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Will Nick Troiano Become the First Millennial Leader in Congress?

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The greatest issue faced by this generation is the hyper-partisan gridlock formed between the two major parties. Fortunately, from the conflict also comes a new generation of fresh, independent leaders. With national favorability numbers so low for both Democrats and Republicans, there could be a shift in favor for more independent candidates to decide to run for office. More importantly, youth should not be seen as a detriment in politics, especially when exploring a chance to run for office.

One such individual at the forefront of this generational shift is co-founder of The Can Kicks Back, Nick Troiano. As a possible future candidate, he is exploring the possibility of challenging two-time Republican incumbent U.S. Representative Tom Marino in Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District. Troiano would be an independent and citizen-funded candidate.

Nick is young — one of the youngest to form an exploratory committee — but he has spent the past few years immersed in government and came out with several unique ideas such as eliminating campaign funds from being rolled over from one cycle to another — thereby making each re-election cycle more competitive.

Another unique idea is a firm belief in challenging the current age restrictions on running for office. Currently, one has to be at least 25 at the swearing in ceremony, which Nick will be, but if you are old enough to vote, you should be able to also run for office.

“Most democracies have synched their eligibility age — the age you can vote — with the age you can hold office,” he said in an interview. “I think that is what we ought to do in this country — a proposal for an AGE Amendment which stands for All Generations Eligible to the Constitution. A good place to start in getting young people interested in running for office is to lower any age restriction to 18 when you can vote.”

Marino is a conservative Republican who voted against ending the partial government shutdown in October 2013. He was also one of the Republicans who voted to prevent the shutdown two weeks earlier if the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate was postponed a year. Unfortunately, these controversial votes, especially the one to re-open the government, showed a divided GOP along ideological lines.

The hyper-partisan gridlock is commonly attributed to political affiliations. Democrats feel forced to comply with their party in order to stay in office or hold onto their chairmanships. If Troiano does get on the ballot, he will run as an independent. Ideology should be able to trump political affiliation. In other words, there should be more independents in Congress:

“Part of the reason I’m doing this is to prove a model that can be scaled to other congressional districts in 2016. I want to work with others who are embarking on a new endeavor to recruit, run, and support more independent-minded people. If we can elect around 30, such a group could control the balance of power in Congress…and force both parties to the middle where common ground could be found and the major challenges could be confronted.

This can also be a reason against the current primary system, especially in Pennsylvania:

In Pennsylvania we have closed primaries so independents can’t vote and people who are affiliated with other parties can’t cross over. That’s why the closed primary system tends to polarize choices for people and by the time Election Day comes in a gerrymandered district like mine whoever wins the Republican primary basically wins.

Aside from the ideological turn, Troiano is pursuing a different method of forming a campaign run. He is pursuing a citizen-funded campaign. This is politics from the bottom up, putting the constituents above the special interest contributors.

The goal for the exploratory committee is to raise $25,000 and gather 1,000 supporters. Currently, the committee is a third of the way there. Once they achieve this goal, the next step will be to gather a certain number of nomination papers.

Nomination papers are the largest obstacle with which independent and minor party candidates have to overcome to get on the general election ballot. Pennsylvania set the minimum number of signatures at “2 percent of the largest entire vote cast for an elected candidate in the last election within the district.” Given that Marino won re-election in 2012 (which was a presidential election year no less) with 179,563, the lucky number is approximately 3,591. The deadline to submit the nomination papers is August 1.

The backbone for this effort is a group of millennials who are already politically active. In 2010, part of the tea party’s appeal was due to their “outsider mentality.” They were not tied to the inner workings of D.C. politics as usual. Now, with even younger candidates showing up, time will tell how successful they become. The younger generation is making their move and Nick Troiano is a de facto leader in the movement.

Photo Credit: Kristyn Ulanday

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