Eric Soto, 17 years old from Inwood, did not grow up in a political household. His first taste of politics was the TV show House of Cards. As a high school senior, his college counsellor set him up to volunteer with Max Rose’s Staten Island campaign for one day. Soto had never been to Staten Island. Now, he commutes roughly four hours roundtrip, is Rose’s youngest employee and a canvassing legend within the campaign.
Soto holds the record for collecting the most confirmed “yes’s” (143) in one day. Another campaign worker, Max Davidson, says the first time he watched Soto canvass, “it was what the people at the Manhattan project must have felt the first time they saw an atomic bomb go off. Then put that on repeat.”
His success as a canvassing powerhouse quickly got him promoted to field manager and head of training, where his responsibilities include teaching volunteers to canvass and work the phone bank.
Soto thinks the fact that he cannot vote (he turns 18 two weeks after the midterms) might occasionally make him more convincing as a canvasser, but often does not even come up in conversation. “If there is one thing that sets me apart from other canvassers, it is that I really feel I need to make a connection with people.” Though still young, Soto has developed his own political one-liners. “We cannot let the toxic politics of yesterday,” he says, “affect the good we can do today.”
Text and Photographs by Cheney Orr.