Running for Congress has been a dream for Ryan Costello since he was in law school at Villanova University during the late ‘90s and early 2000s. He never had his chance, until now – a chance brought about by the sudden unexpected retirement of Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) after 12 years in office.
Costello has worked as a municipal attorney since graduating in 2002. He has also served in successive elected positions in his native Chester County, the fastest growing county in suburban Philadelphia, including his current role as chairman of the Chester County Board of Commissioners.
The 37-year-old lives with his wife and son in West Chester and would be the youngest member of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation should he win in November.
His chances of achieving his dream seem very likely, considering the incumbent won the district in 2012 with 57 percent of the vote. The Cook Political Report puts the district in the “Leans Republican” category.
Costello says his brand of conservatism is issue-oriented and driven by a desire to think outside of the box rather than getting stuck behind partisan talking points. Polls show the sort of partisan rancor that has become a staple in American politics in recent years has become a turnoff for younger voters.
“I have a reputation for being very authentic, which is to say that I say pretty much what I’m thinking,” Costello explains to Red Alert Politics. “I think that keeps people listening a little bit longer than they would of a typical politician. Once you hear a few talking points you tune out, and, again, I think for myself.”
You may not agree with everything everyone says, Costello notes, but it’s still important to make them feel heard. Doing so makes a candidate or elected official more informed and better able to get his message across, Costello thinks.
Costello argues that a taking a listening approach to politics increases interest among the electorate because “you might just say something that’s just a little bit different.”
“I think you need to be a little bit unpredictable, but it’s something that’s got to be well-reasoned,” he said. “That’s what I think the next generation of voters, and frankly, all voters are really interested in.”
He is critical of the GOP’s inability to articulate its ideas without getting defined by the Democrats and their media allies. Republicans have a lot of great ideas when it comes to helping all Americans and young people in particular, but their message gets lost, he says.
“The response to the unfair criticisms is either ignored, or instead it’s lost in the attack that the other political party is doing,” Costello says. “They are not good at explaining why the criticism or the allegation is not accurate.
“Let’s start with the one that the Republican Party is ‘the party of the rich,’” Costello continued. “I don’t believe that the Republican Party is ‘the party of the rich’ for the following reason: Less regulation, a simpler tax code and reforming health care in a way that doesn’t cost younger Americans more means that you are going to have a better environment for people to get jobs.”
Costello argues that issues need to be explained in the simplest possible terms, and the rhetoric needs to avoid “the ‘Gotcha!’ predictable fiery rhetoric that oftentimes get political activists and politicians in trouble.”
“Politics is the art of persuasion and getting people to move to your position,” Costello said. “If you are not open-minded, and you are not looking to persuade people in a respectful way then all you are doing is being a talking head. If I wanted to be a talking head, I’d be in a different profession.”
Issues such as the future of Social Security and the negative impact of Obamacare on America are important to him. He is a proponent of reforming Social Security to keep it around for younger Americans who may never see a dime the way the way things are going.
Democrats have only demagogued the issue and refused to address any sort of meaningful reform that would keep it around for future generations in Costellos’s opinion, which stands to harm young people in the long run.
Costello also is worried about what Obamacare will do to younger workers and small businesses once the employer mandate is enforced.
“If you are a 27-year-old living in the Philadelphia region, single and in good health, your premiums have jumped,” Costello said. “Meanwhile, the cost of college is going up; rents remain stable or are going up; the cost of living has gone up; the job market has been depressed, making it more difficult to get a job coming out of college.
“Now you have to pay for health care.”
Such a situation is not fair to young people.
Republicans have the right ideas, he says. But now it’s a matter of listening to where people are at and explaining those ideas in a way that people will listen.