New York

New generation of leaders look to connect with young voters

The recent US midterm elections have demonstrated the power of younger voters, analysts say, and with the next presidential election two years away, both parties in New York are working to win over young voters.

In Broome County, that means voting among the youngest Republican leaders in the state.

From his first days on the job, Benji Federman, 28, was diligent at work, answering phone calls and attending meetings. It’s his job to make sure Broome County Republicans have what it takes to win elections at every level.

But Federman doesn’t dwell on age too much.

“I didn’t think much about it,” he said. “I was really just trying to put in all the years of work and be a pinch hitter and do what a winning team does — hit the floor hard, knock on doors, use the phone in this building.”

Federman’s love of politics began at a young age. Raised in Albany, his father worked for Governor George Pataki and later in life for the then Senator. Fred Akshar.

“It’s the people that make politics great,” Federman said. “Being there, meeting people. In my capacity as legislator, I have provided constitutional services to the senator and have had the opportunity to speak to thousands of constituents over the past seven years.”

But Federman and the GOP as a whole have work to do leading up to the 2024 presidential election. While turnout among young voters has increased significantly in 2020, 61% of this population reportedly voted Democrats for President Biden The Associated Press. Almost a third of young voters who voted in the presidential election identify themselves as Republicans.

Federman said transition starts with reaching the next generation.

“There are thousands of young people who represent Republican, conservative values ​​and I think we need to identify these people and then bring them into the party so that we can include them. You can’t change everyone’s mind. I understand that we need to improve the party’s brand and we will work really hard on that,” Federman said.

If Republicans and Democrats agree on one thing, it’s to win over first-time voters, and Federman isn’t the only young leader.

At 22, Zak Constantine leads Orange County’s Democratic Party and is also one of the youngest leaders in the state. While Democrats have had a little more success with younger voters, Constantine said it’s still a top focus statewide.

No Republican has been elected governor since Pataki’s re-election in 2002.

Federman said turning around starts with local politics.

“This wave of support is really starting to get the ball rolling for statewide candidates to be successful,” he said. “Fundraising is a huge part of politics and that’s something county leaders are good at doing, as well as raising funds and making sure that you know we support our top-of-the-ticket. But really, it’s about cultivating this next generation of young elected officials so that we can play a role in the governor’s office. Throughout my time in the legislature, just feeling like being a team player got me to this point.”

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