GOP group takes wing in Beaver County
By Rachel Weaver
Published: Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, 7:47 p.m.
A grassroots group of young people in Beaver County organized with the hope of inspiring political involvement among their peers.
Pennsylvania Young Republicans granted a charter for the Beaver County Young Republicans in October, and the group has attracted 15 members, ages 18 to 40, said its spokesman, Jeremy Lese.
“We've been talking about creating real change in Beaver County, and the best way to do that is with young Republicans,” said Lese, 25, of Beaver.
The goal, he said, is to double membership over the next two years, drawing largely from college students in the area.
Department of State records show 108,864 registered voters in Beaver County. Of them, 32 percent are Republican, 57 percent are Democrat, 3 percent are listed as “no affiliation” and 7 percent as “other.” Beaver County Democrat Committee officials could not be reached for comment.
Beaver County residents tend to be older than average: The median age is 44.3, compared with 40.3 in Pennsylvania and 37.3 in the country, according to the 2010 Census.
Young Republican Chairman Robert Williams, 31, of Beaver Falls said people are taking more of an interest in politics because the weak economy has affected their livelihood. Younger people are able to assist with campaigns in ways that older people might not be able to, he said.
“We can go out and put up signs and knock on doors,” Williams said. “Some older (people) don't always want to go out and do those things.”
That energy can be an advantage to fledgling grassroots groups, said Kathleen Blee, a University of Pittsburgh sociology professor and author of “Democracy in the Making,” for which she observed more than 60 Pittsburgh activist groups.
The most successful social movements are composed of young people, she said.
“Young people have enormous influence and energy. They have newer ideas, and they are very skilled at technology and social media,” Blee said. “Older people have more political experience, but that can be outweighed by what young people bring to the table.”
Yet it's common for fledging groups to fizzle quickly, she cautioned.
“Most grassroots groups don't last very long,” Blee said. “They are volunteer groups, difficult to maintain. Some accomplish a lot, even in a short amount of time.”
Groups often fail because their focus becomes too narrow.
“You have to constantly be reinventing yourself and always welcoming new members,” Blee said. “The most successful groups reach out to people not like themselves.”
State Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver County, said he's confident the Young Republicans can thrive, in light of recent Republican electoral victories, including his and that of state Sen. Elder Vogel, R-New Sewickley. Both were elected to their first terms in 2008.
Christiana advocates for school choice, charter schools, vouchers and money for cyber schools — matters that might affect young families. He said energetic young people are the campaign supporters that “every candidate dreams of.”
“That excitement and energy will lead to continued growth,” Christiana said.
Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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