At a time of year when most 20-somethings are focused on weekends at the Shore and Phillies games, Charles Gehret has a few other things to think about. The West Conshohocken resident is a Republican state Senate candidate for the 17th district. And, at just 25 years of age, he knows he’s got a tough fight. But the question he raises is one to which we can all relate: “Since when did age become a determinate of ability?”
MLT: How did you get involved in politics so early?
CG: The political bug bit me right around [the 2008 recession]. I went to George Washington University’s School of Business, and I graduated right around the time of the financial crisis. I was working with Tom Corbett’s gubernatorial campaign. Right after college, I was promoted to comptroller, where I managed his budgetary needs. From there, I got close with Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, and I began working for him as his chief financial officer. I resigned last November to pursue this election.
MLT: Why did you take the state Senate route?
CG: During Corbett’s campaign, I got to hear a lot of people talk about the issues that affect them, and I know there are ways to resolve them. It’s a fascinating process of enacting and implementing changes, and we struggled a lot. But we completed the things we set out to do. We finished the budget on time, which was a huge undertaking on its own, and something that hadn’t been done in the previous eight years.
MLT: What are some of the hottest issues?
CG: Business opportunities, transportation funding and education reform. There’s been a rising cost in our school systems, and we need to control it without making cuts. We also need to look at the business opportunities that are coming into the state and how they affect Southeastern Pennsylvania. The Marcus Hook refinery—we should either demolish it and find something else to do with it, or restart business there that brings a lot of jobs to the area.
MLT: Could your age work against you?
CG: I’ve heard comments—even from people in my own party—but there’s one fact that’s undeniable: In a room full of adults, the youngest are invested the most in this country. The decisions we make today are going to affect me far more than anyone else, simply because I am the youngest.
MLT: What should young people understand about politics?
CG: They need to look at more than what’s placed in front of them—find out for themselves.
MLT: And for those who think their vote doesn’t count?
CG: To say your vote doesn’t count is ridiculous. There are a lot of things going on in this state that affect us every day. The big things you want to do in life, like buying a house or a car, are based on your monetary value. The money for the government’s budget has to come from somewhere, so are we going to put that extra weight on your back?
MLT: Any advice for college graduates?
CG: In a sea of political science majors, I also had a finance degree. I was a business student who jumped into politics. Try something you’ve never done before.