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New York’s youngest elected official talks career, midterms

In a Monday roundtable discussion at Lathrop, Hannah Zimmerman ’21 — New York’s youngest elected official — discussed her political journey and the 2018 midterm elections. Zimmerman was elected to the New York County Democratic Committee in 2017 after running unopposed at the age of 17.

She entered politics during the 2016 election cycle, campaigning for Bernie Sanders and serving as the youngest delegate at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

In 2017, despite gathering over three times the number of signatures needed to run for a county committee seat, Zimmerman was almost disqualified because she was not yet old enough to be in the system as a registered voter. After sending a letter to the Board of Elections and spending three days arguing her case in person, Zimmerman was allowed to be on the ballot.

Because of her campaign, an elections provision was passed to allow 17-year-olds to run for office in New York as long as they pre-registered to vote. Zimmerman plans to run workshops to prepare other New York high school students to run for office, especially students who will remain in the city for college.

“I will no longer be New York’s youngest elected official,” Zimmerman said. “I will be able to able to bring in a new generation of elected officials.”

Zimmerman’s other responsibilities as committeewoman involve nominating local judicial candidates and Democratic nominees in special elections as well as attending biannual meetings, for which she either flies home or appoints a proxy to go in her place.

Zimmerman said she plans to run for reelection in June in addition to returning to work for a national campaign as part of the 2020 presidential elections.

She is currently working as a national student organizer for Our Revolution, a progressive grassroots organization that grew out of the Sanders campaign, to organize “practical” youth-focused activism for the 2018 midterm elections. In partnership with Teen Vogue, Zimmerman was also editor-in-chief of a voter guide for teens looking to get involved in the midterms. She is currently working on an online campaign playbook for the 2020 elections to teach social media management and other digital strategies to campaigns, especially in rural areas, that would otherwise not have such resources.

“There is no shortage of political ideas, but there is a real shortage of political know-how,” Zimmerman said.

Campaigns Zimmerman will be watching in Tuesday’s elections include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign for New York’s 14th congressional district, Kara Eastman’s campaign for Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district and Stacey Abrams’ gubernatorial campaign against Brian Kemp in Georgia.

Zimmerman, who worked with Ocasio-Cortez on the Sanders campaign, said she was excited to see young people becoming more involved in politics, both on a national level and at Stanford.

“So many of the people I worked with are staffing these incredible campaigns across the country,” Zimmerman said. “It’s just crazy to me to think that in 2016, I was scrambling trying to find things to do when Bernie Sanders was no longer running for president, and now there are so many campaigns, candidates, organizations, people ready to go.”

Contact Erin Woo at erinkwoo ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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