By ABBY BIVENS
20-year-old Glen Burnie, Md. native Carissa Antonis works as a university host, serves as the president of Salisbury University’s College Democrats and the treasurer of College Democrats of Maryland, all while pursuing a dual degree in international relations and urban and regional planning.
Despite her hectic schedule, Antonis has decided to launch her political career during her sophomore year of college. On Dec. 12, Antonis filed to run for the Wicomico County Democratic Central Committee (WCDCC).
The committee consists of four male and four female Wicomico County residents, and all seats will be up for election on June 26 of this summer in the gubernatorial primary race.
Members of the WCDCC recruit candidates for local office and Congress, campaign for these individuals and raise money for the Democratic Party.
While positions on the committee have been traditionally held by older individuals, a majority of the committee has chosen not to run in 2018. Only two of the eight committee members have filed to run in this summer’s election.
One of the members not seeking reelection is Dr. Harry Basehart, SU emeritus professor of political science and the former advisor of SU’s College Democrats.
Dr. Basehart is currently the treasurer of the WCDCC and has served as a close mentor to Antonis.
Being elected to the WCDCC would just be the start for Antonis and her political aspirations.
“My ultimate goal is to become a United States senator, but I don’t know the stepping stones that will come between the WCDCC and that,” Antonis said. “Perhaps I will serve in the State Legislature at some point.”
Regarding the 2018 and 2020 elections, Antonis feels a major change coming. She is inspired by the amount of millennials that have decided to run for office in these next two elections.
Among the WCDCC 2018 candidates are three other SU undergraduate students Crystal Jones, Jake Burdett and Matthew Davidson as well as one graduate student, Amanda Jackson.
Antonis is close friends with some of the candidates and they made the decision to run together. The group of SU students hopes to support each other throughout the campaign, but the competition will get tougher as June approaches.
This specific election is a great opportunity for students due to the limitations on campaigning.
Candidates are not allowed to accept donations and cannot spend more than $1,000 of their money, thus making social media the ultimate tool for this election.
Antonis utilizes popular social media outlets like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for her campaign and plans to ramp up how often she posts near the end of March.
While many people are looking for the younger generation to take a greater role in politics, Antonis knows that she and other millennials running for the WCDCC are going to face some degree of backlash. Running for an office that is not typically held by young people puts them in the minority in the election.
“But just look at all of the change that these high schoolers from Parkland, Fla. are making,” Antonis said. “If you are passionate enough about something, you can accomplish it.”
Antonis feels that her odds are good, pointing out that as of the filing deadline five females are running for four positions. The competition is fiercer in the race for the male seats, with eight candidates for the four positions on the committee.
The WCDCC is guaranteed to have at least one female undergraduate from SU this year. Even if it is not her, Antonis thinks that is an exciting step for the WCDCC and SU students.
She feels that having young people and college students on the committee is absolutely necessary, especially since the city of Salisbury and Wicomico County has so many college students.
If elected, Antonis does not believe that a position on the WCDCC is going to interfere with her school work.
“It’s only really a few hours per month, a meeting and attending an event or two,” Antonis said. “With proper planning and time management, it’s not going to make or break anything.”
One change that Antonis wants to see in Wicomico County is a better participation from members of the Democratic Party.
“There are about 5,000 more registered Democrats in our county than there are Republicans, but we don’t see this representation,” Antonis said. “The Eastern Shore is known as a traditionally conservative region, but I don’t believe we need to stay that way.”
Antonis hopes this could encourage more SU students to get involved politically. The options are plenty, and she hopes people will take the simple step in joining College Republicans or Democrats to find individuals with like-minded ideas, or campaigning for local politicians that you believe in.
“Whichever way you vote, it’s going to make a difference” Antonis said.
Antonis referenced the example of Doug Jones’ narrow victory over Roy Moore in the Alabama special U.S. senate election of 2017.
“Some counties came down to single digits, this is truly proof that you can’t rely on everyone else to go vote for you- your vote counts, even in congressional races.”