The 2016 elections are a year-and-a-half away. To the average citizen, that may seem like a while. To the Lake County Young Democrats, that makes now the ideal time to start getting people involved.
The organization is aiming to energize young voters in Lake County. Chairman Alfredo Estrada, who has held his position since February, sees getting the youngest generation interested and involved as a top priority.
“We want to let them know there’s people their age who care about politics,” Estrada said. “It’s important for us to take responsibility in the political process, because the state might be moving in a direction that’s not healthy for them or their families.”
Estrada was mum on potential 2016 candidates, as party bylaws stipulate Lake County Young Democrats must stay out of primaries. However, he offered some insight on what issues could be in play in 2016. For the state of Indiana, he named education and the economy as potentially big talking points.
“There’s been an assault on Hoosier families through school funding and wages and jobs,” he said.
On the national level, he described immigration as an issue that keeps becoming more difficult to ignore.
“It hasn’t really been addressed,” he said. “It’s something that eventually is just going to boil over.”
Estrada also stated a desire to move away from the concept of voting Democratic simply because Republicans are the alternative.
“We want to move away from this anti-Republican message," he said. “We want to speak about who we are, what our ideas are. We feel that if voters really look at the issues, they’ll see that they’re more Democratic than they believe.”
To that end, the focus right now is on reaching out to voters and finding what’s important to them.
“The plan until this summer is to reach to those from 14 to 35 and to talk to them,” Estrada said. “By 2016, we hope those issues develop into talking points in Lake County. If we can get candidates and governors to come here and talk about those issues, we know we’ve done our job.”
As part of that outreach, the organization held its first official gathering at Wildrose Brewing in Griffith on May 22. Despite the "young" part of the group’s name, the evening was attended by local residents of all ages, both longtime Democratic Party members and those who’ve only reached voting age in the last election cycle or two.
Allowing in such a diverse range of people and viewpoints is essential, according to Estrada. It’s through such debate and discussion that the party finds a platform that’s the most beneficial to everyone.
“We’re the party that debates within ourselves to figure out the answers to difficult questions,” Estrada said.
While Estrada stresses the importance of voting, he’s quick to point out that fundamental change requires more than just casting a vote every election. It also involves getting the community energized and letting their voice be heard.
Estrada, who's married with three children and recently earned a law degree from Valparaiso University, understands how life can be busy. However, he emphasized that every little bit of work helps the party and its cause.
“Everybody’s busy," he said, “but you find time when it’s important to you. If it’s only an hour a month, it’s one more hour than the party had before. Or if you don’t join [the party], it’s just talking to your brothers and sisters, your mom and dad, and those you care about about the issues.”