YORK, Pa. – She has a name, but for the last two days she's been known as the "young and naive" woman who asked a question during a town hall with a Republican candidate for governor.
Rose Strauss insists she's not the one who was naive Wednesday evening, though she can't argue 18 years old is young.
By not addressing climate change, Scott Wagner is more naive than she'll ever be, she said.
During a town hall near Philadelphia two days ago, Strauss said the GOP hopeful for Pennsylvania governor proved his naivete when he said, "Are we here to elect a governor or elect a scientist? OK? I'm here to be the governor."
Watch the exchange (story continues below):
The 18-year-old environmental studies student offered a sharp rebuke during an interview Friday afternoon:
"The governor doesn't have to be a scientist, but he needs to understand science," she said.
That's ultimately why Strauss, a Chester County resident and student at the University of California-Santa Barbara, is working for the Sunrise Movement, a nonpartisan nationwide organization dedicated to stopping the climate crisis. The organization has Pennsylvania locations in Philadelphia, Downingtown and Lancaster and "builds an army of young people" to share facts on climate change and holds politicians accountable for accepting contributions from the fossil fuel industry.
Strauss was working for that organization Wednesday when she attended her first town hall and said to Wagner, "You've said that climate change is a result of people's body heat, and are refusing to take action on the issue. Does this have anything to do with the $200,000 that you have taken from the fossil fuel industry?"
His response was: "Well, I appreciate you being here. You're 18 years old. You know, you're a little young and naive. But are we here to elect a governor or elect a scientist? OK? I'm here to be the governor," he continued. "I appreciate – and I understand – the question. But I have one for you, Rose."
He did not answer her question and ultimately shifted the conversation to concern about sewage spilling into the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg.
The exchange, which has gone viral in a video shared thousands of times, was as concerning as the time Wagner said the earth is moving closer to the sun and the planet is warmer because of human beings giving off body heat, Strauss said.
Those baseless claims are what ultimately led her and the Sunrise Movement to Wagner's town hall.
"It's a problem if people in government don't understand issues they will make political decisions on," Strauss said.
Wagner's response and reaction to her question Wednesday was "really disheartening," she said.
"To say I'm naive? I've been studying environmental science since I was 12 years old," Strauss said.
"Scott's point was that it's naive to suggest he doesn't believe in climate change and that there are things as governor he thinks could be done better to address the issue," Wagner spokesman Andrew Romeo said in an email Friday. "He's been balancing efforts to create jobs and care for the environment for decades in his recycling business."
Strauss said she's taken "tons" of classes in college and at Drake High School in California, where she was president of the environmental club.
Wagner alienated voters like her, which are many, Strauss said.
The Sunrise Movement is a "youth intervention" in which young people are working to solve the climate crisis because "it's our future," she said.
"There’s unequivocal evidence that climate change is happening," Strauss said. "Most people know that, even if Scott Wagner doesn't."
One good thing that came of the viral exchange with the gubernatorial candidate is that it brought a lot of attention to the issue of climate change, Strauss said.
Going into the town hall, she thought Wagner would probably try to avoid the topic of climate change.
"But I wasn't expecting him to be quite that condescending," Strauss said. "It's definitely upsetting."
It was also empowering, she said.
"I've heard from people from across Pennsylvania and the country, into Canada and Mexico. They all say to keep fighting," Strauss said.
And she is. This weekend she and about 60 of her peers will be knocking on 1,000 doors, talking about climate change, and where candidates stand on the issue and what corporate money they've accepted. That goes for Republicans and Democrats alike.
"It's important for people voting to know who is funding a candidate's campaign and how it has or may inform their decisions in office," Strauss said.
By not answering whether Wagner's "absurd" views on climate change are swayed by $200,000 in donations from the fossil fuel industry, Strauss said he has hurt his candidacy with anyone who saw the viral video.
"I think it definitely has an impact with young voters. I think he will 100 percent lose their vote," she said.
The town hall Wednesday was a missed opportunity for Wagner, she said.
"I thought a town hall offered room for dialogue and a place for conversations and educating each other," Strauss said. "I'm upset the dialogue wasn't there, and it was just him ridiculing what I was saying and ignoring the question."