Issues, dialogue at the forefront of young SCV residents’ political priorities

The student organizers for the California voter pre-registration drive pose for a picture outside of Valencia High School on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2017. With the politically engaged on both sides of the aisle already talking about the importance of the upcoming 2018 elections, a surge of political involvement can be seen among young Santa Clarita residents. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

With the politically engaged on both sides of the aisle already talking about the importance of the upcoming 2018 elections, a surge of political involvement can be seen among young Santa Clarita residents.

Between protests, phone calls, voter registration and new candidacies, young people were more active in the political process, ranging from those thrilled by the outcome of the 2016 election to those eagerly awaiting to flip those seats come 2018.

“There’s been a renewed focus by both parties to reach out to young people and it has lead to a surge in youth engagement,” D.J. Hamburger, executive board member for the Log Cabin Republicans said. “It’s very humbling to have people of importance listen to your experience and respond to it with policy.”

For Ryan Pugh, president of Valencia High School’s Young Conservatives Club, 2017 served as a time to break from political party affiliation and focus on issues.

Pugh and the group spent time educating their peers about the difference between being a conservative and being a Republican, and felt it was more important to emphasize their beliefs than to tout a particular party.

Feeling the 2016 election and President Donald Trump’s rhetoric were divisive, the group of young conservatives wanted to differentiate themselves as open-minded and accepting of differing ideals.

The group collaborated with the school’s Young Democrats Club and made an effort to keep an open dialogue, according to Pugh.

“We are trying to bridge that political divide with our counterparts,” he said.

More than anything, the students wanted to learn more about democracy, Pugh said.

In addition to learning more about politics in their government classes, the students held a Civic Education Series and invited elected officials and candidates from both political parties to speak during town hall meetings.

Valencia High held a pre-registration event, signing up 1,600 students to be ready to vote as soon as they turn 18, Pugh cited.

“We are starting to get to the age where we will be involved in the political process,” the Valencia High senior said. “This was the right place and right time for this political discourse.”

For the Santa Clarita Valley Young Democrats, this year meant raising awareness and seeking redemption, according to President Andrew Taban.

After Republicans won seats at the local, state and federal levels, the Democrats voiced their concerns and shared their beliefs through letters, phone calls and protests, Taban said.

“Most people take a break after the election. Unless you’re a Democrat, then you just keep going for another two years,” he said. “It’s definitely an investment for the future.”

It has been crucial to keep the momentum going despite a sense of political fatigue, but the group is propelled to action when they hear people’s stories, he said.

It’s the issues at stake affecting people in the Santa Clarita Valley that keep the Young Dems motivated to keep going, he said.

“If you give up, who is going to help them?” he asked rhetorically. “People are literally in life-or-death situations.”

Since Santa Clarita often still feels like a small town, it is easy to see the direct effect political decisions have at the local level, according to Master’s University student Emily Brayne.

Brayne, who served as an intern for Congressman Steve Knight, said young people in the SCV are able to feel more involved because of this.

“It calls young people to be engaged,” Brayne said. “It’s an ownership thing. You feel like it’s your home and you see the effects.”

The increase in young people’s involvement isn’t just at the surface level, but affects their lives through decisions ranging from college education to tax reform, she said.

“They realize this is their future,” she said. “Their actions have ramifications.”

For College Young Republicans member JB Martinez, these issues range across the political spectrum.

The College of the Canyons student’s beliefs range from combating climate change and ensuring immigrants can obtain legal status to supporting small businesses and limited government.

Instead of avoiding hardships, he said he strives to be realistic about the challenges he knows come with entering adulthood by seeking to be practical instead of proud or fearful.

“This is a calling for people to get involved in political process and be the change they want to see in the world,” Martinez said.

For some young people, they are seeking to implement change by running for office themselves.

Logan Smith, a Santa Clarita resident and Democrat activist, is currently running for a seat on Santa Clarita’s City Council.

While younger generations tend to vote progressive, not many young adults feel empowered to run themselves, Smith said.

“We forget that there is no one from our generation making these decisions that will affect us,” Smith said. “It is super important that we take an active part in the political process.”

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