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Vashon youth is headed to National Convention

Nick Bordner, 17 and yet to cast his first vote, is headed to the National Democratic Convention in Denver this August to help choose the Democratic nominee for the U.S. presidency.

The Vashon High School senior was one of seven delegates elected from some 235 who attended the 7th Congressional District caucus in Seattle on Saturday pledging to support Sen. Barack Obama in Denver. Two other delegates who will support Sen. Hilary Clinton in Denver were also elected from the 7th district.

As a result, Bordner will be a part of the Washington state delegation in Denver — one of 97 Washingtonians who will attend what will likely be a raucous, heady and ultimately watershed event in U.S. political history.

Campaigning with another Vashon senior, Laura Hicks, Bordner went to Saturday’s event with an entourage of supporters — many of them high school seniors like himself — and a slogan that he said seemed to resonate: “Help today’s youth change tomorrow’s world.”

But he admitted Monday to feeling a little dazed and exhausted by what’s been a long and arduous process.

“It sort of hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said. “I’m excited. I’m amazed that I made it that far. ... But right now, I’m still recovering from the process.”

Bordner and Hicks first entered the exhilarating world of electoral politics in February, when they were among dozens of Islanders who were selected by their Vashon precinct caucuses to attend the 34th Legislative District caucus. From there, they made it to the next level, winning a spot at the 7th Congressional District caucus. Nathan Ott, another Vashon High School student, also went to the legislative district caucus but opted not to go any farther than that.

After learning they’d attend the 7th Congressional District caucus as delegates, Bordner and Hicks, who have known each other since they were 5, decided to campaign together for the grand prize in the long and complex process — the National Convention itself. They did so in part to support each other, in part to make more of an impression on those who would be voting and in part because they brought to the caucus a shared message.

The two put out a mailing describing themselves and their candidacies, sending it to a list of more than 200 delegates they obtained from the state Democratic party. They created a blog — vashonyouthdelegates.blogspot.com — where they kept supporters apprised of their efforts. And they took more than a dozens supporters with them to North Seattle Community College on Saturday, each one wearing a red shirt and boasting yellow placards in support of Hicks and Bordner.

“We are both very excited by Barack Obama and the young, fresh, optimistic approach to politics that he takes,” Bordner and Hicks wrote on the opening page of their blog. “We need a change from the stagnating, corrupt politics that have plagued Washington D.C. recently. We feel that he can truly revitalize and change politics in a way that no other candidate can. Senator McCain will simply continue the failed policies of the current administration, and Senator Clinton is too polarizing to unite the nation in the name of progress the way that Obama will be able to.”

Ivan Weiss, who heads the 34th Legislative District Democrats, said both teens were impressive. Both, he said, did what it takes: They worked hard to get elected, using all the best campaign tools available today, from traditional direct mail pieces to the kind of social networking a blog represents.

“The focus that those two showed was remarkable,” he said. “If they bring that kind of focus and dedication and follow-through to everything they do, they’re going to be very successful citizens.”

Hicks didn’t make the cut, however, because of a fluke in how the voting unfolded on Saturday. The Democratic party in Washington mandates that the delegates be balanced by gender, which in the Obama sub-caucus meant that four women and three men would be selected.

In the second and final ballot, Bordner garnered 24 votes and Hicks 23. But because some of the women got very high vote totals, it took 30 votes to become a female delegate for Obama, while it took 19 votes to win a spot as a male delegate, Weiss said.

Hicks will now go onto the state convention in Spokane next month, where 29 more delegates for the National Convention will be chosen. She plans to again work hard and campaign for one of the last coveted spots but said the competition will likely be even stiffer — since those 29 will be selected from all nine of the state’s congressional districts, and those who have the most name recognition or the strongest standing in the party are most likely to win.

“There’s always some bright young kid who has what it takes,” said Weiss. “Nick has it. I’d say the same for Laura. She has what it takes. She just ran up against better organized candidates.”

Both Hicks and Bordner say they’ve been energized by this season’s political process.

Bordner got accepted to Pomona College for the fall but has decided to defer his admission — partly to travel and earn some money, he said, and “partly so that I play a role in this election all the way to the end.”

“It’s interesting to me,” he said. “I’m not sure it’s going to be a career thing. But I know I’ll always be politically aware and active to some degree.”

And Hicks, too, wants to remain engaged in the electoral process through November and beyond, working to pull the youth voice into the political arena.

“We’re going to inherit the country,” she said. “We should know a lot bout how the political process works.”

Box: Nick Bordner is looking for financial support to help him get to Denver this August; the Democratic party doesn’t cover the costs. To learn more, visit his blog at vashonyouthdelegates.blogspot.com or e-mail him at nickbordner@gmail.com.

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