston, including places that are now booming suburbs like Katy and Pearland and Pasadena have or have had Mayors who have served for multiple decades, in part because no one ever ran against them. Maybe they’ve always done a great job, and maybe they’re the best current argument there is for term limits, but these are the places I’d look for opportunities.
4. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that there are zillions of non-political ways to be engaged and improve one’s community. Every county, city, and school board is overflowing with boards, commissions, committees, and volunteer organizations that could desperately use your help. Your local park either has some kind of non-profit conservancy to help with its upkeep, or it needs one. Civic associations, PTAs, charities, non-profits, co-ops, the list goes on and on. They’re good things in their own right, and they serve as excellent experience and resume-building for a future candidacy. I’m just saying.
Be that as it may, this was a great and much needed event, which was also very well publicized. Kudos to all for making it happen.