Melissa StanleyLast year, at age 19, Melissa Stanley declared her candidacy for Democratic State Representative, making her the youngest female to ever run for the Ohio legislature.
Stanley was in her second and final year at Ohio State when she declared she would be running for Ohio's 79th District.
"I was taking 25 credit hours each quarter, while going home every other weekend to work on the campaign," Stanley said.
In August, Stanley graduated magna cumlaudewith a bachelor's degree in political science.
Stanley, now 20, was motivated to run for the legislature by her family circumstances. Hermother and brother were both laid off, her father's profits were plunging with the economy and her grandmother could not pay her mortgage because she was paying so much for her prescription drugs.
"We've been through a lot, as I'm sure most families have, but my opponent is a millionaire ... and has publicly stated that living on minimum wage is easy," Stanley said.
Stanley's opponent, 69-year-old Richard "Dick" Adams, is also an OSU alumnus. Although her opponent is nearly 50 years her senior, Stanley isn't discouraged by his experience.
"I'm actually more experienced than the man I'm running against," Stanley said. "My opponent has only worked at the county level and has no legislative experience."
Adams did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Stanley's resume includes work at the Montgomery County Tax Lien Department, the U.S. Senate and the Ohio House of Representatives, according to her campaign Web site.
Adams' resume is a litany of political jobs: two terms as the Miami County Commissioner, two terms with the Miami County Board of Elections and three terms as Ohio Senator from the 5th Senate District. He also served 18 years on the Edison Community College Board of Trustees. He earned his master's and doctorate degrees from OSU while working as a teacher, according to his campaign Web site.
"She's had a little experience, but not a lot," said Leandra Brown, a senior in communications, who will be voting in the 79th District. I don't think she's experienced enough to run. She doesn't have enough real world experience. In your early 20s, you are still at that age when you are figuring out who you are. She's just too young."
Stanley said she feels she has an advantage because she is a recent graduate. School affordability is one of the issues she wants to address.
"We've been unconstitutionally funding our schools for 12 years. Everyone is afraid of ruining their political career. They aren't willing to go out on a limb for our schools," she said. "I'm the only person young enough to have experienced our poor school system."
Stanley received encouragement to run from Richard Gunther, her former political science professor at OSU.
"[Gunther] really helped me understand the issues," Stanley said."He really bent over backwards to help me."
Gunther is the chair of the Candidate Development Committee of the Franklin County Democratic Party and was the coordinator of candidate training programs for the past three election cycles.
"First, I urged her to do a 'direct reading' course on many of the policy matters, that she ... would have to deal with. Second ... I ran a number of workshops for her and other candidates," Gunther said in an e-mail."This was a very rigorous training program. Melissa did extremely well.
"She is bright, hard-working and remarkably mature. The latter is an important personal characteristic, since her opponent is 50 years older than her."
Stanley added that Kathy Krajnak o Mount Leadership Society also encouraged her to run.
"Had [Krajnak] not helped me develop leadership skills, I may not have had the confidence to throw my hat in the rink," Stanley said in an e-mail.
"Melissa always had a call for public service," Krajnak said. "If an individual has a drive to serve in public office, that drive overshadows their age."
Although Stanley is still young, she began her community service as a child.
"Melissa's dad and I are very active in the community," said Cindy Stanley, Melissa's mother. "If I ever came home asking the kids for help with a food drive Melissa would want to help. She would even get her brothers to help too."
Even though Melissa is the middle child, between two boys, she stood out as a leader, her mother said.
"When Melissa decided they needed to do something, she was definitely the leader and the boys followed with whatever she basically decided they needed to do," Cindy Stanley said.
It was no surprise to Stanley's parents that she was thinking about running.
"We always knew Melissa was going do something community-based ...that was something she really enjoyed doing, helping others and getting involved," Cindy said. "Her heart is really in this."
Although Stanley's parents weren't surprised at her candidacy, her friends were.
"At first I thought she was crazy, and then I thought that was something she would do and I completely agreed," said Jackie Godsey, a junior in visual communication design. "I think she'll be great. She seemed like a grown-up, even in college."
Stanley's freshman year roommate was also surprised.
"I knew it was a goal of hers to get involved, but I was surprised she did it right now," said Meagan Van Brocklin, a junior in international studies. "I think she's very capable, I just didn't think she would do this now."
More information on Richard "Dick" Adams is available at www.electradams4staterep.com, and more information on Melissa Stanley is available at www.stanleyforstate.com.