Isaac Misiuk, a second-year political science major at USM and now a contender for Congress, sees young Republicans like himself as the future of the party.
The 24 year-old Misiuk was the first Republican candidate to enter the upcoming race against incumbent Chellie Pingree for the congressional 1st district seat. He hopes that his relative inexperience and youth will stand as proof that he is not a “career politician,” to counter Pingree’s well-established political career.
Misiuk’s own career in politics consists of his time as student senator and resurrector of the formerly defunct College Republicans group at USM, as well as working for the Maine Senate Republicans as field staff, field director of voting efforts for the College Republican National Committee in the last election and Vice Chair of the Cumberland County Young Republicans.
He explained the timing of his first foray into national politics is much simpler. “The longer we wait, the worse it’ll get,” Misiuk told the Free Press, referring to the economic issues individuals, and young people in particular, are facing in the current economy. He went on to describe college graduates he knew who were trying to pay off student loans working minimum wage jobs. However, when asked what action he felt should be taken with regard to student loans, Misiuk said, “Education is not a top priority.”
While explaining his reason for running, he also discussed the number of Maine college graduates moving to look for work out of state. However, Misiuk said he did not have a definite plan yet of how to address this issue.
Misiuk would be a relatively young member of Congress, considering that in 2011, the average age of the Republican congress members was 54.9, and the youngest member of Congress was around 30. In fact, candidates are required to be 25 years old to serve on Congress–Misiuk is eligible because he will have a birthday before the term he is running for begins. To this, he explained that his age and inexperience should be proof that he is not a career politician.
“I am young,” Misiuk said, “demographically, this district is as well.” He said he does not see his youth as an impediment to his goal. He intends to win Maine’s Republican party over by taking the time to sit down and talk to them, and said, “People like me, and fellow young Republicans, we are the future of the party.”
According to Dr. Ron Schmidt, Professor of Political Science at USM, the meager number of candidates who’ve entered the race so far could be explained by the reluctance of established Republican candidates to run against Democratic incumbent Chellie Pingree.
“Pingree is popular, and incumbency conveys enormous advantage,” Schmidt said. Running against her, then, is a risky venture for a politician who might already have a job. On the other hand, people like Misiuk, who are hoping to break into the political scene, he said, will build name recognition even in a losing race.
Dr. Schmidt, however, warned against thinking of political parties as unified edifices. “The GOP in Maine is faced with some of the same issues as the GOP is nationally: who do we want to be?” The Republican party nationwide is currently composed of several distinct factions, ranging from a push to enforce more traditional Republican values to a more libertarian value for de-regulation and government non-involvement, according to Schmidt. Misiuk, with his claim that, whatever his own beliefs are, “What’s important is what’s good for the state,” seems to fall more into the second camp, but when asked for his stance on specific issues, he said he had not finalized his official platform.
“Generally speaking, Mainers have a practical streak when dealing with their elected officials,” said Schmidt. He went on to say that Misiuk’s best chance with Mainers would be to show that he can work within the current political framework to get things done, “rather than just symbolic votes.”
Schmidt said that he has seen an increasing number of students running for office as a way of interacting with the national political framework, often as a way of bringing attention to certain concerns and issues. “I think it’s a good sign when students want to engage politically,” Schmidt said. Misiuk’s campaign, which is not at this time seem to have a more specific focus than Misiuk’s description of the state’s troubled economy and the lack of prospects for college graduates, does not seem to fit the profile Schmidt described, however.
Misiuk will not return to USM in the fall, but will instead take time off to focus on his campaign, which he says hopes to fund through grassroots donation-gathering and careful budgeting of campaign funds.