Millennials: the next generation in politics

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Raul Alonzo/Staff Writer

When Daniel Lucio, a 26-year-old graduate student enrolled in Texas A&M, decided to run for City Council last year he soon discovered that the commitment would take hold of his life for the duration of the campaign – every hour of the day woven into an intricate schedule sprawling from sunrise to sunset and far after.

“It was definitely a balancing act. Realistically I had to accept the fact that I would have no personal life,” Lucio said.
Like many of his fellow Millennial, Lucio was completely disenchanted with the entire political system throughout most of his college years. It wasn’t until his first political action participating in demonstrations opposing the Border Wall in Brownsville, Texas, that the interest was sparked that would guide Lucio’s passion.

That initial act of direct participation served as his baptism into the world of politics and Lucio has since become heavily involved in a slew of organizations within the city including the Clean City Committee, Homeless Issues Partnership, Brownsfield Committee, the AVID mentoring program at Martin Middle School, the steering committee to one of the city’s Energy Block Grant initiatives, the Surfrider Foundation, Beach Access Coalition and the Skip the Plastic campaign.

However, one of his proudest moments came with his chairing of the city’s Progressive Caucus.
“I think that we’ve been able to facilitate some very forward-thinking discussions about the social and political environment of Corpus Christi. My work in these groups varies widely and can include things like policy review and planning, data mining, meeting and event planning, fund raising, promotion, community organizing, political organizing, media relations and development. Being involved in these types of organizations does not mean you have to be an expert at all of these, because you will always have support from your colleagues,” Lucio said.

One Del Mar student who has grown to know of such responsibilities is 20-year-old Political Science major Sam Caceres. As treasurer of the Coastal Bend Young Democrats, Caceres helps figure where funds are allocated to support the group’s various activities in getting people involved with local Democratic politics.

During campaigns, the Young Democrats engage in door-to-door block walking and phone banking to get the word out and rally support for their candidates as well as organizing drives to get more people registered to vote – such as the Promesa Project, a campaign to get Hispanic youth involved. Caceres also recalled when the organization was able to acquire two vans to help transport people to polling stations back in 2010.

“More young people need to realize how important it is to get involved. Too many people are unaware that everything from student loans, tuition, the environment, family planning – all of this is effected by public policy and all of this is directly effects them,” Caceres said.

Though he is also involved in the Progressive Caucus and helped rally support for Lucio’s City Council bid, Caceres has not entertained any prospects to run for office, but remains resolute that the contribution of more youthful opinion in the public discourse is essential to the future of the city.

“Youth involvement, in general, is important to address needs in the community,” Caceres said.
Though not as prominent in the city, Republican organizations encourage young people to get involved in campaigns and events. However, as Mike Bergsma – who has been active in Nueces County Republican politics for decades – recounts, their party’s core issues often appeal more to those who are entering the upper echelons of age and society.

“When they start paying taxes and raising children – that’s when they tend to move towards Republicans,” Bergsma said.
Another Del Mar student, 26-year-old Sociology major Koby Dees is currently involved in local Assistant Nueces County Attorney Rose Meza Harrison’s congressional campaign. Consisting of block walking, putting up signs and informing commuters of the issues, Dees met Harrison through his involvement in other organizations.

In the fall of 2010 Dees filed an ethics complaint against State Representative Raul Torres after discovering that Torres has lied on his financial report – having not listed any of the property or businesses he owned or any of his debt. Torres was eventually fined $500 on top of the $500 for filing late. According to Dees, political action can prove to even be exciting for those interested in getting involved.

“It’s important because these are things that are going to be affecting us for a long time. It’s important to make sure we help shape the country our parents are giving to us. I think people of our age want to be involved, but they don’t really know how. We’re a generation or two from the Vietnam and the Civil Rights era. We didn’t really grow up with influence of seeing people go into the streets and protest and fight for what they believed in. That’s an education we didn’t get,” Dees said.

Statistics among young voters have been notoriously low – only 20.9 percent of all eligible 18 to 29 year old voted in the 2010 midterms, for example. Such deficiencies have inspired voter drives aimed at getting more young people in the voting process – such as Sean Combs’ “Citizen Change” campaign or the “Rock the Vote” organization that combine new technologies and star power to encourage youth participation. The local Young Business Professionals organize such events here in the city.

Ideological differences aside, those involved seem to concede that youth involvement is essential. Though he came in second to incumbent John Marez for the District 2 City Council seat, Lucio said he remains affirmed that there are many projects he is involved in that he would like to see through before he plans to leave Corpus. Not counted out, either, is a shot at an At-Large seat on the Council.

“Corpus Christi needs to establish an identity for itself. That’s the most important thing. In order to do that we need policies that support autonomous community organizing and creative culture,” Lucio said.
According to Lucio, it is the lack of creativity and vision in the usual candidates that inspired him to run – and affirms his belief that a new vision for the city can be found in youth involvement. There is a potential in the city to be harnessed, he says, that must be guided.

“Our community will never move forward unless our young professionals stop caring about showing up to mixers so much and start caring about showing up to city council meetings and having some say in policy. That’s a symptom that plagues the active young adults of this city,” Lucio said.

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