Alex Gruenenfelder Smith is a certified candidate for Mayor of Los Angeles running in his first political campaign at age 20.
He readily concedes there will be a lot to learn, but has his sights set on making waves in the June 7 California Primary election.
"We need new leadership now," said Gruenenfelder Smith. "Practically speaking I know that I am not as experienced as a candidate as some these people."
The requirements for running for Mayor in LA include being 18 years of age at the time of the election, being a U.S. citizen, and being registered to vote in Los Angeles.
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"I know there will be a learning curve to being mayor of LA. But the fact is I have done the work as a protest organizer. have done the work as the founder of an community organization and I have done the work as an Echo Park Neighborhood Councilman."
Gruenenfelder Smith says as a child, he was obsessed with dinosaurs. His goal was to become a paleontologist, but teachers at Larchmont High School turned his interests to politics.
"Largely because of some amazing teachers in high school, I got involved in my community, community service and activism."
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When he announced his campaign for Mayor, Gruenenfelder Smith was still a student at UC San Diego, where he studied theater. He graduated in 2021, and currently works as a freelancer in the entertainment industry, "like a lot of folks in LA," he says.
His recent gigs have been as professional stilt walker.
Gruenenfelder Smith is a progressive. He admires politicians like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-NY) and Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-OR) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
He believes Los Angeles is in "crisis" and that progressive solutions are needed.
"First and foremost, we want to work to end homelessness and do it without criminalization."
He would like to see investment in temporary and permanent housing as well as mental health care and drug rehabilitation.
"We can lower LAPD budget by a small amount and reinvest in services without defunding the police."
Gruenefelder Smith would like to see money reallocated towards unarmed crisis response teams.
Win or lose, he says he hopes his campaign inspires young activists.
" Find a local campaign you are interested in and reach out to them. Whatever your skill set is, whether you are someone who for some reason enjoys knocking on people's doors, or even a skill like drawing. Find a local campaign and there will be a place for you."
He admits it is a "massive task to run at such young age, but Gruenenfelder Smith says government would "absolutely" function better if more young people ran for public office, noting that it is "not enough to just vote. We need you to step up and run."
Gruenenfelder Smith says that young people have an optimism that is critical in government right now.
"As people get older and see nothing is changing in the system - it is easy to get disillusioned and we need to bring back that spirit that we can change things and things are fixable.:"