iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — Boomerang kids, take heart: One of your own is making a splash in Florida politics.
Jennifer Sullivan, 23, still lives at home with her parents and is just about halfway through college. But the woman who admits she still quibbles with her siblings about who’s stuck with dish duty will soon represent more than 150,000 constituents in the Florida statehouse.
Elected to Florida’s House of Representatives by a 6-point margin Tuesday, Sullivan, a Republican, concedes her age made some voters nervous.
“I understand now that I have to prove myself,” she told ABC News. And she’ll waste no time demonstrating her worthiness once she gets to Tallahassee. She’s particularly eager to get to work repealing Common Core, the controversial education policy.
During the campaign, opponents knocked her for her age and inexperience. One GOP rival’s campaign brochure sneered, “State Representative isn’t an internship or job training course.” Another rival reportedly even attacked her for living at home. But Sullivan dismisses their criticisms as “desperate…grasping at straws.”
“A lot of people are finding that they are still living with their parents because they don’t want to go into debt,” she says. “That just wasn’t financially feasible for me to get an apartment.”
Like any other tech-savvy millennial, Sullivan is now tracking the response to her victory on social media, and is eager to rattle off the stats.
“I have about 54 unread text messages [and] over 300 Facebook notifications,” she says. “I’ve been able to stay up on Twitter so far.”
But she’s far from the stereotypical selfie-snapping, emoji-obsessed 20-something.
She and her friends “didn’t spend [the summer] on the beach chilling out,” she says. “They spent it knocking on doors…because they believe in what I stood for.”
The Vote for Jennifer campaign – nicknamed the #FreshFace campaign – operated out of her parents’ Lake County home. But juggling a hectic campaign schedule with her collegiate workload (she’s taking classes online, through Liberty University) meant she was rarely there.
“I’ve really just been home to sleep and eat, to be quite honest,” she says.
Sullivan, who was homeschooled, acknowledges that running a campaign from her childhood home did come with several distractions.
“Being the oldest of four siblings, it’s always, ‘Who’s going to do the dishes tonight?’” she laughs.
Still, she managed to stage what she calls “an incredible ground game,” raising $10,000 in just 10 days.
Though she knows that Sen. Marco Rubio, a rumored 2016 Republican presidential contender, was elected to the Florida statehouse at 28, Sullivan shrugs off the possibility of an illustrious political career.
“I’m not looking at the national scene,” she says, adding that she’d rather return to her district to work in the private sector when her time in the statehouse is up.
Her advice for other boomerangers with high aspirations?
“Younger [people] are oftentimes written off,” she says. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you’re young.”
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