June 27, 2019 | 89° F

Eagleton Institute prepares Rutgers students to run for public office

Photo by Jeffrey Gomez |

The Eagleton Institute of Politics hosted RU Running on Tuesday night to help students and young people pursue elected positions in government. The event featured networking opportunities and a panel of guest speakers.

The Eagleton Institute of Politics’ Youth Political Participation Program (YPPP) and the League of Women Voters of New Jersey’s Young People’s Network collaborated on Tuesday to hold their second annual "RU Running?" event.

The event aimed to connect students with young adults who hold elected public office, raise awareness on ways to access the political party system and offer opportunities for students to apply what they learn. A panel of guest speakers was also featured at the event.

Elizabeth Matto, director of Eagleton’s YPPP, said young people play a particularly important role in politics through voting, campaigning, supporting candidates and volunteering, but running for and serving in office is another key way in which young adults can participate in the political process.

“I don’t think (running for office) is something that (young people) typically think of as a way of participating in politics, and often have no clue how to go about it, so what we hope to do is just offer the nuts and bolts of how to go about running for office,” Matto said.

Events like "RU Running?" work to demystify the process of running for political office and simplify what can often seem daunting to students, she said.

“You need to know the ins-and-outs of how to approach the system, how to get into the system, how to raise money, some fundraising techniques, how to develop a message and deliver that message,” Matto said. “So we try to make it less complicated and more realistic for students.”

Brendan Keating, YPPP’s program coordinator, said that this event is unique because many organizations that train people to run for office are affiliated with political parties and are concerned with getting people to run as soon as possible, despite the fact that they may not yet be properly prepared.

“It’s important to have events like this where young people can talk to other folks who have done this before, who have been successful, and sometimes haven’t been successful, and they can get the real story on what’s going on so they can feel better prepared,” Keating said.

Much of being an effective elected official entails learning on the job, but being able to ask questions of experienced people allows a young person to get a better idea of what it takes to go through the process.

Jason DeAlessi, an elected member of Kinnelon, New Jersey’s Board of Education and undergraduate associate at the Eagleton Institute, spoke about communications at the event.

“As an elected young leader, there aren’t enough of us out there,” the School of Arts and Sciences senior said. “Elected leaders are kind of growing with age and they’re retiring, and there’s not really any young blood running, so I think it’s important to get young energy out and get people to run for office and win.”

DeAlessi said that much of what he has learned and talked about has come from events and people who are connected with the Eagleton Institute.

“I hope that (students) learned a bit about campaigning and that they are excited and actually ready, ready to file their papers and go for it,” he said. “I think the biggest message for students here today is that even if you lose, it’s an experience and you build on that, and the next time you run you come out as a stronger candidate.”

Harrison Burke, a United Nations and global policy studies second-year graduate student, said that this event was a great way for students to build a foundation of knowledge on what it takes to run a campaign.

Burke is running for Hillsborough, New Jersey’s Township Committee, and said that building basic financial plans and budgets, knowing the basics of communications and media and the idea of creating a campaign committee and keeping organized are all things he learned at "RU Running?" that he will apply to his own campaign.

“(This event) gives people the knowledge that this is doable. I feel like a lot of people that might not know too much about the process might get discouraged because they think you might need to raise a bunch of money, or you need to be an expert in communications and media planning and things like that,” he said. “I think the best part is that (this event) could explain to students that this is something that they can do if they really want to do it.”

Stephen Weiss is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in philosophy. He is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum.

Stephen Weiss

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