They ran, they voted, and they won — make way for millennial and Gen Z candidates Skip to content

They ran, they voted, and they won — make way for millennial and Gen Z candidates

Younger voters are a source of electoral strength. And they’re no shrinking violets.

3 min read
Adele McClue and Ashley Ehasz (composite photo by ForwardKY)

Time to quit whining about the good old days because, face it, they were not especially good. Everyone was not nice, nor did equal opportunity abound. So perhaps it is time for older generations to step aside, shut up, and acknowledge that a new generation possesses skills, insights, and energy to make positive change.

Perhaps it is time to set the rose-colored glasses aside and listen.

A good starting point occurred last week, thanks to a Zoom panel sponsored by National Organization for Women (NOW), entitled “Thank You Gen Z and Millennials: They Ran, They Voted, They Won.”

Described as an intergenerational conversation, the discussion featured Adele McClure, a candidate for the Virginia statehouse, and Ashley Ehasz, former Congressional Candidate for Pennsylvania’s 1st District.

Ehasz’s pathway to politics began by joining the military, graduating from West Point, and successfully becoming an attack helicopter pilot.

McClure’s background as a policy advisor to the Virginia statehouse sparked her interest in running for office. An historic candidate, the first Black woman to serve in the state legislature, she is active in the Virginia legislature’s Black Caucus, and has been recognized as one of the “Sturdy Under 30” for her accomplishments.

Born to a single mother who was also born to a single mother, Ehasz grew up facing daily struggles to make ends meet.

“My pathway to stability was the military,” she said.

Through that experience she learned about herself and began to recognize her decision-making capabilities under fire.

“I saw elected officials who didn’t match any of my values,” she remarked, adding that through her involvement with NOW and Planned Parenthood she realized that women-led groups held potential power.

“The general consensus was the realization that we had a voting group with a message,” she declared.

Like Ehasz, McClure was born to a single mom. Growing up with the daily trauma of generational poverty, one vivid memory she had was using water to wet her cereal. A hard worker, she was the first in her family to go to college, where she was elected student body president.

“I knew I wanted to help people,” she explained.

When a new congressional district was structured to reflect diversity, McClure found her point of entry right in her own neighborhood. There were a lot of renters in the district, so she decided it was time to mobilize them, with an eye on expanding opportunities and dismantling systemic barriers. In addition, she fought for environmental changes, the rights of people with disabilities, and argued against guns and violence.

For both McClure and Ehasz, democracy is a team sport, and they both mentioned historical role models who inspire them. For Ehasz, Stacy Abrams and her involvement in Georgia’s 2020 gubernatorial race was an inspiration. And learning about the devastating fire at New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911 was another lesson from the past about the importance of women’s rights.

“Back through history, I think of the women whose names we will never know,” she said.

For McClure, Ida B. Wells, who fought tirelessly for women’s rights, was a hero. McClure also admires Yvonne B. Miller, from Virginia, who became the first African-American woman to serve in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly.

“I truly look up to her for breaking down barriers for women,” McClure remarked.

She also credits her mother for setting an example regarding public service. “She worked multiple jobs and still found ways to be civically engaged,” McClure explained. “I’m running to make sure that women like that will be at the table.”

When asked about topics that cross generational lines, both McClure and Ehasz said that there are many issues that know no bounds. Mental health and substance abuse treatment are two enduring challenges. Gender equality and access to abortion are other issues with ramifications all ages, both in the community and at home. According to both women, multi-generational discussions are an essential foundation to knowing history.

The message that both McClure and Ehasz echoed was about how far women have come and how far they still have to go.

“Millennials can be the bridge,” they agreed, “the before and after, in terms of intergenerational conversations.”

Tuesday night’s discussion was the last in a series sponsored by National Organization for Women, with more to come in the future. With the millennial generation the largest in America today — and the largest in American history — fasten your seatbelts, Boomers. Younger voters are a source of electoral strength.

And they’re no shrinking violets.


Written by Constance Alexander, who is a columnist, award-winning poet, and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. Cross-posted from the NKY Tribune.

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