Guest Editorial: 5 Things to Know about Running for Office in Your 20s
By Abel Pacheco & Morgan Beach
Forty-seven individuals from throughout our city have stepped up to try and lead our community by running in our first districted City Council elections ever. Of these forty-seven, there are several millennials stepping up like never before. We are two of these millennials running for Seattle City Council. Please allow us to introduce ourselves: Morgan Beach, challenger in District 3, and Abel Pacheco, challenger in District 4, signing on here to provide some commentary on these races from the perspective of first time candidates and young people in these races.
5 Things to Know When Running for Office in Your 20s
1) Say goodbye to the happy hours with your friends.
And sleep. And weekends. And probably your exercise routine. Definitely vacation. Spare cash, too.
You have to prove the naysayers wrong and compete against more established opponents so all of your “free” time is spent campaigning. If you’re like any of the under-35s in this race, you likely still have a job. Probably full time. Maybe you’ve saved up some PTO or are relying on a partner to pick up a second job to help backfill taking time off work to do this. These are all real examples from this primary season. This means happy hours are a thing of the past. But don’t worry, there are plenty of candidate receptions with free Rainier.
2) Have PURPOSE and know your stuff.
You’ll be fighting for every inch of recognition, a clear purpose helps voters, the press and political organizations file you somewhere in their categories. Categories are an unfortunate side effect of sound bite elections but we work with what we have! Focus on not being a cookie cutter politician (boring), and be yourself, don’t “put on” your politician mask, people won’t respond to it. And know the issues in your race too, inside and out and where you stand on them. Nothing would give people a reason to dismiss you more quickly as a young candidate than you being uninformed.
Morgan: For me, I’m tired of seeing women earn significantly less than men here in Seattle. I’m frustrated with the acknowledgment of the significance of the problem and lack of will to tackle this issue at a city level, where we’re supposedly the leftiest little district in the whole country. I know, you’re thinking “But HOW can we do it at the city level? That’s impossible.” I’ve been working on this for years, trust me, it’s possible with the political will and if you want real movement, elect a millennial. According to many national publications, we (millennials) have a low tolerance for waiting for anything. Well, I do have a low tolerance for waiting any longer for equality, I can tell you that.
Abel: I couldn’t agree more with Morgan and if I truly meant what I wrote in my graduate school application to the University of Washington years ago, then I needed to run. After years of working for the Seattle Police Foundation and a lifetime of experience as a man of color, I bring an important perspective to our city’s conversations regarding public safety, police accountability, race and justice. As a Latino man raised by a Black dad and as a former employee of the Seattle Police Foundation, I feel uniquely prepared to bridge the gap between our city and the police department to create the safe and vibrant city we all want. This is one of the deepest and most divisive issues, and it’s a system that sorely needs trust.
3) Your millennial friends are the best network!
Abel: I reached out to every friend from the University of Washington to build an all-volunteer campaign team. They may not have the capacity to give big $ but they have expertise in graphic design, photography, accounting, web design, and yes, political organizing.
Morgan: True. Other millennial friends were my first donors, volunteers, social media multipliers and advisors. (Plus they do love a good volunteer and happy hour combo, so maybe you can squeeze in a friend happy hour if you do a phone bank night.)
4) Don’t read the comments.
Politics is not for the faint of heart. You will undergo a roller coaster of emotions and be tested in ways you’ve never imagined. We assure you, ageism, sexism and racism are alive and slithering just underneath our progressive, politically correct surface throughout the city. People will say things to you you never imagined.
Morgan: I have been laughed at and asked if I was old enough to run. I’ve had another friend running asked several times when she was having kids and how that would work (I assure you a woman’s ability or desire to have kids has absolutely no bearing on her ability to be an effective public official, or perform any other job for that matter). I’ve been told maybe women should make less because they get sick more often and can’t use computers as well.
Morgan and Abel: And for goodness sake, don’t read the comments section!
5) Being a candidate isn’t for everyone. (But we think it should be.)
We often get asked what it’s like to be in your 20s running for office and what advice we can offer to other young people. We’ll tell you this: it’s hard. Life doesn’t stop when you do this. It feels like life or death to you, and it will feel like very few people will understand. Some friends will blow you off, family rifts can be caused, money will be tight/scarce/gone if you aren’t independently wealthy, articles will get written about you without regard to feeling, 16-18 hour work days and 7 day work weeks will be normal, and public speaking is something you do every day with or without preparation. It can be lonely, exhausting, disheartening, expensive and many other terrible things depending on the day.
But when that one person walks up to you and says, “I’m voting for you, I’m behind your ideas,” it is all worth it. In this process you will meet someone that will inspire you and remind you of why you signed up for this, what you’re fighting for. Everyone with the idea that something needs to change should run for office.
While this is not an endorsement of each other, we support other young people wanting to run for office and we’re glad to see our generation stepping up. Remember to vote by August 4th!
Abel Pacheco's bio can be found here.
Morgan Beach is running for City Council District 3 as a non-profit worker, women's rights advocate and civic volunteer. She currently works for the American Red Cross and serves as a Commissioner and Chair of Economic Opportunities for the Seattle Women's Commission and the 43rd Legislative District Chair for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest. Morgan holds a Masters in Public Policy from Pepperdine University.