This 19-Year-Old Is About To Become The Youngest State Legislator In Wisconsin, Maybe The U.S.

This 19-Year-Old Is About To Become The Youngest State Legislator In Wisconsin, Maybe The U.S.

At 19, Kalan Haywood is months away from being sworn in as the youngest lawmaker in Wisconsin — maybe the country — but it’s illegal for him to drink a beer or rent a car.

Haywood will represent Milwaukee’s 16th District after a winning a primary against five fellow Democratic challengers. There were no Republican challengers, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. He defeated Supreme Moore Omokunde, Rick Banks, Danielle McClendon-Williams, and Brandy Bond in the Democratic primary on Aug. 14. He’ll be running unopposed in the general election on Nov. 6, and the seat is expected to be his in January.

Source: Ballotpedia, https://ballotpedia.org/Kalan_Haywood

Milwaukee saw a decline of about 41,000 voters in the 2016 election compared with 2012, the Milwaukee Journal reported. Haywood represents a district in the center of the city.

One of the first pieces of legislation he wants to introduce is amending a new state law requiring high school students to pass a civics exam. He also proposes requiring those students to register to vote if they are 18 years old.

“Adding the requirement of registering to vote is very important, especially in my district where we get a very low (voter) turnout compared to a total population,” Haywood said.

A second-year business major at Cardinal Stritch University, Haywood said his age is his biggest asset.

“Being young is going to play well with some people, but there will also be people who doubt me because of my age, which is fair — it’s new,” Haywood told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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There will probably be no one younger than Haywood serving in a state Legislature, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“I am not aware of any legislators younger than 20 at the moment, so it is likely that if a 19-year-old was just elected that he would be the youngest state legislator out there,” said John Mahoney, a policy specialist at the NCSL’s Center for Legislative Strengthening, in a Milwaukee Journal report.

The average state lawmaker is a white, male, Protestant baby boomer (born in the mid 1940s to 1964) with a graduate degree and a business background, according to NCSL.

Kalan Haywood
Kalan Haywood. Photo: Haywood for Assembly press release

White men hold most positions at all levels of government, despite only making up 31 percent of the U.S. population, according to a 2017 study of demographics of elected officials by the Reflective Democracy Campaign. When you break it out by party, the study found that nearly 100 percent of all Republican elected officials are white and 76 percent are men. Democrat elected officials are 79 percent white and 65 percent male.

“The increased number of people of color we are seeing as candidates doesn’t just happen every day. We are witnessing history, ya’ll,” wrote Sen. Lena C. Taylor (D-Milwaukee) in a Sept. 1 Milwaukee Courier guest column.

Haywood is a familiar face in Milwaukee’s political arena and has been working in the community since his early teens, according to his bio on WisconsinVote.org.

At 14, he was elected to the Milwaukee Youth Council and served as its president from 2015 to 2017. During his tenure, he worked with the city of Milwaukee Community Development Block Grant Office, which allocated funds for programs focused on youth employment and education. He graduated from Rufus King International High School in 2017.

Haywood was a catalyst in developing the Milwaukee Public School’s, “MPS Cares” and the “#No Free Rides” initiatives.

He is now chairman of the Common Council’s Restorative Justice Initiative Advisory Board, working to create a youth court to reduce recidivism, encourage positive behavior, and empower young people. He works closely with the mayor’s office, Milwaukee Police Department and municipal court.

Haywood said he became interested in public service a decade ago when Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett attended the a groundbreaking of a building project — Haywood’s dad is a prominent real estate developer.

“I actually knew I wanted to run for office since I was 8 years old, “Haywood said. “I thought then, ‘(The mayor) has a cool job — I want to do what he’s doing.'”

The Milwaukee population is 40 percent Black, 17.3 percent Hispanic and 44.8 percent white, according to the 2010 Census.