Politics & Government

Young adults are key to Miller's bid

Democrat Jonathan Miller has made it no secret that he's courting the 18 to 35 demographic -- a coveted group among the New York advertising firms but not typically a key constituency in a Kentucky campaign for governor.

But Miller, the state treasurer who at 39 is one of Kentucky's younger public officials, says he sees a largely untapped power of enthusiastic activism within that group of college students, graduate students and young professionals.

Roughly half of those who have attended Miller's informal gatherings with supporters -- so-called "meet-ups" -- have been the younger crowd. About 100 attended a Northern Kentucky meet-up Wednesday night, and 250 came out Thursday night in Louisville.

Yesterday afternoon at the Lexington meet-up for Miller and his running mate, Jefferson County Attorney Irv Maze, roughly half of the 90 people who showed up -- including some who missed the end of the University of Kentucky football game -- were under 40.

"I am really excited because those are the people who I really want to see more involved in politics," Miller said at his Main Street campaign headquarters. "That's what I'm hoping to see more and more of as we go along."

Miller and Maze, 56, have already focused on launching a cyber campaign to match the beginnings of a traditional grass-roots strategy in their first two weeks as a ticket.

They've set up a page on Facebook.com, a popular Internet group site, as well as Myspace.com -- both of which are regular stops for the under-35 generation. (Their chief Democratic rivals at this point, Steve Beshear and Daniel Mongiardo, have two groups on Facebook.com.) Miller and Maze also launched their campaign Web site Thursday night: www.millermaze.com.

"This is just the beginning," Miller said. "I'm really hoping the Web site will do more than just help us raise money and actually help us organize people."

Richard Becker, president of the UK College Democrats, said he's supporting the ticket because Miller talks about issues young people care about: debt reduction for college students and pushing for tuition assistance.

"He's not only speaking to young people but listening to what they have to say," said Becker, 19, who noted that Miller had joined Facebook.com long before politicians had groups there. Miller signed up under the umbrella of being a 1989 Harvard grad.

Even some of Miller's older supporters say he is wise and doing a service for Kentucky by seeking support from the newest generation of voters.

"We're at a point right now when we're facing a generational change in Kentucky politics," said Ralph Long, a 55-year-old blogger and former candidate for state representative.