By Molly Igoe
In Congress, there are currently only five Congress members who are considered part of the millennial bloc. Millennials, according to researchers Neil Howe and William Strauss, are those born between 1982 and 2004. This is a very small proportion, considering that millennials are now the largest demographic in the country.
According to the article “Millennials Can’t Crack Congress,” in Bloomberg Politics, to truly reflect the U.S. population, the House of Representatives should have 97 millennial representatives.
A panel sponsored by the College Democrats and Republicans on Monday, Oct. 9 set out to discuss how millennials can influence politics and overcome the political generational gap.
They invited two up-and-coming millennial politicians, Allison Galbraith, who is running for Maryland’s 1st Congressional District, and Michael Welker, running for the Maryland General Assembly’s 36th District.
Galbraith decided to run for office to give “middle class, everyday people” a voice, especially women and millennials.
“At the end of the day, who’s going to clean this mess up? Thirty years from now, it’s going to be millennials trying to clean it up,” she said.
She is running primarily on health care issues, based on her own struggles after having a child and getting laid off from her 10-year position at the Department of Defense as a program analyst.
After giving birth via Caesarean section, she said she experienced severe post-partum depression, which caused her insurance to skyrocket. Ultimately, none of her conditions, which included her Caesarean section, her depression, and her weight gain, were covered, which was “catastrophic,” she said.
“The only thing that was wrong with me is that I had a baby. That was it,” she said.
Shortly after she was laid off, she went to see her Congressman, Andy Harris, about how pre-existing conditions were harming women.
She asked him to vote against gender rate hikes, and he replied that he didn’t think most people would mind if women had to pay a little more for health insurance.
“I thought, this is absolutely insane, I worked for everything I have. I didn’t take subsidies…I just walked into my Congressman’s office, and he looked me in the eye, and told me he was going to do the exact opposite of the thing that allows me to maintain my entire life,” she said.
Welker is the president of the Cecil County Democratic Club, is a full-time student at Towson University, and works as a substitute teacher. He said that the district he is running in, District 36, comprises of Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s , and Caroline counties.
He is mainly focused on the redistricting process, specifically concerning gerrymandering and maternity/paternity leave for working parents. Gerrymandering, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “to divide a terriotorial unit into election districts to give one political party an electoral majority in a large number of districts while concentrating the voting strength of the opposition in as few districts as possible.”
In the United States, districts are drawn to favor either the Democrats or Republicans, depending on which party holds the majority in the legislature.
Welker became involved in politics when he lived in Salisbury, next to former mayor James Ireton. He headed Ireton’s campaign for Congress in Cecil and Harford counties, despite having no previous campaign experience.
“With me being a millennial, a lot of people say, ‘Oh, you don’t have experience, why are you running for office,’ I bring to the table the fact that there is zero millennial representation right now on the Eastern Shore, and I’m trying to change that,” he said.
Similarly, Galbraith said that people doubt her run for Congress because of her age.
“I have a decade of experience at the Department of Defense and a proven track record of saving money. I’m also a single mother who cared for my mother who passed away in March, and my father who has Parkinson’s. I understand real life problems. Tell me what about that you don’t want in Congress?”