Elise Stefanik proves that youth is no barrier to political success. At age 30, she is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
During her first days as a congresswoman, congressional personnel asked to see Stefanik’s badge, surprised that someone her age is a lawmaker. The U.S. Constitution sets 25 as the minimum age that someone can serve in the House of Representatives (30 is the minimum for the U.S. Senate).
Stefanik, who represents New York state’s 21st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, started campaigning in 2013 — from a Ford pickup truck.
“She put well over 100,000 miles on that truck,” Russ Schriefer, Stefanik’s ad-maker, told Roll Call. “She’d drive five hours to meet with a half a dozen people.”
During the campaign, Stefanik billed herself as a candidate for “new ideas and a new generation of leadership in Washington.”
Reaching Congress did not come easy for the Harvard University graduate. Stefanik first had to win a primary election to gain her Republican party’s nomination for the seat and then defeat a Democratic opponent in the November 2014 general election.
In a Congress where the average age is 58, Stefanik sees her youth as an asset.
“I think that’s where being young is a strength, because I bring, I hope, a sunny side of optimism to Congress, and a willingness to work with people,” Stefanik told CBS News.
Stefanik is not the only young woman to make political history in recent elections. Saira Blair, an 18-year-old college student in West Virginia, became the country’s youngest state lawmaker in the November election.