The NEW Grand Old Party

The Republican Party is changing.

And no, I’m not talking about the recent populist wave responsible for the election of President Donald J. Trump. The change I’m referring to is not happening at the national level (yet), but at the local level. How ’bout that small government!?

Millennials may be America’s largest bloc of eligible voters, but they are also its most underrepresented by far. Out of 435 seats in the House of Representatives, only five are held by Millennials. FIVE! Of these five Representatives, four happen to be Republicans (YRs represent!!). Currently, Baby Boomers (ages 52-70) hold a whopping 270 seats, the Silent/Greatest Generation (ages 71+) hold 42 seats, and Gen X-ers hold 117 seats. But given that only two-thirds of Millennials are old enough to run for Congress anyway, we can hardly expect the younger generation to hold any real influence in Washington anytime soon… or can we?

But now something is stirring at the local level that could change the face of politics, particularly Republican politics, forever. New leaders are emerging in local races across Virginia that not only have the capability to bring new and fresh ideas to the Republican Party, but also attract new and younger voters. Given that these new and younger voters make up America’s LARGEST bloc of eligible voters, this is a trend that cannot be ignored much longer.

Millennials are known to being a forward-thinking, innovative bunch. When they aren’t busy staring at their own reflection with their iPhone’s front-facing camera, polishing their participation trophies, or binge-watching Netflix in their parents’ basements, Millennials are busy shaping the future. Within the past decade, Millennials have changed the way America communicates, does business, advertises, travels, shops, dates, listens to music, eats, and more. If you don’t believe me, just ask these guys…

  • Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
  • John Zimmer, Lyft
  • Ben Silbermann & Evan Sharp, Pintrest
  • Julia Hartz, Event Brite
  • Kevin Systrom & Mike Krieger, Instagram
  • Brian Chesky, Airbnb
  • Evan Spiegel & Bobby Murphy, SnapChat
  • Patrick Collison & John Collison, Stripe
  • Andrew Mason, Groupon
  • Sean Rad, Tinder
  • Matt Salzberg, Blue Apron
  • Dustin Moskovitz, Asana
  • Daniel Ek, Spotify
  • Meredith Perry, uBeam
  • Matthew Mullenweg, WordPress

In a short span of time, Millennials have revolutionized a multitude of industries, but I expect that they are just getting started. It’s only a matter of time before they revolutionize Washington. May I remind you again that Millennials now outnumber every other generation in America? And nobody knows how to appeal to Millennials better than Millennials themselves.

The Next Generation of Republican Leadership

Millennials think outside the box. They innovate. They are quick to adapt. And, thanks to technology and social media, they are also very open-minded. Millennials are known to be solution-oriented and assertive in the workplace. Compound these characteristics with their frustrations over the failures of government, it’s a safe bet that many Millennials are willing and ready to step up into public service. But while historically Democrats have been more adept at marketing themselves to younger voters, the Republican principles of small, limited government and free-market economics give the GOP an inherent advantage when it comes to appealing to the innovative, tech-savvy Millennials whose entire world has been made possible by capitalism itself. After all, without capitalism, Millennials would be forced to talk on the telephone, hail taxis, stay in actual hotels, write checks, shop in actual stores, and date organically. Instead, Millennials communicate via Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram. When Millennials need to travel across town, they whip out their smart phones to request an Uber or Lyft. When Millennial need to go shopping, they head to their computers, not shopping malls, where they can order pretty much anything. Modern technologies have opened up new markets, increasing convenience for consumers while driving down prices of lodging, food, and transportation. Because of new tech platforms, and the competitive free-market they create, Millennials enjoy an endless amount of service and product choices with the entire world marketplace at their fingertips.

Of all U.S. generations, Millennials are the most dependent on free-market capitalism. And better yet, the habits of Millennials actually fuel capitalism itself. But unfortunately, not all Republicans and Millennials have connected the dots here yet. But some have… and now they are hard at work, bringing their innovative, solution-oriented ideas to the Republican platform. Virginia is home to several rising Republican leaders whose unique Millennial perspectives can bridge the long-standing disconnect between Republicans and Millennials voters.

Emily Brewer, House of Delegates Candidate (64th District)

In the 64th District, small business owner Emily Brewer is running for the House of Delegates seat currently occupied by controversial Delegate Rick Morris, who announced earlier this year that he would not be seeking re-election. In her hometown of Suffolk, Brewer owns and operates Cork’d, a wine and craft beer shop, as well as a marketing and social media firm. While her strong pro-life and pro-gun stances alongside her experience as a small-business entrepreneur already make her a strong Republican candidate, Brewer brings much more to the table than your average conservative.

Brewer’s passion for adoption and foster care reform adds a much needed dynamic, as some Republicans neglect to champion life beyond the first nine months. As a strong advocate for both victims of domestic abuse and the Second Amendment, Brewer promises to introduce legislation that would allow victims with current protective orders to carry a concealed handgun. As a traditional college education continues to lead many graduates into indebtedness and underemployed, Brewer has called for increased vocational, technical, and trade programs to our K-12 schools in order to provide students with alternative pathways to successful, high-paying careers. The voters of the 64th District should be proud of have a candidate who brings such a fresh and thoughtful perspective to mainstream Republican priorities.

Laquan Austion, GOP nominee for the House of Delegates (2nd District)

If anyone has any doubt that Laquan Austion is a Millennial, just ask him what he does for a living… When he isn’t busy knocking doors, making phone calls, or driving across Prince William and Stafford Counties, Austion works for (none other than) Lyft as a government relations professional. And his experience working for the ride-sharing company gives him an importance perspective on one of his campaign priorities: transportation challenges. In a letter to the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) Austion expressed his opposition to the proposed 3% fare increase, citing the importance of incentivizing commuters for using alternative methods of transportation in order to alleviate the area’s persistent traffic issue.

But it isn’t just Austion’s professional background that creates a fresh dynamic, his personal background does as well. Having experienced urban poverty and homelessness as a child before becoming the first member of his family to attend college, Austion adds an important perspective that is relatively uncommon in Republican politics. Not too many Republican candidates for office understand firsthand the importance of promoting economic policies that create opportunities for success as perhaps Austion does. When you are afforded no other options but to climb out of poverty and hardship, I imagine you have a much deeper appreciation for economic policies that create opportunities you can reach for.

“The first few years of my life I was homeless. Through hard work, sacrifice, and faith I was able to climb out of poverty, and achieve the American dream. The Republican Party to me was never about big government or any individual politician – it was about creating opportunities for people who worked hard. There will be no stronger advocate than me, for fostering an environment that creates opportunities and promotes upward mobility.” -Laquan Austion (Feb 6, 2017)

Adam Roosevelt, House of Delegates Candidate (49th District)

It takes some serious guts for a Republican to run against a well-known Democratic incumbent in a district that Hillary Clinton won with 77%, let alone a 25-year old Republican. But as an Army veteran who served overseas in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, Roosevelt is no stranger to difficult and even hostile environments. By daring to go where no Republican has gone before, Adam is letting non-Republican voters that they are worth fighting for, which is exactly what more Republicans ought to be doing. I hope to eventually see more Republican candidates following Roosevelt’s example by campaigning in heavily blue districts. We cannot grow our party if we are unwilling to climb uphill.

On the campaign trail, Roosevelt has expressed the importance improving the transition into the workforce for our students, veterans, and their families and aligning education with job opportunities. He also hopes to increase acceleration graduation rates by enhancing the current STEM curriculum. With a background in cybersecurity, he has touted the importance of promoting career fields in both new and critical fields such as innovative technology and cybersecurity.

Matt Pinsker, House of Delegates Candidate (56th District)

As most of us know, real change happens at the grassroots. Democracy cannot exist without civic engagement and it’s important for every one of us to actively participate in our communities. From an early age, Matt Pinsker has set an example for other young people looking to make a difference in their hometowns by joining the Henrico County Republican Committee and founding the Teenage Republican group at Henrico’s Godwin High School. He even served as the State Chairman of the Teenage Republicans before attending undergrad at the College of William and Mary and West Virginia College of Law. Over the years, Pinsker has been a vocal advocate for second amendment rights and the pro-life movement.

Considering Pinsker’s experience as a business owner, attorney, and Captain in the U.S. Army Reserves Judge Advocate Generals group (JAG), he is already a strong candidate for public office. However, the most significant aspect of his candidacy to me is his strong focus on higher education and his experience as an adjunct professor of Criminal Justice and Homeland Security at Virginia Commonwealth University. In fact, higher education is listed at the very top of his website’s issues page. Higher education is one of the most, if not THE most, pressing issue directly affecting the Millennial generation. I highly respect the fact that a candidate with experience working within higher education itself is not only willing to talk about skyrocketing costs of college, but also willing to put it, quite literally, at the top of the list. The failures of  overzealous big government have resulted in $1.5 trillion of outstanding student loan debt and diminishing opportunities for college graduates. Virginia’s students deserve better and I would be grateful to have a leader like Pinsker take a stand on this issue next year in Richmond.

Benjamin Dessart, Candidate for Henrico County Board of Supervisors (Brookland District)

In Henrico County, Benjamin Dessart, is running to succeed the late, great Dick Glover in representing the best district of all time- Brookland (Sidenote: I was born and raised there). Having also hailed from Brookland, Dessart’s love and passion for his community radiates out of his strong grassroots campaign. When asked about his motivations for seeking public office, he credits his father for having taught him the importance of helping one’s neighbor, whether by shoving their driveway when it snows or cooking them a meal during difficult times. A product of Henrico County Public Schools who later attended undergrad at the University of Virginia before earning his Juris Doctor at the University of Richmond, Dessart credits his community for affording him the educational opportunities to succeed in life. Now he wants to give back to the community that has given him so much.

Dessart’s strong interest in local government, particularly as a Millennial, is perhaps one of the most significant aspects of his candidacy. We unfortunately live in a society that pays much more attention to national government than state and local government, Millennial voters in particular. Having served as a Legislative Aide in the Virginia General Assembly and being an active community member in Brookland, Dessart has already demonstrated a keen understanding and appreciation for small government. His understanding of local issues is impressive as he is able to expertly articulate the complexities behind the county budget, local ordinances, and public utilities. Dessart has also been proactively exploring solutions to address the ever-growing opioid crisis, including a partnership with the McShinn Foundation, which uses a peer-to-peer method to employ recovering addicts and alcoholics to coach and mentor individuals who are new in their own recovery.

Glenn Davis, Candidate for Lt. Governor of Virginia

While not technically a Millennial himself, Glenn Davis has been running his campaign for Lieutenant Governor in a manner that is undeniably as innovative and solution-oriented as any Millennial could ever hope to be. When it comes to defending Virginia’s coal industry, Davis is not content to rely on opposition to environmentalism alone. Instead, Davis has been busy seeking solutions to not only save the coal industry, but to expand it, going as far as MIT, and even Estonia, to research new ways to utilize coal in a ever-changing economy. On the campaign trail, Davis touts MIT research on using powdered coal in electronics, in place of silicon.

Whether he is filming a campaign music video, creating a campaign parody of “Twas The Night Before Christmas,” rigging a GoPro to his now-famous campaign RV, Mellow Yellow, or flying drones over campaign events, Davis is making the most of new and innovative media platforms in order to reach new and younger voter demographics. His tech-savvy campaign tactics, combined with his boundless enthusiasm and innovative policy solutions, show that Davis has what it takes to rejuvenate a party that has lost every recent statewide election by understanding how to promote a conservative message to non-traditional Republican voters.

These rising leaders are the future of their communities, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the United States of America. And while it is exciting to watch so many young, Millennial Republicans step up to serve their communities, it’s not their age that sets them apart, but rather their vision, passion, and their strong commitment to Republican values and the communities they seek to serve. And I, for one, can’t wait to watch what they’ll do next.


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