Meet a 17-year-old rising star among Wisconsin Democrats

Before the 2016 election, Lydia Hester was a shy Madison high schooler. After Trump's election, she bought a bullhorn and got to work.
November 7, 2018, 12:45am

MADISON, Wisconsin — When Wisconsin helped to deliver President Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, many Wisconsinites were shell-shocked. From 2000 to 2012, Wisconsin had supported Democrats in every presidential election. But in 2016, many of the young and minority communities that came out for President Obama didn't show up to vote.

But a heavy defeat for Democrats in 2016 motivated a new generation to engage with politics. Among them is Lydia Hester. Before the 2016 election, she was a regular, quiet Madison high schooler, but Trump’s election changed everything. She bought bullhorns, organized multiple school walkouts and marches, interned for Democratic state treasurer candidate Sarah Godlewski, and traveled to the Capitol hundreds of times.


Hester is only 17, but she’s not discouraged by the fact that she can’t yet vote. She’s confident that many other voting-aged teens will come out to the polls in her absence.

“This year we have three candidates under the age of 40," she told VICE News. "We have a person of color and a woman on our ticket… which really just has young people super excited.”

Early voting tallies support her predictions. TargetSmart found that absentee voting for people aged 18-29 in Wisconsin is up 808.8 percent from the last midterm cycle in 2014.

VICE News spent the last days before the election with Hester in Madison as she makes her final push to convince potential voters.

No matter the result on Tuesday night, she has no plans to slow down her organizing work, and she might just run for office herself one day. “I am not sure when, and I'm not sure what it will be for, but I will definitely be running for office as soon as possible."