Young suburban residents want your vote in the April 2 election
Participation in local elections has been shown to be dominated by older generations, but a number of young suburban residents are candidates on the April 2 ballot.
At least 10 suburban candidates under age 30 -- and another eight under 40 -- hope they will spur others in their age groups to vote next week or to run in a future local election. They are seeking posts such as village board trustee and school board member.
That comes at a time when the median voter age in local elections across the U.S. was 57, according to a comprehensive Portland State University study "Who Votes for Mayor". Researchers, after studying 23 million voting records in 50 cities in the 2015 and 2016 local elections, also found the local election turnout in 10 of America's largest cities was less than 15 percent.
The young suburban candidates say they offer new voices, with a native understanding of technology and a different economic reality.
"People stereotype us as being mindless social media zombies," said 25-year-old Barrington trustee candidate Emily Young, who points out she didn't use Twitter or Facebook until her election effort began.
Here's a look at some of the youthful candidates in the April 2 election.
Matthew Duray, 17
Gurnee village board candidate Matthew Duray doesn't meet the minimum age requirement to hold office in Illinois -- let alone vote -- and is 50 years younger than one of his opponents.
Fortunately for Duray's political plans, he turns 18 on March 31 -- two days before the election. He's among seven candidates pursuing three open village board seats.
"I decided to run for village trustee because I would like to see the youth of Gurnee have a voice in shaping Gurnee's future," said Duray, a Warren Township High School senior. "It is time to elect a candidate that will bring a new and bold perspective."
Unlike many of the other young candidates running in the suburbs this election cycle, Duray identifies as a conservative. He's the founder of a local chapter of a conservative group called the Young Americans for Freedom.
Duray believes his fellow youth don't know how to get involved in local government. If elected, he pledged to "work hard to get people of all ages engaged in discussion and working together toward a common goal."
Matthew Orr, 20
One of four candidates for the 6th Ward seat on Aurora's city council, Matthew Orr is the only one younger than 50.
He's 45 years younger than the incumbent, Michael Saville, who's had the job since 1985. It's that longevity that spurred Orr -- a custodian with West Aurora School District 129 and a part-time college student -- to run.
"I don't think people should serve decades in the same position," he said. "I feel I could offer a young, refreshed voice for all citizens."
Younger candidates offer a different mindset than older politicians, Orr said.
"We grew up with technology and understand the importance it will play in our lives," he said. "I'm a hardworking, blue-collar guy who gets to see the perspective of younger adults and understand the struggles middle-aged adults have."
Orr, who described himself as liberal but independent politically, believes young adults and students should be involved in local politics because the decisions made at that level have such big impacts on their lives.
Asher Horcher, 24
Asher Horcher says she's had an interest in Wheeling politics since she was a child and her father and village president, Pat, was elected as a trustee.
Now, she's the only candidate in her 20s seeking a Wheeling village board trustee seat. She said being the youngest of six candidates vying for three trustee seats isn't necessarily easy.
A full-time student at John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Horcher said a woman after a recent candidate forum questioned how someone so young with little life experience could adequately represent residents on the village board.
"I'd say that's one of the hardest things I've kind of had to get over with people," said Horcher, who described herself as a political moderate.
She added that being in her 20s is a benefit in trying to get people her age interested in local elections.
Vincent J. Torossy, 26
Vincent J. Torossy is making his second bid at elected office. He's part of a field of four candidates running for three seats on the Wauconda Unit District 118 school board, a post he unsuccessfully sought in 2017.
"I am running to get involved with my community," said Torossy, a conference events specialist who grew up in Wauconda and attended District 118 schools. "I have a real sense of pride in where I came from and an overall thankfulness for being prepared for what awaited me next."
Torossy noted he doesn't have the breadth of life experiences as the other three candidates in their 40s. But he believes young candidates bring fresh ideas and different backgrounds.
"Young candidates should be welcome additions to any local office," he said. "If there is a passion ... why not pass the torch on to those hungry and wanting to make a positive impact within their communities?"
Torossy firmly believes young people should be more involved in local politics.
"Our future depends on it," he said.
Emily Young, 25
Barrington village board candidate Emily Young says for younger residents in her town or elsewhere to have a sense their concerns are being represented, someone in her age group needs to serve in local government.
Young, part of a four-candidate field seeking three trustee seats, said issues such as the environment and mental health resources are important to people her age. She said she's found there hasn't been much talk in those areas locally, which spurred her to run.
"I do think that we are seeing more young people get engaged," said Young, the lone Barrington candidate in her 20s. "I think young people have always had an interest in what's going on around them. I think there kind of has been this myth that, 'Oh, younger people just don't care. They don't pay attention.'"
Young, a development and communications manager at Impact Behavioral Health Partners in Evanston who identifies as a progressive Democrat, said she hopes those in their 20s encourage each other to vote in local elections regardless of the candidates.
"I am 25. I work two jobs," she said, referring to her message to the younger set. "If I can find time to do this, you could, too. If there is something really important to you in your community, this is an avenue for you to make sure that voice is heard."