Meet the college students running a political campaign

Meet the college students running a political campaign
Paul Pedranghelu (left) calls District 13 resident to encourage them to vote for Charles Lavine while Jared Goerke assembles lawn signs. (Photo by Teri West)

Twenty-year-olds Jared Goerke and Paul Pedranghelu are spending their Friday afternoons at a gutted out deli in Plainview. They have business to do there. It’s where they’re running an assemblyman’s campaign.

Goerke, the campaign manager, and field managers Pedranghelu and Sydney Morris, also 20, are the entirety of state Assemblyman Charles Lavine’s re-election campaign staff.

“It’s always a fun conversation when somebody asks, ‘Oh, what do you do?’” Goerke said. “When I tell them, their jaws drop.”

Both he and Lavine describe Goerke’s hiring as a very simple process, though Goerke was considerably more shocked by it than his boss.

Goerke set up a meeting with Lavine after interning for County Executive Laura Curran, hoping to get involved in Lavine’s re-election campaign. Lavine represents the 13th Assembly District, which includes parts of Roslyn.

Assemblyman Charles Lavine meets with his campaign manager and one of his field organizers in their campaign office. (Photo by Teri West)

They met, Lavine saw a dedicated, serious individual in Goerke, and he offered him the job. Goerke is still confused about how Lavine made that decision.

 “I am able to size up very quickly the capacities of people who have an interest in this field,” Lavine said.

Goerke found a bit of a learning curve at first but said Lavine’s encouraging mentorship has allowed him to grow confident in his position. He’s in the office when he’s not in class at SUNY Purchase College, which means Fridays and weekends. And the work doesn’t stop when he is on campus. He’s on the phone with Lavine around six times a day, Goerke said.

 Both Goerke and Pedranghelu discovered their passion for political involvement two years ago.

Goerke was, and still is, an arts management and history double major. His previous plan was to work in management on Broadway.

“Then, the 2016 presidential election happened,” he said.

In addition to the changes happening on a national scale, he saw local shifts. County Executive Edward Mangano and Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto were indicted for federal corruption, and Democrats Laura Curran and Lavine announced their candidacy to run for county executive. He wanted to get behind them.

Pedranghelu said he was “disgusted with the way things were going with Trump.”

Now they devote time to calling constituents, organizing volunteers and campaigning door-to-door.

Paul Pedranghelu has experienced every type of response to his campaign calls. When people hang up on him, he just laughs. (Photo by Teri West)

The two are excited by the current movements encouraging youth to vote and the increase in youth voter registration leading up to the November election.

“I think it’s amazing,” Pedranghelu said.

“We’re always the group that votes the least, and it’s about time that our generation decides we need to step up,” Goerke chimed in. “I think it’s just phenomenal to watch.”

Lavine has always valued including young people in the heart of his campaigns and his district office, he said. He hosts a summer program for young people who he says serve as a “think tank” for him rather than assistants executing mindless tasks. He once had a campaign manager who was a freshman in college.

He is inspired by the mentorship he found in the beginnings of his career, including as a student assistant to the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York during his time in law school.

“There is a real need to bring young people into the political and the governmental process,” Lavine said.

Which is why his Friday campaign meeting is with two 20-year old students, in the repurposed deli with a countdown to the election painted on the door.

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