Potential delegates look to lead younger voters

by Mark Baumgarten

With aspirations of becoming a Democratic national delegate on his mind and fliers in hand, 21-year-old Aaron Street walked into Minnesota’s First Congressional District convention ready for a fight with more seasoned candidates.
Street’s lack of experience might have been what landed him a seat in the Minnesota delegation at the Democratic National Convention this week.
The University political science senior is a member of the Democratic Party’s most youthful Minnesota delegation ever, and belongs to a demographic both the Democrats and Republicans feel is key to the upcoming presidential and congressional elections.
Street joins 15 other Minnesota delegates between the ages of 18 and 32, bringing a more youthful look to the Democratic Party.
“It’s really important that there is a youth voice at the convention,” he said. “It’s important that student concerns are heard.”
While Street promotes his agenda at the convention, the Democratic Party will be using similar delegates to present a younger face to the nation — something they hope will result in more students and first-time voters casting ballots in November.
“The youth vote is considered a base vote, and it’s essential to win it,” said Kevin Nicholson, former president of the College Democrats of America. Nicholson is president of the Board of Directors at The Minnesota Daily.
Nicholson, a 22-year-old University political science senior, is attending the convention as a Wisconsin delegate and will be speaking before the convention today. But Nicholson said a strong youth contingent at the convention or up at the podium is not enough to convince his generation to vote.
“Paying lip service will do nothing,” he said. “In order to get first-time and younger voters to vote, we have to address Social Security and more support for higher education — issues that affect young voters.”
Ben Bowman, a Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives and University senior, agrees with Nicholson but adds that young voters need a candidate they can relate to.
“The Republican Party has really put on a good face for the younger voters,” he said. “We are a very energetic party — (George W.) Bush is one of the most energetic candidates our party has ever had. I think young voters relate to that the same way they related to the youthful appeal of (President Bill) Clinton in 1992.”
Bowman also said candidates now need to target young voters because they don’t tend to identify themselves with one of the two major parties.
“The election of (Gov. Jesse) Ventura is testament to the fact that young voters are looking for something different,” he said. “If you ignore the youth, you’re not going to win.”

Mark Baumgarten welcomes comments at [email protected]