Youth Keep Up With Kandidates Personally and Politically

Climate change forum focuses on young voters

Mayoral candidate Celia Israel uses a happy-versus-crying Kim Kardashian cutout to answer questions about climate change at a youth candidate forum (Photo by Leila Saidane)

At last week's Keeping Up With the Kandi­dates – a hybrid climate forum/personality showcase for Austin's young voters – candidates answered the next election's burning climate change questions with cutouts of Kim Kardashian (crying on one side, smiling on the other), performed skits with multiple costume changes, and sang along to Aughts hits.

The tabling event, organized by civic engagement groups Sunrise Movement ATX, MOVE Texas, Texas Rising Action, and Jolt Action, is part of a broader effort for civic youth engagement, giving 18- to 25-year-old Kardashian fans/voters and the candidates some real face time. Candidates were asked if they pledge support to environmental justice, what their views are on the city's net-zero carbon emissions goals and solar panels for Austin schools, and what their strategies are for retiring the coal-fueled Fayette Power Project ASAP. Then they stepped away from their agenda to showcase themselves onstage.

"This is a picture of what your stereotypical lesbians do," mayoral candidate Celia Israel said while presenting her family-photo-album-esque collage. "We go camping!" District 3 contender Daniela Silva shared TikToks detailing her Lyft driver/dog-sitting gig, annoyance with the traffic-focused transit network, and hot-topic issues like housing. Each was accompanied by Gen Z's trending sounds.

"I'm from San Antonio, so these candidates are new to me," said UT-Austin sophomore Mariama Bah.
"[Silva] is listening and watching stuff that we watch – it just humanized her more. For her to talk about how it's hard to move in Austin and how bad the traffic is, it was interesting because that's how I feel." The forum's bright lime green voter guides let audience members fill out a ballot study sheet to take notes on each speaker and tally when Krying Kim was flashed.

"It's important that we talk specifically about the climate for Austin," says AJ Majd, event organizer with Texas Rising Action. "We're a pretty progressive city, but we should be able to really push that limit and promote a more progressive agenda."

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