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skyler johnson gen leaders
skyler johnson gen leaders
Courtesy of Skyler Johnson
Culture > News

This Gen Z Candidate Is Taking A Hands-On Approach To Improving His District

Updated Published

In Her Campus’ series Gen Leaders, we interview Gen Z candidates running for office in 2024. This month, Skyler Johnson — who is running for New York State Assembly District 4 — shares his vision for Long Island, where he’s lived all his life.

In the heart of Long Island, New York, 23-year-old Skyler Johnson isn’t simply running for the 4th Assembly District; he’s continuing his lifelong commitment to the place where he grew up. 

Johnson came of age with a strong sense of community and a desire to make a difference, starting by getting involved in his local community by volunteering for local congressional candidates. “I’d already been very interested in politics and policy throughout middle and high school,” Johnson tells Her Campus in an exclusive interview. “I was constantly following the news; I was always making sure that I was aware of what was going on.”

At just 18 years old, Johnson took on the responsibility of single-handedly managing a town council race. From there, he began building his own political platform, leading him to become a board member for the Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic Action Fund and a trustee for his synagogue, Temple Beth Emeth of Mt. Sinai.

In 2022, Johnson earned his bachelor’s degree in political science at Stony Brook University, a public school on Long Island. His time in college provided him with a unique opportunity to witness firsthand the intersectional realities of public education and affordable housing in the district, an issue that has become deeply important to him.

“Being in a state school where I was surrounded by people who were both growing up on Long Island [and] who were dorming there from around the country and looking to stay on Long Island after graduation, it really made it clear how we had to fight to lower the cost of living here in Suffolk County, because so many of my fellow students could not afford to stay on the island,” he says. “[Long Island] is just fundamentally being shaped by corporate greed, where the average person is being continuously driven out.”

Skyler waving
Courtesy of Skyler Johnson

The New York State Assembly is the lower house of the New York State Legislature, with the New York State Senate as the upper house. If elected to represent the 4th district among New York’s 150 seats, Johnson would work to help ensure the rights of New York citizens are protected by rewriting, proposing, and signing bills into law — with issues ranging from education and healthcare to infrastructure and public safety.

In particular, Johnson hopes to introduce a bill that limits the amount of single-family properties corporations can buy in the area. He believes the bill will allow thousands of new families to potentially buy homes. He also plans to push back on developers in his district who are building luxury apartments that cost, on average, $3,500 a month for a one-bedroom. “It’s about having a representative who is willing to stand up and say, ‘We need housing that the average person can afford, not housing that only a very small subset of our population will ever be able to access,'” Johnson says.

Johnson also hopes to increase funding to make Suffolk County’s infrastructure safer, a critical need after toxic contaminants were found in 33 out of 48 community water samples tested in the district. “We’ve seen the consequences, and it’s literally life or death when it comes to improving our infrastructure,” he says. “I’m [really] looking to ensure that we’re bringing funding to fix that, to improve our infrastructure in any way possible, because it’s a matter of keeping people safe.”

Johnson is also committed to uplifting LGBTQ+ voices. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and endorsee of LGBTQ+ Victory Fund and Equality NY, two organizations fighting to protect LGBTQ+ rights nation- and statewide, Johnson is dedicated to codifying equal rights for LGBTQ+ folks in New York.

Skyler with clapping crowd
Courtesy of Skyler Johnson

Although Johnson did not win his bid for New York Senate in 2022, his experience has prepared him for the upcoming election on Nov. 5. “My race in 2022 really gave me a better perspective on how to best engage people,” he says. “It gave me a better perspective on which issues matter the most to the average voter.”

Johnson is a firm believer in his hands-on leadership and dedication to engaging with his community. “While I was knocking doors yesterday, I pressed someone’s Ring doorbell and she wasn’t home, but I’m talking to her [through the camera] and all of a sudden she pauses like, ‘Oh, I remember you were here last year,'” he says. “She remembered me specifically because she’d seen me at her door before. [And] there’s literally thousands of people who can say the same thing across my district.”

What music are you listening to while on the campaign?

“High Hopes” by Panic! At The Disco, anything by AJR, and theater music (since I am a theater kid).

Vote by mail or in person?

In person. I love the feeling of walking in and casting my vote. 

What are the top three issues your campaign is focused on?

Education, cost of living, and the right to choose.

What’s your to-go fun fact about yourself?

I’ve performed in Port Jefferson’s holiday show A Christmas Carol starting from when I was 6 years old.

What’s a hidden gem in your district that you love?

Gordon Heights, because of the beautiful parks and areas that have been restored over the years. 

What’s your go-to snack on the campaign trail?

Salt and vinegar chips.  

Long Island bagels or New York City bagels?

Long Island bagels (sorry, NYC).

How are you celebrating Pride this month?

Walking in New York’s Pride parade and fighting back against attacks on the community. 

Milan Parker

Agnes Scott '24

Milan Parker is an Entertainment and Culture writer for Her Campus national, where she covers the latest news in pop culture. She is a recent graduate of Agnes Scott College. She is also a member of Her Campus's Election Team, interviewing 2024 Electoral Candidates running for the House of Representatives and Congress. Outside of writing for Her Campus, Milan spends her time writing poetry, some which have been published in Alloy Magazine at Emory University. Currently, she plans to release a written mini-series of her favorite 2000s childhood memories, titled "Confessions of a Y2K Kid". When she is not on the lookout for the next big story, Milan enjoys online shopping, cozying up in libraries, discovering new music, spending time in nature, and taking to the streets on her inline skates. To this day, she's still perfecting the perfect skate routine.