Nick D’Angelo has quite the political background. He’s written two books about politics, cofounded a political action committee, helped an upstart candidate defeat an incumbent congressman, knocked on doors for a presidential contender, and declined several entreaties to run for public office.
But he’s never voted in a presidential election. He’s never been old enough.
That will change on November 6, when the 20-year-old Stormville resident plans to vote for Republican candidate Mitt Romney. That same day, he’ll learn whether his work as campaign manager for New York State Assembly candidate Kim Izzarelli will earn her a seat in Albany.
D’Angelo has basically lived and breathed politics since 2007 when, as a junior at Fordham Prep in the Bronx, he self-published America According to a 15-Year-Old, a 250-page tome laying out his conservative views. Since then, he’s also managed to squeeze in coursework for two majors at Union College in Schenectady, and even land a girlfriend. Ironically, she’s the president of the College Democrats and he’s the president of the College Republicans. “During this election cycle we’ll be doing a lot of events together, bringing speakers from both sides to talk about the election and conservatism and liberalism and what they mean,” he says. “We have a lot of fun with it.”
Right now, much of D’Angelo’s focus is on helping Izzarelli win the Assembly’s 95th District, which includes portions of Westchester and Putnam counties. The business consultant is squaring off against Sandy Galef, a Democrat who has been in office for 20 years. “This is a tough race,” D’Angelo said. “Sandy Galef has been there as long as I’ve been alive.”
Izzarelli said friends and advisers recommended D’Angelo to her based on his work on Nan Hayworth’s congressional campaign in 2010, when she defeated two-term Democratic incumbent John Hall. D’Angelo and a group of friends created Be Heard PAC as high school seniors in 2009, and the group took an active role in Hayworth’s election bid.
The Union College student rallies voters in Nassau County
Photograph by Dan Smith Photography
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“When you talk with him, it’s funny — it’s almost like he had another life,” Izzarelli says. “You’re sitting there going, ‘How can someone so young know some of the things it takes other people years to figure out?’ ”
D’Angelo has advised Izzarelli to reach out to young voters about the importance of addressing government debt now, before it’s their sole responsibility. During the summer, he would sometimes wake up at 4:30 a.m., shake hands and kiss babies with Izzarelli at Metro-North stations at six, attend a campaign breakfast, work at his father’s architecture firm in White Plains from nine to five, campaign again in the evening, return home at 10 p.m., and repeat the cycle again the next day.
Now that he’s back at Union, D’Angelo is in constant touch with Izzarelli by phone and e-mail, dashing off press releases in between classes. He will travel downstate on weekends more often as the election draws closer, he says.
Around campus, “people know me as Mr. Conservative,” says D’Angelo, who writes a political column for the school paper and hosts a radio show called The Elephant in the Room. He has found his left-leaning classmates receptive to what he considers his generation’s brand of conservatism: fiscal restraint combined with an open stance on social issues such as gay marriage.
D’Angelo volunteered for former Utah governor Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaign in New Hampshire over his winter break last year. “I was very skeptical of someone who had run for president for six years,” D’Angelo says of the party’s eventual nominee, Romney. But “we have two choices in the election,” he says. “One of them I certainly don’t agree with, and the other one I’ve warmed up to.” Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as a running mate shows he is serious about tackling government spending, D’Angelo says.
D’Angelo himself has been approached to run for public office, including once for Putnam County executive, he says. But “you can’t have a 19-year-old running for office. How can you make decisions for other people if you haven’t made decisions in your own life?”
Still, he hopes to make a career of politics, whether it’s behind the scenes or, later in life, out in front of voters. “This is something I’m really passionate about, and if you can make a living out of what you’re passionate about, you should do it,” he says. For now, he’s narrowed down his immediate post-college plans to law school or the pursuit of a doctorate in political science or U.S. history.
Izzarelli believes “the sky’s the limit” for D’Angelo. “I’m definitely one happy customer,” she says.