By Eric Heinz
A few students from the high school graduating class of 2018 and other young politicians are intending to run for their respective City Councils. Some of the students only gained the right to vote within the last year, as some are 18 years old.
In San Clemente, Jackson Hinkle and Jake Rybczyk, both 18, along with organizers of Orange County Students for City Council, an organization supporting the young candidates, are running on the same ticket. Their objectives are, primarily, to get cities to run on more green and sustainable fuels as well as adopt overall environmentally safe practices. They are also passionate about the efforts to move the spent nuclear waste at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) to a permanent storage facility in thick and secure canisters.
As of July 11, there were six candidates who are endorsed by the Students group including Hinkle and Rybczyk: Ian Macdonald, 20, is running for Buena Park City Council’s District 2; Jose Trinidad Castañeda, 27, is running for Fullerton City Council; Mahmoud El-Farra, 18, is running for Mission Viejo City Council; and Manuel Chavez, 22, Costa Mesa City Council’s District 4. More candidates could join the organization in the future.
At a rally at the San Clemente Library on July 9, the Students coalition spoke about their organization and why they feel they’re the right candidates, who will likely face opponents two, three even four times their age and possibly have years of political and professional experience.
“I think age probably is going to be the biggest obstacle (to getting elected),” Hinkle said. “Even though the policies we’re putting forth, with some of them, people will write-off instantly. When we start having these debates and candidate forums, I think people will see there are projects out there that have worked, like ending homelessness projects, but I do think people will see us for our age first.”
Jackson Hinkle, who helped start Orange County Students for City Council, speaks to an audience on July 9 at San Clemente Library's front lawn. Photo: Eric Heinz
Jake Rybczyk, who intends to run for San Clemente City Council, graduated high school in June. Candidates and supporters of the Orange County Students for City Council coalition held a rally on July 9 at the San Clemente Library. Most of the candidates are right out of high school. Photo: Eric Heinz
The local band Seven Rays performed before and after the rally on July 9 at San Clemente Library. Photo: Eric Heinz
CUSD Board Member Amy Hanacek, District 1, spoke in support of the students running for local government office on July 9 at San Clemente Library's lawn. Photo: Eric Heinz
Rybcyzk said at the rally that he’s currently a student at Saddleback College and has been knocking on doors and making phone calls to get his campaign started.
“I feel inspired to run. Living and breathing in this city has taught me so much,” Rybcyzk said, adding he’s been disturbed by the amount of debris on San Clemente’s beaches and mentioned the SONGS fuel issues. “I’ve had to work with this community to benefit me, myself and my own family. I want to see San Clemente have a better quality of life. It’s time for a new point of view.”
In order to receive support, candidates must be 27 years old or younger, pledge not to take any corporate funding for their campaign and raise funds through grassroots donations. The Students coalition has also hosted events where they encouraged people to register to vote.
The organization has already received some notable press in interviews with web-based progressive show The Young Turks and various local media.
Orange County Students for City Council intends to host other events and possibly its own candidate forum in the coming months. Candidates are not officially able to pull nomination papers for City Council in San Clemente until July 16 for the Nov. 6 general election. This year, there are three seats up for election. City Councilmember Lori Donchak has already said she’s not going to defend her seat. The San Clemente Times will report and keep an update on candidates as nomination papers are pulled for San Clemente’s City Council election.