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Young Democrats of Connecticut expand into New London County

A young Democrats group is forming in New London County.

Engineered by New London Board of Education member Danni Cruz, the group is meant as a place for 18- to 35-year-olds to organize politically. 

Cruz, who is 18 and attends UConn Avery Point, says he’s the youngest elected representative in the city by a lot. He said this backs up his belief that young people aren’t heard proportionally in politics. 

“We can get a lot more young people to turn out and vote with this group and show people that their voice matters as much as an older person in our community,” Cruz said. 

Cruz said it will be important for the group to build connections with local mayors, first selectmen, state representatives and state senators. 

“We have our upcoming race for senator, and I want a lot of people to volunteer and sign up for these campaigns, then we can put a bug in their ear and say, ‘Here’s what we’re looking for,’” Cruz said. “I’ll use Daryl Finizio, who’s running for state Senate, as an example. If we have a pressing issue or concern, we can go to Daryl, we can go to [State Rep. Anthony] Nolan, and say, ‘Here’s what’s going on, can you help us with this or can you represent us in this way?’” 

In October, Cruz approached the statewide Young Democrats Vice President Bella Langlois, President Gabriela Koc, as well as Grace Carlos, a 21-year-old Democratic candidate and student at Three Rivers Community College who was at the time running for Montville Board of Education. Cruz said the day after this year’s election, he and Carlos began recruiting members. Thus far, they’ve come up with more than 10 people and expect that number to increase. 

Both Carlos and Cruz made it clear that this is a New London County chapter, not strictly New London, partly because some towns in the county are too small to have functioning chapters. Apart from New London and Montville, young Democrats from Groton and Waterford have reached out. There is no Republican counterpart in New London to the growing Democratic group. 

“There is a Young Republicans of Connecticut, but there’s no Young Republicans of New London,” Cruz said. “If they see us doing it, they may do it, and that’s OK. If young people want to get involved, no matter what party, they should get involved.” 

While there’s still paperwork involved before becoming an official chapter, the Young Democrats of Connecticut have given New London County’s young Democrats its blessing to organize. The regional group is currently working on writing its bylaws. 

Carlos said Cruz is looking for “a huge membership number, as many as we can get.” 

“So many people have been reaching out, wanting to be involved,” Carlos said. “One of our long-term goals is to have our own space, our own offices. With the election coming up, we’re planning on endorsing candidates, helping out with campaigns, organizing events.” 

Langlois, a UConn student from Ledyard, said there’s not a lot of Young Democrats chapters in the region. 

“One of my big things when I joined Young Dems was getting more people from eastern and southeastern Connecticut involved because right now it’s mostly central and western Connecticut,” Langlois said. “I’m from Ledyard, so it was really important for me to have an organizational structure there. The president and I just finished up an official chapter guide, so we’re trying to get these regional chapters started. As long as you have decent support and willingness to put together constitution, bylaws, code of ethics, etc. … it’s really not that hard." 

Langlois noted that some local chapters do stay confined to one town or city, such as the chapter getting started in Stamford, and there are other regional chapters, such as in Naugatuck Valley. 

“The Young Democrats are a legit arm of the Connecticut Democratic Party, so we have communication there,” she said. “They have their regional chapters, which report to us, and we have our statewide meetings. There wasn’t huge youth involvement in southeastern Connecticut, there wasn’t a structure to take part in it, so I’m really happy they’re taking the initiative to start this chapter and be that structure for people to reach out to and get involved in different social justice issues and electoral politics.” 

Langlois acknowledged that there are already youth social justice groups in New London, but said the Young Democrats are filling a political gap in the area.

s.spinella@theday.com

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