- The Washington Times - Friday, January 30, 2004

This year’s presidential race is offering local young people their first taste of primary politics.

Yesterday, about a half-dozen young volunteers for the Howard Dean campaign canvassed George Mason University in Fairfax to drum up support for the Democratic candidate before the Feb. 10 Virginia primary.

“I’m an extrovert, and I find this very easy to do,” group leader Ariane Holm, 26, said.

Miss Holm began volunteering last fall at Dean for America in Falls Church and discovered a new direction for her life. She is taking time off from her studies at GMU to work full-time in a paid position for the Dean campaign.

“I’m not shy about it, I enjoy talking to people about everything,” she said.

That much was evident as she approached strangers to tout the merits of the former Vermont governor.

“Isn’t he that crazy person?” said junior Chris Hiebert, 20, referring to Mr. Dean’s widely derided concession speech after placing third in the Iowa caucuses.

Miss Holm just laughed and quickly turned the discussion to issues, such as the war against Iraq. Even though Mr. Hiebert was unclear about whether he would vote in the primary, Miss Holm took the time to discuss why Mr. Dean should be his candidate.

Meanwhile, Laura DeLucia, 21, staked out a door near the cafeteria to buttonhole customers about Mr. Dean’s presidential qualifications. Most of the people she approached shook their heads and walked on, leaving her feeling somewhat guilty.

“I feel bad because some people really don’t have time,” Miss DeLucia said. “I always say ‘no’ to people asking for surveys.”

Still, she preferred the rejections at GMU over the responses she got from “cranky old people” in New Hampshire.

“They just blew us off,” said Miss DeLucia, a senior at George Washington University.

She said that canvassing is the best part of the campaign process, nonetheless. She first volunteered in September and said she probably will again if the next campaign involves a close-knit group like that at Dean for America.

Miss Holm said she’s certain she will work on future campaigns, regardless of the candidate, because she has felt energized by working with younger supporters. “The best thing I’ve seen happen is the youth involvement,” she said.

Those young supporters include 10-year-old Shane Grannum, a fifth-grader who began working the phone banks at Dean for America two weeks ago. The tele-campaigners — who phone Virginians who voted in the last presidential primary — ring bells on their desks when a cold call yields a promise to vote for Mr. Dean.

Shane hit the bell three times, and everyone turned to look. “That’s my first one of the day!” he said.

He became interested in politics during the last presidential election, when he was 6, and thought working for a campaign was a good way to see the inside of politics.

“Every four years, I’d like to get involved,” said Shane, not ruling out local elections. “Politics involves our whole life, so if you don’t get into it, there’s going to be consequences.”

The most important lesson Shane says he has learned is: “We have the power.”


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