A special forum will showcase more than a dozen millennials running for Charlotte’s City Council this week, three months ahead of the city primary.
That doesn’t necessarily sit well with some nonmillennials.
Community activist Andrew Fede is behind Wednesday night’s Millennial Political Candidates Forum at Heist Brewery. He expects well over 120 people to hear from a new generation of local candidates.
“This is simply to highlight our young people who have decided to put their careers second and public service first,” said Fede, 32.
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But council member Julie Eiselt, 56, responded to Fede on his Facebook announcement of the forum. “Andrew, if the point is to highlight millennials and give them an advantage, then why not just put out a ballot with their names on it?” she wrote.
“A candidate forum is really so you can compare candidates,” Eiselt told the Observer. “Let them debate against everybody in the field.… It almost feels like you’re insulating them. Don’t challenge them, just vote for them because they’re a millennial.”
Fede organized this spring’s first forum for mayoral candidates, an event that drew around 200 people. He said Wednesday’s forum is to provide a platform for younger candidates. “This is just a way for me to introduce some of our brightest talent,” he said.
Millennials are generally considered those born between 1982 and 2004. The only millennial incumbent is Democrat Dimple Ajmera, who was 30 when she was appointed in January.
Filing for mayor and council runs from July 7-21. It’s rare for millennials to run, and even rarer for them to win.
The apparent interest in this week’s forum is in contrast to millennial participation in last year’s election.
Voters under 40 made up 36 percent of the voters last fall, according to a CNN exit poll. And Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer found that voters 40-or-younger accounted for just 30 percent of N.C. voters last year.
In a 2015 study of Charlotte and three other cities, Portland State University researchers found voters 65 and older were up to 20 times more likely to cast ballots in mayoral elections than 18-to-34-year-olds.
“We often mistake disengagement for apathy,” said Steven Olikara, 27, president of the Washington-based Millennial Action Project.
“Millennials are not apathetic about the issues because millennials have the highest service participation rate in the county. So this is a generation that’s highly idealistic but has lost its faith and trust in the process.”
Olikara plans to be in Raleigh this week to announce the North Carolina Future Caucus, a bi-partisan group of lawmakers under 45.
Fede said the millennial candidates are running for a variety of reasons including criminal justice, immigration and affordable housing.
“It’s not one specific issue, it’s a lot of different issues,” he said. “They feel the city is not addressing the issues.”
The millennial forum
The Millennial Political Candidate Forum will take place Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Heist Brewery, 2909 N. Davidson St, Charlotte.