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The Antelope

UNK student casts bid for Kearney city council

Jaden Longfellow said he plans to represent the young people in his candidacy.


On Friday, UNK student Jaden Longfellow announced his bid for Kearney’s city council at the G.W. Frank House. Longfellow, 20, is among the youngest to ever run for office in Kearney.

Despite this being his first political experience, Longfellow says he’s ready to bring fresh ideas to the table.

“I am running to represent the young people in our community — the students, the tenants and the working class people of this community who haven’t had a chance to have their voices heard — especially on our local politics and really not at any level of our government.” said Longfellow, a Kearney High alumnus now majoring in political science. “I am focusing on making sure that we can have a voice in the way our city’s run.”

The event began with an introduction from Longfellow’s campaign manager, Haley Mazour, who had encouraged him to run prior to his announcement. Accompanying her name on her sticker name tag were her preferred pronouns, a theme common among the young attendants at the launch party. 

Including the candidate himself.

“We have a pretty diverse campaign group so far,” Longfellow said. “And we’re proud of that, because we all think it’s important that everyone gets their voice heard no matter how obscure or marginalized they are. I want to be the person that anyone can come to if they want a problem addressed at our city council, and I will happily fight for them.”

As a political science student, Longfellow has studied how government and politics operate. And as a Kearney resident, he says he’s seen how they operate not only on the national scale, but on a localized stage here in town.

For Longfellow, this election is about the place he’s always called home.

“A lot of the basic things for my ideal vision of Kearney are already there,” Longfellow said. “For example in 2008, when a string of tornadoes came through our town and made a lot of damage, the next morning everyone got out, and it didn’t matter how much money they had what petty grievances they had the day before, they all helped each other out. And that is the basis of what I want to see expanded upon in the way our community runs.”

“The first memory I have is the day we drove into Kearney, and everything else has been living here,” Longfellow said. He moved to Kearney from Grand Island with his family at three years old. After moving from home to home in town, they finally settled within walking distance of the school. 

“My mom made a joke that I could walk to school from kindergarten through college — that is until they decided to move the school to the other end of town,” Longfellow said. “The original building had a special emotional connection especially after it was gone, especially because of the auditorium which I had been performing orchestra in and going to see and support my friends in theater in for a long, long time.”

Longfellow continues to be involved in theatre at UNK. He worked as a member of the sound crews for both “She Kills Monsters” and “I Love You Because,” and is designing the upcoming spring show “Silent Sky.” Longfellow attributes his involvement in the community and in extracurricular activities to preparing him to run for office, especially his involvement in his high school speech team and in Boy Scouts Troop 158.

Extracurriculars are what Longfellow says prepared him to run for office.

“Speech helped me not be terrified of speaking in public, which is a major part of running for office, and even just as a normal citizen in politics, it’s important to know how to speak fluently and clearly in front of crowds,”  Longfellow said. “The biggest thing, for me at least, was being in the Boy Scouts and all that taught me about leadership, how to lead people, how to organize people to make sure things get done and be not only an effective leader, but an effective role model.”

Even with all that Longfellow has done to prepare for this campaign, he still faces questions about his youth and inexperience.

“For me, I think that youth is not a flaw or a weakness, it’s a strength,” Longfellow said. “Our young people are vastly different from people even a couple decades older than them. We have a lot of different interests that we believe need to be addressed.”

The driving interest behind Longfellow’s campaign is housing. While Longfellow’s claim that “all if not most of the city council members are landlords” as reported in other media and later stated in his campaign launch is false—Tami Moore is the only member who rents property to tenants, though she and the others are all property owners— the idea that a tenant should be on the city council is not necessarily based in bad faith. A 2017 housing survey found that 48.6% of Kearney residents are tenants, making this a sizable portion of Kearney’s population that Longfellow says needs representation on the city council.

“Students make up about a fifth of the population of Kearney when school is in session,” Longfellow said. “Our student population, and really our international students, can be really heavily exploited, and quite a few of them are right now We want to see that that goes away and to make sure that housing is quality, not run down and not being run by some cartoon caricature of a slumlord.”

Longfellow’s proposal to support the renting community is a Tenants’ Bill of Rights, a set of provisions to protect renters and help keep housing costs low. This plan proposes policies such as first-come, first-serve renting, which prevents discrimination by ensuring that the first person to meet a landlord’s publicly stated criteria is allowed to rent the property. 

Other issues on Longfellow’s platform include a $15 minimum wage and putting a challenge to the idea that land is power in Kearney.

“I know it doesn’t matter whether or not I win,” Lonfellow said. “If I even just come close, we’re going to put a big old dent in that idea. And that’s for the better I think.” 

Longfellow’s campaign seems to be gearing up to focus their efforts on students and young people by encouraging them to register to vote here in Kearney. 

With the sizable population of eligible voters at the university, this is a key demographic for Longfellow’s campaign.

“We’re putting a lot of resources into making sure that students can get registered and get registered in the correct places,” Longfellow said. “If they want to register in Kearney, they have that option and we’re going to make sure they know that. But we’re going to obviously have to do that in a way that encourages them to vote here in Kearney because that’s where they spend most of their time, and what Kearney does really affects them in the large amount of time that they are here.”

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