Young Guns
By D.R. Bartlette
The term “generation gap” was created in the 1960’s to describe the seemingly insurmountable differences in values and lifestyles that emerged between the newly-voting-age Baby Boomers and their parents. One of the many ways this difference has played out has been at the ballot box.
According to a Democracy Corps youth survey, political campaigns and outside groups spend millions of dollars courting the youth vote, and there has never been a higher level of voting by under-30 citizens in history. And they know what they are voting for. A national survey by the Pew Center found that voters under 30 were at least as knowledgeable, if not more so, than older voters on candidates’ positions on Iraq and abortion.
What’s even more important, according to Scott Keeler, the director of survey research for the Pew Research Center and an analyst for NBC News, is that in this year’s high-profile election, turnout among voters under 30 has increased more than for any other age group.
According to the Boston Globe, young voters turned out in record numbers for the Iowa caucus. This jump in participation was especially dramatic, when you consider the circumstances of caucusing. At caucuses, voters have to show up at a specific time and place and spend time discussing candidates. And, they are held when many students are on winter break.
The concerns of voters under 30 tend to mirror the rest of the country, according to the Pew Center survey: the economy, renewable energy, access to health care and an affordable college education. And yet, the survey shows that the majority of young voters feel as though politicians don’t listen to them.
So some ambitious young Fayettevillians have taken matters into their own hands, and are running for offices in Congress and city hall.
Joseph Griffin, a 19-year-old University of Arkansas student, said he likes having young candidates on the ballot.
“I like it because it gives the view of the young person,” Griffin said. However, he added that he didn’t know how well they would be received by the public.
Katy Henriksen, 30, has a different perspective.
“I don’t think that age should have much to do with it,” Henriksen said. “I look at where they stand on the issues; that’s more important. Younger people could bring a vibrancy to local politics.”
The Free Weekly took a look at two of the highest-profile of these local candidates, Sami Sutton and Abel Tomlinson.

Sami Sutton wants to be mayor
University of Arkansas student Sutton is one of six candidates in the Fayetteville mayoral race. Besides being the only woman in the race, at 19, Sutton may be the youngest mayoral candidate ever to run. Karen Pritchard has been the Washington County Clerk for 40 years, and said, that to the best of her knowledge, Sutton is the youngest ever to file.
Sutton graduated from Fayetteville High School and is currently a sophomore the UA.  On her Web site, she states that although she is only 19, her life experiences “could push my age up to the mid-20s.”
Conventional wisdom says that being young and inexperienced is a liability, and Sutton said she agrees with that.
“No one listens to you either,” Sutton said. “Young people are citizens also and deserve to be heard.
“Many citizens of Fayetteville are the younger generation [because of] it being a college town. Since I am around the same age, I have a better understanding of the troubles we face and how we would react to them.”
Her age definitely plays a big part in her platform. One her goals, if elected mayor, would be to provide teens a place to go and socialize. As a teenager in Fayetteville, according to her Web site, “there was really nothing to ever do. It was all too expensive or just boring after a while.”
Sutton said she wants the city to offer more recreational opportunities after school and on weekends. “[Teens] just need a place they can go to be themselves,” she said.
She describes herself as “headstrong, determined, loud and enjoy[ing] challenges.” The fact that she is pursuing a dual major in pre-med and pre-law with a minor in English literature, while working part-time, seems to bear that out. She said that if she doesn’t win this election, she will run for the state legislature. Her ultimate goal is to become president.
Her candidacy, she said, “just shows how young people are stepping up and making themselves heard. Listen to us!”

Abel Tomlinson going head-to-head with Boozman
Abel Tomlinson, 27, is trying to unseat Northwest Arkansas Republican, John Boozman for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Tomlinson said he has lived all across the United States, but has an authentic Arkansas pedigree. He was born in a tent near Kingston and earned a bachelor’s degree in plant science. After realizing that his passions were in politics, he began pursuing a master’s degree in political science.
Tomlinson describes himself as a committed community organizer, active in the OMNI Center, and founder of Impeach for Peace UA, a registered student organization at the UA. Tomlinson also served a term as a senator with the Associated Student Government at the UA.
“There is an experience argument,” Tomlinson said, referring to the conventional wisdom that being young and inexperienced is a liability in politics. However, he said he has just as much experience as his opponent.
“I have a lot of experience in campus politics, and the only experience he had was on the school board,” Tomlinson said.
Tomlinson said judgment is more important than experience.
“I feel my judgment is far superior [to Boozman’s],” he said. “I was right about the [Iraq] war and he wasn’t.”

He also said integrity was important. “His [Boozman’s] is inferior, if you look at his record, because he’s controlled by corporate interests. I’m not opposed to corporations, just sometimes their interests are different than other voters’ interests.”
If elected, Tomlinson said he thinks his age will him bring a different perspective to congress. “I can think in a different way than the old, entrenched way of thinking for these new problems, like the economy, the environment, health care, the Iraq War and the war on drugs.”
There is one advantage that age has given him – he said he’s also not as strident as he once was. “I’m trying to evolve, to be more inclusive and to include everyone’s point of view.”

Categories: Features