At 20 years old, most college students have a summer internship lined up – unpaid, of course. Maybe they’re starting to think about graduate school and weighing the pros and cons of moving back home in two years. Mostly, they’re just looking forward to turning 21. At 20 years old, most college students don’t even know what they’re majoring in.

At 20 years old, Jonathan C. Hayes is running to be a delegate for the Republic National Convention.

Hayes, a sophomore at University of Richmond, will be the youngest person on the ballot in the 10th congressional district of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The delegates and alternate delegates for the Republic National Convention will be voted for during the Pennsylvania primary election on April 26, 2016. Each district will send three delegates and three alternate delegates to the convention in Cleveland, Ohio, which will take place July 18–21, 2016.

More than anything, Hayes wants to be a voice for the youngest generation of voters. “The political system has undermined my generation for too long, and it’s time that we send a message,” he said.

Hayes is on the ballot for both the delegate and alternate delegate positions to ensure he is able to attend the convention regardless of winning the delegation. For the delegate position, Hayes is competing against 13 other people for three spots. However, for the alternate position, there are also three spots but only one other candidate running.

An alternate has all the same responsibilities and privileges as a delegate at the convention, but does not get a vote.

“My main goal is to go to the convention, period,” Hayes said, determined.

The candidate affidavit form Hayes had to sign and get notarized to get on the ballot. | Photo courtesy of Jonathan Hayes.

In order to get on the ballot, Hayes had to collect at least 250 signatures from district residents to petition the Department of State. Since he was at school, he had a lot of help from community members and family, but also from Stephen Dunkle, Mifflin County Commissioner.

Hayes met Dunkle last year at a candidates forum when Dunkle was running for the commissioner position, and Hayes asked to work on his campaign. Dunkle was the first to pitch the idea to Hayes of becoming a delegate for the convention.

Dunkle said he saw in Hayes the ingredients for a good delegate: energy, enthusiasm, passion and interest in politics.

“His interest in the political process is really exceptional for somebody that’s still in college,” Dunkle said. “I also saw similarities between myself and him when I was his age because I, too, became engaged in politics at a very early age.”

In fact, Dunkle also attended Republican National Conventions in 1980, 1984, 1988 and 2000, but he wasn’t quite as young as Hayes.

Because Hayes is new to the political arena, one of the challenges of getting elected will be name recognition.

It’s easier to get elected if you come from a larger county, Dunkle said, and Mifflin County is one of the smaller ones.

Luck will also play a role, Dunkle said, because the order that the names appear in on the ballot is drawn randomly, not alphabetically.

Although he hasn’t been elected yet, Hayes knows who he wants to see as the Republican presidential nominee.

“There’s a rule that we have to run as unpledged delegates, but at this point I’m inclined to vote for Marco Rubio,” Hayes said. “His message is one that the Republican party needs to have.”

Hayes said he believed the Republican party was the “best way forward for our country in terms of economic opportunity, personal liberty and having an optimistic message for the future.”

Hayes urged young people like himself to become more politically active and “show up,” whether that means attending a rally or watching a debate. He believes his generation needs to have a larger presence at all political functions, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.

“The message that I hope to send whether I lose or win is that it’s OK to step up to the plate and to put your name out there and make your voice be heard,” Hayes said.

To be fair to all the other 20-year-olds out there, Hayes hasn’t declared his major yet, either. 

Contact copy editor Rebecca Fradkin at rebecca.fradkin@richmond.edu.