- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 2, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. | Key officials in the Reagan administration. A POW held in the same Hanoi prison camp as Sen. John McCain. And a 20-year-old college student.

Local delegates to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul run the gamut from high-powered former policymakers to rising politicians getting their first close-up look at the national scene.

“I’m just very excited about the people I’m going to meet,” said Kate Maxwell, who, at 20, is the youngest member of Virginia’s convention delegation. “Being so young, just being a part of the process at a national level, it is very exciting for me.”

Politics is nothing new to Miss Maxwell, a junior at Virginia Tech. While she was growing up, her parents were precinct captains in their hometown near Richmond. The political science major - who now serves as political director for the College Republican Federation of Virginia - joined in her parents’ efforts as a toddler.

“I was stuffing campaign literature at the age of 2,” she said.

Miss Maxwell said she thinks voters her age will support Mr. McCain after examining his stances on issues such as energy, gas prices, taxes and jobs.

She said the appeal of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama is based more on “glitzy celebrity” - but admitted she hopes to see a few celebrities of her own at the convention.

“I would certainly love to see President Bush,” she said.

For retired Navy Cmdr. Everett Alvarez Jr., this year’s convention will be his first as a delegate, but the honorary chairman of the Maryland Republican Party’s roughly 70-member delegation has a more personal connection to the proceedings.

In August 1964, Cmdr. Alvarez became the first American aviator shot down over North Vietnam. He was held captive as a prisoner of war for more than eight years and first met Mr. McCain - who will receive the Republican nomination for president Thursday night - at a prison known as the Hanoi Hilton.

“He was one of the guys,” said Cmdr. Alvarez, 70. “He did his job, he did it well.”

Cmdr. Alvarez, who lives in Potomac, said his friendship with Mr. McCain grew after the Vietnam War.

He said he admires the senator’s commitment to country over self, and is most looking forward to casting the Maryland delegation’s votes for the Arizona Republican at the convention.

“He represents character, integrity, honor and a commitment to do what is in the best interest of our country over himself,” Cmdr. Alvarez said. “That’s the person he is, and that’s the person I want to see as our next commander in chief.”

The Maryland Republican Party is a bit beleaguered in a state that has not been won by a Republican presidential candidate since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Republicans also dropped two key elections when former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele lost their respective bids for re-election and a U.S. Senate seat in 2006.

But Cmdr. Alvarez said he is optimistic the Maryland Republican Party can rebound by attracting younger voters on issues such as the economy, the environment and lower taxes.

“They look at the issues that affect them with regard to taxes, with regard to health coverage, with regard to business opportunities,” he said. “I’m seeing a growing interest in the younger generation.”

From the District - where Democrats outnumber Republicans 10-to-1 - Stephen Danzansky is one of a number of delegates with ties to the administration of Ronald Reagan, including former National Security Adviser Robert C. “Bud” McFarlane and former Secretary of Labor Ann Korologos, both of whom served under the 40th president.

Mr. Danzansky, a special assistant to Mr. Reagan for international economic affairs at the National Security Council, said he and his fellow Reaganites have gravitated toward Mr. McCain because of his similarities to the former president’s character and policies.

“I think [Mr. McCain’s] honesty, there’s a lot of that in Reagan - tell it like it is,” Mr. Danzansky said. “And there’s a libertarian streak in John McCain that was also true in Reagan.”

Mr. Danzansky said he still hopes to be able to influence the District’s political debate despite the minority party status held by the 35 members of his delegation.

In areas like education reform, “a Republican voice is still relevant in urban areas,” he said.

“There are reasons to sort of hang in there with new and alternative ideas,” said Mr. Danzansky, who also served as director of Cabinet affairs in the White House for first President Bush. “Even though you’re a minority, … thank God, our voices can still be heard.”

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