As of July 1, 2016, millennials, defined then as ages 20 to 35, numbered 71 million in the U.S. but cast only 34 million votes in the presidential election that year. In looking specifically at young people, ages 18-29, they cast just 24 million votes. Disappointed and disheartened by the seemingly lackluster level of civic engagement among their peers, Sara Kubida and Campbell Dunsmore set out on a nonpartisan mission to mobilize change. Using shareable video – their generations’ content consumption vehicle of choice – to present real-talk conversations with political candidates from around the country, these millennial women launched Candidates & Coffee, an online interview series that aims to rally more young Americans to get informed and exercise their right to vote.
Sara and Campbell, two twentysomething New York City based artists, both heavily engaged in national politics, acknowledge they never considered “the importance of local politics until the most recent presidential election.” Seeing so many of their peers disengaged from actively participating in the democratic process at the highest level in November 2016, they started to consider the local political arena as an opportunity to drive interest and voting action in more millennials. To put theory into practice, Sara and Campbell knew they had to better understand “how local government works, and the tangible changes that can be made for local communities by the people who live in them.”
The first step was educating themselves about local elections and the candidates running in their state and district. But they kept coming up short in trying to find helpful and digestible electoral information online. It became very clear, very quickly that Sara and Campbell were going to have to create the type of content they were looking for – authentic, meaningful, engaging, and shareable – that would resonate with other young Americans.
The dynamic duo got to work producing, shooting and hosting Candidates & Coffee, a nonpartisan, intimate video series featuring interviews with political candidates running for state or local office. Their first season focused on New York City, and premiered on Facebook and YouTube in October 2017 before the mayoral election. The interviews they did with candidates for NYC Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate reached over 30,000 people.
Filmed as casual chats over a cup of coffee on a stoop in a politician or candidate’s city, or on a walk through their local park, every interview is formulated “to break down any political persona or any purported party allegiance,” Sara shared. “And that’s so young voters can get to know the candidates as people, which will hopefully help them decide if they like how they are being represented locally and nationally.” The end result is a rich blend of the power of conversation and civil discourse, the value of truth and authenticity, and the importance of political accountability.
All interviews from the first season of Candidates & Coffee are available online through the social platforms most frequently used by young people: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram/IGTV, YouTube. Determined to continue shining a spotlight on how local government works, while empowering their young American viewers to claim greater political responsibility, Campbell and Sara started shooting the second season of Candidates & Coffee in late August 2018, while simultaneously raising money to fund their work.
“We are crowdfunding because we believe this project needs to be by the people for the people,” Campbell explained. The all-or-nothing campaign she and Sara are currently running has a goal amount of $25,000, which will give them the money they need to film and complete 42 interviews with state officials in some of the most contentious districts in the 2018 midterm elections with a low median age, including Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District, and New York’s 19th Congressional District. As Sara noted, “If millennials show up to vote in these areas, they’ll have a massive impact, so we want to do our part in making that happen.”
Lead image (left to right): Sara Kubida, NYC Public Advocate Letitia “Tish” James, and Campbell Dunsmore from season 1 of Candidates & Coffee. Last month, in September 2018, Tish won the Democratic primary for NYS attorney general, becoming the first black woman to win a major party statewide nomination. If elected this November, she’ll be the first Black attorney general in NY State history.
We’re In This Together… Support Campbell and Sara Now
With the 2018 midterms looming, be a part of the Candidates & Coffee mission to inspire more eligible young Americans to exercise their right to vote by supporting Campbell and Sara’s crowdfunding campaign now.
They are Women You Should Know and Women You Should Fund.