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This 25-Year-Old Survived A Dirty Campaign In Hopes To Become Youngest In Congress

What's happening with #ErinForUs? I spoke with Forbes about what we're fighting for moving forward. 

by Natalie Sportelli

It’s a cloudy primary day in California and one Marin County resident is intently watching the regional exit polls. Erin Schrode, 25, an entrepreneur, is particularly invested in the results of this election. Why? Because she’s on the ballot. Schrode is one of four candidates hoping to represent the 2nd congressional district of her home state in the capital. She’s up against incumbent Jared Huffman, 52, also a Democrat, and another Democrat and Independent challenger, a middle school History teacher. It’s an underdog campaign for sure, but Schrode has big plans if she ultimately earns a seat in the House come November.

Her biggest weakness as a candidate is also her greatest strength: she’s very young. That’s part of the whole reason she’s running. She believes her demographic isn’t properly represented in Washington. “There’s a real need to engage our generation in policy and politics is where our voices are needed,” she says. “The decisions made today disproportionately affect us and what we have is anything but representation in who’s making the decisions.”

Today, Schrode and her team are gathered in her headquarters, sharing pizza (with a Gluten-free option) waiting for the results to roll in later tonight. She says she can’t believe the day has finally come. She first launched her campaign with a Medium post a little over two months ago and is surprised by the waves she’s created during her short time in politics.

“We’re definitely ruffling feathers and posing more as serious competition than anyone could have foreseen,” says Schrode, who’s been supported by over 170 campaign volunteers. Part of her impact has been strategically using technology to reach voters. Whether that’s campaigning via Facebook Live video or swapping Snapchat handles with other influencers, Schrode’s team has focused on canvassing both door to door and digitally.

“We’re seeing tweets and posts on Instagram where people are saying that they’re voting for us,” says Schrode energetically. “And seeing supporters put the signs in their yards. It’s exciting to feel that momentum.”

Schrode’s agenda includes student debt reform, paid parental leave, tech innovation and climate action. She hopes to serve her constituents living along a large portion of California’s coast by addressing climate change and pushing for better preparation for natural disasters. With a large aging population, she asks “How do we invest in innovation and technology and startup culture to bring young people here and start businesses here?”

As a challenger to an incumbent of the same party, Schrode has faced criticism and been denied endorsements. While she hasn’t had trouble getting national coverage, she’s found that local reporters aren’t willing to talk to her. Some have called her out for playing “identity politics” and have even refused to acknowledge her campaign at all. Schrode says that a low point, among the many highs, of running her campaign has been coping with targeted personal attacks, anti-semitic hate speech and threats. “It’s been incessant and horrific,” she says of the online abuse. “The current culture of politics is fueling that rhetoric. We need to change that rhetoric.”

Even she doesn’t get the results she wants later tonight, Schrode has a back up plan. The New York University grad will keep working on her startup Turning Green and continue to advocate for social justice issues, but politics will still have a place in her agenda.

“Over the next five months, I’m very invested in ensuring we have a Democrat in the White House in November,” she says.

Don't forget to take a look at more of Forbes...

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