In a primary full of twists, turns and uncertainties, two UC Davis students could play a critical role in determining the outcome.
An Apr. 13 caucus of Democratic voters from the First Congressional District elected Don Gibson, a sophomore biotechnology major, as a delegate for Hillary Clinton. Ryan Loney, a sophomore environmental policy and planning major, was elected as an alternate delegate for Barack Obama. Both students will attend the Democratic National Convention in Denver from Aug. 25 to 28.
According to quotas set by the state to ensure equal gender representation at the convention, there was one male delegate position from the First Congressional District available for Hillary Clinton. Gibson, who won that seat, said he sought to dispel the idea that only Obama attracts young voters.
“There’s a lot of hype of young voters [for] Obama, so I wanted to show young people can also support Clinton,” he said.
Four other people ran for the male Clinton seat, but Gibson received the most votes: 45 of 89 cast. Since he brought only eight friends from UC Davis, he said he impressed voters with his involvement with the Yolo County Democratic Central Committee. He also made political alliances, he said.
“I met every voter there and tried to convince them I was the best qualified person for the position,” he said.
Loney, the coordinator of the UC Davis chapter of Students for Obama, was among 52 people running for the male Obama seat, but managed to receive 88 votes – the second-highest amount, earning him the alternate position. Like Gibson, he attributed his campaign success to his demonstrated political commitment.
“I’m pretty well networked with the Yolo for Obama group,” he said.
Loney said Students for Obama agreed he was a viable candidate to be a delegate, as the organization wanted young voters represented at the convention.
“We wanted to send a student because we feel they’re underrepresented as delegates,” Loney said. “Historically, people under 30 are underrepresented.”
Though Gibson and Loney have pledged to remain loyal to their designated candidates, they could switch allegiances if the Obama-Clinton stalemate prolongs into the summer. In that case, convention delegates would “broker a deal” to determine the primary winner, said Davis College Democrats President Max Mikalonis, a junior political science major.
“In the primary, you voted for a candidate, but you’re really voting for a delegate to represent that candidate,” Mikalonis said.
Gibson said he is campaigning for Clinton because she supports universal health care and withdrawal from Iraq.
“She’s a proven fighter,” he said. “She already learned from her mistakes from helping Bill Clinton with her first health care plan in 1993. I feel like there won’t be a learning curve for her presidency.”
Incidentally, Loney also cited the war in Iraq and health care as the primary reasons why he supports Obama. But he also admires Obama’s character more, he said.
“I don’t necessarily agree with some of [Clinton’s] policy positions, and I don’t find her to be as honest and straightforward,” he said. “In the past few weeks, she’s been acting like she’s a Republican nominee [to court voters].”
Though they may not see eye-to-eye politically, Gibson and Loney both face a similar problem of having to raise an estimated $2,500 for a flight and hotel room. They said they planned to fundraise and seek money from a source likely unique to young delegates: their parents.
“My birthday gift from my parents is a flight to Denver and back,” Gibson said.
PATRICK McCARTNEY can be reached at email@example.com.