20-something candidates score victories in some suburban races
If the fall 2018 election was marked by an overwhelming blue wave of Democrats winning county and state offices, the spring 2019 election may be notable for injecting youth into several local suburban races.
At least four candidates in their 20s won village and school board seats Tuesday.
Andrew Honig, a 21-year-old North Central College student, earned a seat on the Lombard village board; Jonathon Reinoso, a 23-year-old teacher, won a seat on the Grayslake High School District 127 board; Vincent J. Torossy, 26, was elected to the Wauconda Unit District 118 school board; and Emily Young, 25, won a Barrington village board term.
Another young hopeful, 18-year-old Warren Township High School student Matthew Duray, just missed winning a seat on the Gurnee village board, but finished ahead of an incumbent and three older adults in the crowded field.
In all, there were at least 10 candidates under age 30 and another eight under 40 who were on ballots across the suburbs.
One common refrain among the winners is that some residents they met were hesitant to vote for someone so young.
"The best response I got was from someone who said 'your mom must be so proud,'" Reinoso said Wednesday. "And I told them 'yeah she is, but let me tell you why I want to run.'"
Young said she met many people who were surprised she was running and that reaction was a hurdle to overcome in some cases.
"But many people I talked to really were glad to see young people getting more involved," she said. "It is a myth that young people don't care about what's going on in their community."
Although they are newbies in the political scene, the winners scored victories using tried-and-true tactics, including pounding the pavement and reaching out to political veterans for advice.
For example, in addition to frequently canvassing Barrington to meet voters, Young would host what she called "candidate office hours" at Barrington Area Library and invited residents to meet her and talk about issues. She also hosted postcard writing sessions with her volunteers to reach potential voters through the mail.
Honig and his team of volunteers defeated a village board incumbent 44 years Honig's senior, in part, by knocking on more than 2,000 doors. Honig said he heard from a lot of residents who didn't know who their trustee was or never had a trustee come to their door. He also encountered frustration over the board moving to overturn a ban on video gambling.
"They felt that there voices have not been heard," he said.
Torossy said he reached out to several local leaders, including current and former school board members, after he lost in his first bid for a board seat in 2017.
"I was 40 votes short (last time) and wanted to know what I could do to close that gap," Torossy said.
He was told to not get discouraged and to stay active and engaged in the school district community, which he says he did.
Reinoso used resources provided by Run For Something, a political network that recruits and supports young progressive candidates. Through the group, which began in the run-up to the 2016 election, he said he was able to connect with a graphic designer who helped him create a visual brand he used on campaign buttons, signs and his social media pages.
"I sought out their advice and it was really nice to have access to a mentor," Reinoso said. "It was nice to be able to ask my dumb questions to veterans."
Reinoso said he received help with basic campaign challenges, such as opening a bank account for his campaign and advice on collecting signatures. Now that he's won, he's a member of the Run For Something alumni.
Duray, the 18-year-old who came up just short in the Gurnee village board race, said he loved the experience of campaigning and said he would definitely consider running again.
"I was sad almost that when I woke up this morning I didn't get to go out and knock on doors and talk with the people of Gurnee," Duray said. "Well, I guess I could do that but it would be weird now."