WASHINGTON, D.C. — People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials (YEO) Network announced the recipients of its “35 Under 35” (#YEO35) award to honor passionate progressive leaders currently holding public office and setting new agendas for future generations.
The “35 Under 35” list recognizes impactful young elected officials at all levels of government who have advanced progressive change, made meaningful impacts on their communities, and contributed to the growth of the YEO Network and the progressive pipeline.
Recipients of this year’s award come from all over the country and represent a range of diverse backgrounds. The Southern region, where YEO has the largest and fastest growing number of members, has seven honorees from Georgia (3), Tennessee (2) and Florida (2). California has the most recipients in a single state with nine honorees on the list followed by Michigan with five honorees. Half of the honorees are women and more than 50 percent are people of color.
“Our YEO members work tirelessly to advocate for their communities who are often underrepresented and marginalized and in the midst of this pandemic, we wanted to share news about some of the YEOs who are transforming political vision into progressive action,” said Raquel Jones, YEO Network’s Program Manager. “The ‘35 Under 35’ honorees are some of the best and brightest young elected officials in America. Whether they come from sprawling urban centers or small rural towns, these recipients are enacting policies that lead to better lives.”
Selections. Honorees were chosen from a selection committee of YEO staff, alumni, and progressive champions close to the network and were scored based on four main criteria:
- Overall contribution as a member of the YEO Network
- Effectiveness in advancing progressive policy
- Involvement in and impact on their local community
- Historic imprint on the seat or body in which they are elected
YEO Firsts. Some of this year’s honorees include young elected officials like Massachusetts State Representative Natalie Higgins and Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors member Marcelia Nicholson. Higgins is the youngest and first LGBTQ person ever elected to her seat. She passed legislation supporting survivors of sexual assault and also filed the Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights. Nicholson sponsored important pieces of legislation to support a $15 minimum wage ordinance and to reduce evictions, and is vocal about racism as a public health crisis, eradicating sex trafficking, and funding for women of color entrepreneurs. Other notable recipients include Wisconsin Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes.
The YEO Network includes more than 1,300 members and alumni across the country, serving their communities and fighting for progressive values in offices ranging from local school boards to the United States Congress. Its membership is 39 percent women, 78 percent people of color, and 14 percent LGBTQ*. Program members and alumni include Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, former HUD secretary Julián Castro and Congressman Joaquin Castro, and former Georgia state legislator and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams.
15 Years! YEO is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. Because of the coronavirus, the Network has postponed its 15th Annual National Convening, which was scheduled in Atlanta for late April. Throughout this anniversary year, YEO is creating virtual, social distance-friendly ways for members to share information, learn and engage, while also planning contingencies for other 2020 programming, including Regional YEO Mixers, a 2020 Women’s Fellowship, a special Policy Academy, and its Front Line Leaders Academy, a six-month training program for aspiring community leaders. Most recently, YEO released a collection of online resources to support local government leaders through the coronavirus pandemic.
About the Young Elected Officials Network
The Young Elected Officials Network (YEO) was founded in 2005 with the mission to unite and support elected officials ages 35 and under who share a passion for building communities that reflect values of freedom, fairness, and opportunity for all.
A program of, by, and for young, passionate progressives holding elected office across the country, the YEO Network is committed to policy aligned with our vision for a fair, just society. The YEO Network provides cutting edge programming, investing in the full pipeline of progressive leadership and building sustained relationships with our members. We provide the resources young elected officials need to effectively impact policy, foster their own development and professional growth, and elevate their leadership in the broader progressive movement.