In the 2015 Bloomington primary election, there were 15 candidates on the Bloomington City Council ballot. This year, there will be 20. Six of the candidates are under age 40.
In a year of a distinct increase in people running, candidates’ reasons are varied but carry similar themes. Some are a part of underrepresented groups on the city council like young people and the working class, and others want fresh ideas and more responsive council members.
Many candidates, however, pin their increased interest in politics on the 2016 national elections.
“To say the 2016 elections has nothing to do with it would be naive,” District 1 council candidate Denise Valkyrie said.
District 4 council candidate Miah Michaelsen said she thinks people are feeling the call to serve to enact the change they want to see, and city council offers the opportunity for anyone to run for office.
“For someone who isn’t a career politician, it’s the fact they can serve,” she said.
Michaelsen said she thinks the number of candidates running and the diversity of ideas, despite the majority of the candidates being Democrats, indicates a healthy Democratic party in Bloomington.
For District 1 council candidate Kate Rosenbarger, it’s about a lack of young voices she sees in city government, which is affecting how well the community serves the mid-20s to 30s age group. She said the city is lacking what young adults want and need.
“Bloomington is growing, but young people are not calling it home,” Rosenbarger said.
District 2 council candidate Sue Sgambelluri said she sees the increase in candidates to be a result of the 2016 elections.
“I think it’s a realization that there’s an opportunity to serve every day,” Sgambelluri said. “And there’s also people who really care about certain issues.”
Valkyrie and at-large candidate Vauhxx Booker both are running to represent the working class. Booker is a renter, and Valkyrie has been working and going to school to finish her bachelor’s degree for over 20 years.
“I’ve worked and taken classes and taken loans out as I’ve taken classes,” Valkyrie said.
She said she thinks the 2016 election ultimately made people want to get more politically involved.
“They’re starting to understand how important local government is,” Valkyrie said.