Milford resident Austin Auen wants a legislator to sponsor a bill that would lower the age of eligibility for a Delaware State Representative from 24 to 18. If any young man in this state could get this accomplished, it would have to be Austin!
I’ve known Austin for a few years now. Back in the 2012-2013 school year, I worked as a paraprofessional and substitute teacher at Campus Community School in Dover. I was subbing for a Spanish class one day, and I noticed this one student finished all his work early. I started talking with him, and found out his name was Austin Auen. He knew a lot more about politics and the state of Delaware than your average kid. I quickly surmised he was a Republican, and he reminded me of Michael J. Fox’s Family Ties character, Alex P. Keaton.
Flash forward a few years later, and Austin is a Senior at Polytech. I saw him last week at the first day of the 148th General Assembly when all the House Representatives were sworn in. We talked about the whole Kowalko vs. Schwartkopf fued. When I saw a post Austin put on Facebook, I had no idea what this young man had been up to. This was the post I saw:
I am happy to announce that this legislative session in Delaware I am making an effort to try and find a Senator or Representative to work with me to develop two things in Delaware:
1. A constitutional amendment to the state constitution that changes the age citizens can run for the House from 24 to 18
2. A bill to make it a graduation requirement for Delaware students to pass a civics exam.
Wish me luck as I try and make a legislative difference in the state….
I knew I had to interview him. This is NOT your average teenager. I reached out to Mr. Auen and he graciously agreed to be interviewed.
Exceptional Delaware: Austin, it’s been a few years. What are you doing with your life these days
Austin: I am currently a high school senior at POLYTECH, I’ve recently passed my senior thesis, therefore basically passed high school and focusing on some outside interests like government. I am currently in the running for a Lake Forest School Board race in May.
This is no joke. You can see the press release here:
AUSTIN AUEN FOR LAKE FOREST SCHOOL BOARD
Committee to Elect Austin Auen
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“Democratic candidate for Insurance Commissioner announces leave of race”
Today, Monday January 19th, 2015 Candidate Austin Auen has announced that he no longer wishes to seek the office of Insurance Commissioner, but to seek an office he would be more attune to helping the people of Delaware. Auen has announced his intentions to seek a seat on the Lake Forest School Board.
Auen cites his years as a student, plus his involvement with State Legislators, Youth in Government programs and local leaders as experience for this seat. The election will be held May of 2015. Auen said that he hasn’t made an endorsement yet but will soon.
For information call 302-264-7967 or email email@example.com
Exceptional Delaware: What do you think of the 148th General Assembly? Do we have a good group for the next two years?
Austin: The 148th General Assembly is certainly interesting. I think this is a time for Speaker Pete to really show some leadership or step down, there have been a few attempts to remove him as speaker these last few assembly’s and I think that says something. We have new members like Rep Matthews and Rep Lynn who are on the very left while we have those on the very right like Rep Yearick and Rep Collins. I think in the end it will prove to be a good group, we still have greats like Kim Williams, Paul Baumbach, from the Senate we have hopefuls like Poore and Bushweller (if he gets off this casino kick).
Exceptional Delaware: Which member of the Delaware House do you think will most surprise people this year?
Austin: I will list which Rep will surprise both negatively and positively:
Negative- Rep. Lynn, personally, I love the guy he’s a wonderful person and friend. However, I think what we all expect is a Darryl Scott and we just don’t have that. We have a different leader in Lynn. Which isn’t bad, but don’t expect him to be a Scott.
Positive- Rep. Speigleman, I really think he’s learned his lesson as a freshman that being a loose cannon isn’t going to fare too well with even your own caucus. He has introduced a promising bill on education and I think we may see a move to the center for him.
Exceptional Delaware: How about the Delaware Senate?
Austin: Negative- Senator Ennis, in 2014 we saw a somewhat progressive Ennis, that ship will sail in 2015. With issues on education coming up, I think he will revert to being somewhat conservative on his stances… The death penalty and death with dignity could be two things we need him on.
Positive- Senator Poore, we have seen really great things out of her in 2015 and have no doubt that she’ll surprise us with some level headed solutions to some things this state is facing.
Exceptional Delaware: If I know you, you are already working someone in the General Assembly in regards to your idea to lower the age of State Representative from 24 to 18…
Austin: If I had to pick one senator and one rep who will throw me a bone I say that’ll be Bennett or Spiegleman on the House side, Senator Townsend or Poore over in the Senate. It obviously will get picked up by a YOUNG or progressive member of the Legislature, I’m having a meeting with Spiegleman on Wednesday and hopefully he will pick it up.
Exceptional Delaware: If your wish was fulfilled and a bill passed, would you run for a seat?
Austin: Yes. I believe we need younger members in the General Assembly. My Rep (Peterman) doesn’t even door knock, he can’t, he has back problems because he’s older. We need young representation. That doesn’t mean I would run right away, maybe 2018 but not 2016. If it were passed.
Exceptional Delaware: Which party would you run for?
Austin: Republican. Consider where I live (Felton) and who lives there. I disassociate with the far right and consider myself a “Rockefeller Republican” I’m more than willing to work with Democrats, I personally hate political parties.
Exceptional Delaware: If elected, which committees would you want to sit on?
Austin: I think most reps serve on about five committees. I would love to serve on Education, Agriculture, Energy, Veterans Affairs and Gambling.
Exceptional Delaware: What is your dream legislation you would want to introduce?
Austin: Back in the 1950’s the Governor of DE, Caleb Boggs, tried to pass a package of bills called the “New Day in Delaware” which consisted of bills making government more transparent in ways of lobbying reform, government department reform, etc. I want government to be totally open to the people.
Exceptional Delaware: As you know, I’m kind of big on education and what’s been going on with it in this state. I want to throw some controversial topics your way and get your stance on them. We will start off with Common Core.
Austin: I am not a fan of it, to have one expectation for a group of teachers that all have different styles is terrible in my opinion, our teachers and students don’t need that.
Exceptional Delaware: No, they certainly do not. One size does not fit all! How about standardized testing…
Austin: Again, I think it’s wrong to judge teachers and students based on one test. I know there must be a better way.
Exceptional Delaware: What are your views on parents opting their children out of standardized testing?
Austin: I think this could be a great way to show that students and parents don’t want one standard test for everyone, sometimes leaders need a visual, if a bunch of parents start pulling kids, that sends a message!
Exceptional Delaware: Especially if the test scores can be used for other punitive measures. Which brings me up to priority schools…
Austin: This couldn’t be any more of a mess by the Governor. One of my family members is a teacher at one of these priority schools and the school itself is a nightmare. To have this added just makes it more difficult for the teachers to just do their job. If I was one of these principals I would be pissed.
Exceptional Delaware: What do you think of charter schools and the topic of enrollment preference?
Austin: I support Charter Schools as a whole, but government support of charter schools? That should be minimal, honestly.
Exceptional Delaware: I feel that teachers in Delaware are getting a raw deal with the “teacher effectiveness” programs launched by the DOE the past few years.
Austin: I think teachers in this state do a wonderful job, they do what they do because they love it. The DOE in Delaware makes people stop wanting to be a teacher I think. It follows whatever Markell tells them to and it will come back to bite them. Delaware has a lot of room to improve, but the biggest thing right now is getting our schools on one page, sit everyone down and just make sure everyone knows what’s happening in state government because I don’t think all of our schools know what the heck is happening. Delaware’s education strengths are our choices in schools, we have many schools students can choose.
Exceptional Delaware: The biggest news coming out of the General Assembly hasn’t been any legislation, but their committee alignment. What do you think about the John Kowalko and Pete Schwartzkopf feud?
Austin: The feud between the Speaker and Rep. Kowalko is something I find to be ridiculous on both sides. The Speaker has every right to take him off that committee, but that doesn’t mean he should. I’m not a Kowalko fan because I think he alienated everyone and is somehow surprised when they don’t want him on the committee but Pete really should’ve left him on the committee. That’s what he’s elected to do.
Exceptional Delaware: We are going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I think Schwartzkopf’s timing on this is very critical to his decision, but Kowalko should not have been kicked off. He is one of the most important voices for education in our state, but that’s a conversation for another day. There has been a lot of talk about who the next Governor of Delaware will be when Markell’s reign ends in January 2017. What do you think will happen?
Austin: The 2016 Delaware Governor race will be interesting. I don’t think Biden will run but I think Carney will run and be our next Governor.
Exceptional Delaware: That’s a choice I haven’t heard yet. I think Denn would make an excellent governor. But who I would really love to see, and no one has even mentioned this as a choice yet, but I think Kim Williams would make an awesome Governor. Thanks for letting me interview you Austin, and I can’t wait to see what happens with your legislative ideas and your run for the Milford School Board.
Austin: Thank you for the opportunity!
There you have it folks, a future politician in the making, Delaware’s home-grown Austin Auen. I fully expect to one day see him as a Speaker of the Delaware House, or a Senator, or even the Governor. The race in 2032 should be very interesting! Or maybe even 2020 if Austin gets his way!
In the meantime, I am sure I will see Austin roaming around Legislative Hall after school between now and June 30th. This kid has a bright future! In the Fall, Austin will be attending Widener University with a major in Political Science and a minor in Accounting.
Austin’s mother did give permission for me to run this interview as Austin is still considered a minor, for a couple more months…