- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2000

LOS ANGELES Most of those attending the Democratic National Convention this week are middle-aged party faithful, but younger folks in town also want their views heard.

They are the 18-to-30-year-olds, sometimes written off by politicians but nevertheless an important group for Vice President Al Gore to win over.

Some are like Daniel Jocz, 21, a student at the University of California Los Angeles, who was hanging out in Pershing Square downtown to listen to protest demonstrations. He considers himself "more Democrat than anything," and said he probably will vote that way in the presidential election, but is still "disillusioned that Democrats have moved to the center on issues like welfare and the death penalty."

"If [the Democrats] aren't going to listen to our issues, we're going to go elsewhere, to a third party."

The third-party threat to Democrats, from Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in particular, is significant for Mr. Gore as he tries to win over younger voters.

A Voter.com Battleground poll taken Tuesday night shows 4 percent of the 18-to-34 age group supporting Mr. Nader for president, down from 7 percent tallied on Sunday and Monday. It also shows Republican George W. Bush with a 14-point lead over Mr. Gore among younger voters.

"Unlike [Bill] Clinton, who did very well with this age group, you have yet to see Gore attracting the same numbers" of young voters, said Republican pollster Ed Goeas.

The critical factor, Mr. Goeas says, is not the vice president's stance on any particular issue, but "Does [Mr. Gore] excite them?"

But the young people who are most loyal to Mr. Gore, the convention delegates, cite his stance on issues as the main reason they will be voting for him in November.

"I believe in everything he says," says Amy Storey, 19, the youngest delegate from Wisconsin and a self-described lifelong Democrat.

"He speaks to all the issues that are important to me," such as financial aid, curbing college tuition costs, and health care.

She says Democrats are using two effective tools to fold younger members into the party: the public advocacy of Karenna Gore Schiff, eldest daughter of the vice president and director of GoreNet, an organization to encourage the under-30 crowd to vote Democratic; and the inclusion of young delegates at the convention to serve as an example for their peers.

Mr. Gore "puts so much energy into issues that young people like me are concerned with and he doesn't address them nonchalantly," said Josh Corbin, 18, a delegate from New York. "I think they're talking about issues that young Americans are talking about, not issues that we're tuned out of."

Other young people in town disagree with that characterization. Kadd Stephens, 22, of Washington, proclaims, "I'm not voting."

At the Shadow Convention on Figueroa Street yesterday, Mr. Stephens explained that he finds both major parties "morally repugnant" for ignoring the issue of "abject poverty."

Back at Pershing Square, David Berg, 27, was donning a pink-fur pig costume in the 95-degree heat, covering up a T-shirt that read, "Democrat or Republican, There's No … Difference."

He explained that earlier this year he had swallowed his principles and run for the Utah state legislature as a Democrat. Now he calls himself a "reform Democrat" who will vote for Mr. Nader in November.

"Bush and Gore are two ugly heads of the same monster," he said. "The leadership is out of touch with their own constituency."

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