For young leaders interested in running for political office, the new “RU Running?” pilot program held Tuesday night offered a look into what it takes to put together a successful political campaign.
“RU Running?” is a training program for politically-interested college students that are interested in running for public office and builds upon the experience of both the Eagleton Institute of Politics' Youth Political Participation Program and the League of Women Voters of New Jersey's Young People's Network, according to a news release.
“We want students to understand that running for office and serving in office is a really important way in which they can effect positive change,” said Elizabeth Matto, director of the Youth Political Participation Program.
The program was built to be used as a model for universities and colleges throughout New Jersey and nationwide, according to a news release.
The pilot program explained the purpose of the program, offered a panel discussion with young elected leaders, taught students to write and present a stump speech and helped students learn how to lead their own political campaign.
The “Accessing the System” panel with young elected leaders, led by Ingrid Reed, a policy analyst focusing on New Jersey Civic Affairs, included Council President Charnette Frederic of Irvington, New Jersey, Councilmember Connor Montferrat of the Borough Council in Hightstown, Deputy Mayor Victoria Napolitano of Moorestown, and Mayor Michael J. Venezia of Bloomfield.
The panel taught students about the realities of New Jersey's party system and strategies for getting involved, according to the agenda.
Alex Torpey, former mayor of South Orange, New Jersey and a NationBuilder Consultant, was the youngest elected mayor in New Jersey when sworn in.
His presentation detailed campaign basics and the key elements of running a successful campaign.
“It was really daunting in the beginning,” Torpey said. “But it seemed like the value outweighed the cost, the difficulty … The value is you actually get to be involved, you get to be in a position to actually make change in your community, and it turned out to be that.”
Following the campaign presentation, the participants broke into groups to role-play as teams running for political office, and were offered feedback after presenting in front of other groups.
Throughout the event, students were encouraged to fill out evaluations to help the program improve in the future.
“Just the fact that they’re young doesn’t mean that they’re not qualified (to run for office),” Matto said. “(RU Running?) helps them identify traits they have, qualities they have, that would make them really viable candidates, so we want to give them that inspiration, but also the tools to go about it so they aren’t setting themselves up for disaster.”
If somebody wants to run for office while they are very young, then they should do it, Torpey said. Someone should not feel like they cannot run for office because the local party does not want someone young to come in and shake things up.
“I do think that the general advice would be don’t wait, don’t wait for somebody to ask you,” Torpey said. “If you think that you have the right ideas and it’s the right time for you and the town, then that’s all that matters.”
Alexandra DeMatos is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore double-majoring in journalism and media studies and political science. She is the copy editor of The Daily Targum.