Thursday, February 17, 2011

How Young Candidates Benefit From Fair Elections

Before facing the voters on election day, candidates for public office have to face the fundraisers. Under the current private-money regime, would-be politicians must raise vast sums of cash before they can run credible campaigns.

However, a Campus Progress story on successful, college-aged candidates explains how public financing reform--Fair Elections--has helped broaden the range of office-seekers by removing the fund-raising barrier:

Besides going up against an incumbent, college-age candidates have other odds stacked against them: Most people running for office for the first time are lawyers or business owners or have already worked in party politics for several years. While their youth provides them with flexibility and a fresh viewpoint, college students still face significant barriers when it comes to asking for votes and, sometimes more important, asking for financial contributions.

“Because they’re young, they don’t have staffs and they don’t have money,” says Raquel Simon-Petley of the Young Elected Officials (YEO) Network, a branch of People for the American Way which helps progressive politicians from ages 18-35 coordinate and acquire the skills necessary for campaigning and governing.

YEO has more than 600 members, and campaign financing is a big obstacle for many of them. For some luckier candidates, however, campaign finance reform victories have given them a foothold: “We have a fabulous public funding system here in Connecticut,” says Lesser. “Instead of dealing with funders, I could spend time persuading voters.”

Connecticut, Maine, and Arizona are the only states (so far) with that kind of "fabulous" public funding apparatus. If we bring Fair Elections to Rhode Island, we can help encourage more diversity in our candidates, whether it's age-based, occupation-based, race-based, or gender-based, by removing the fund-raising barriers that may discourage potential public servants.

Our main website ( has more information on how public financing has been proven to increase racial and gender diversity in two Fair Elections states, Maine and Arizona.

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