Although he cannot vote in the upcoming election, 17-year-old David Pelikan is running for Wisconsin State Assembly to push his solutions for a less polarized Legislature and give Wisconsin youth a voice in the government.
Looking to represent Wisconsin’s 60th State Assembly District, the high school senior from Cedarburg is running as an independent candidate. Pelikan said Wisconsin’s “hyper-polarized” legislature makes decisions solely based on a partisan agenda, which he said is highly inefficient.
He’d also become the youngest person currently in the state Legislature.
“When I came to an age at which I could campaign to help find solutions for these issues while combatting the hyperpolarization that is perpetuating them, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help make a difference in my community,” Pelikan said.
One has to be at least 18-years-old to run for office. By the time he would take his oath of office in January 2017, Pelikan will be 18.
Pelikan’s interest in politics and social studies began when he was in elementary school and he said it has been growing since. His campaign works primarily on a platform called “cooperative democracy,” which is broken into three broad chapters encompassing empowering voters, investing in the state’s future and limiting taxes.
Pelikan said he has prioritized five tasks, which include developing an online platform citizens can use to view and comment on active legislation. This way, citizens can play a more active role in participating in the political process. Pelikan said he also looks to address the Wisconsin Department of Corrections’ policies on incarceration and change them to more cost-effective alternatives like rehabilitation and community service.
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Pelikan’s campaign also looks to reinvest in education and increase funding to the University of Wisconsin System and to after-school options in low-income school districts. Pelikan said he will offer improved tax incentives for businesses that remain in the state and offer adequate employment benefits here.
In addition, he said he wants encourage research and development in renewable energy and create long-term energy cost savings for the state.
Pelikan said his experience balancing school with campaign work has been “excellent but worrying,” since juggling school and an Assembly seat would also be difficult.
Pelikan said he also looks to participate in local parades and give more interviews to different media outlets before his campaign ends.
“I have learned a lot about campaigning, strengthened my positions on the issues, and made a few educational mistakes, which I think is a great experience as someone who wants to spend a lifetime in public service,” Pelikan said.
Pelikan’s opponent is incumbent Tea Party Republican Rep. Robert Brooks.
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Pelikan said he intends to attend college after he graduates high school. If he wins the election, he’d like to attend UW because it would let him work at the State Capitol and study simultaneously.
Pelikan said becoming the youngest member in the state Legislature could help him represent one of “America’s most impassioned demographics,” or students. The youth vote can have a significant impact on campaigns and elections and need to be heard, he said.
Pelikan said being young could also also bring new perspectives to the Legislature on issues like corrections reform.
As a student himself, Pelikan said it is worrisome that few people, especially students, are aware who their state legislators are and not all of them have ways to access information about them. He said it is important voters know about who represents them in government so that they make informed decisions.
One message that Pelikan said he would like to give young people looking to join politics is they do not have to conform to any label or party. He also said young people should be open to new ideas even if they are different from their own.
“For the first time in American history, we have a generation that has always the ability to easily access a wide variety sources and to make objective choices unfiltered by media sources or political parties,” Pelikan said.