Draim's take on young voters
Evan Draim, delegate to the Republican National Convention
WASHINGTON - A 17-year-old high school senior from Mount Vernon is making an impression at the Republican National Convention with what he says is a "unique message" representing young voters.
Evan Draim makes Paul Ryan, the youthful Republican vice presidential contender, look like a late bloomer — less Doogie Howser, M.D., and more Grandma Moses.
At 17, Draim is not of voting age. But he'll be 18 by Election Day, making him eligible to serve and vote as a delegate to the Republican National Convention. Of the more than 2,000 delegates slated for Tampa, Draim will be the youngest.
"I think it's great," says Draim, who learned that he had the distinction when a national party official called with the news a few weeks ago.
"I've been really flattered that there has been so much press coverage of me," Draim tells WTOP's Andrew Mollenbeck. "I think it speaks to how important young voters are in this next election. And also how much the issues that we're talking about in 2012 really affect American students."
Draim, who will turn 18 on Sept. 14, was one of seven people who competed for three delegate slots from Virginia's 8th Congressional District in May. He was the top vote-getter among the bunch, defeating Arlington County Republican Committee Chairman Charles Hokanson, among others.
Draim pulled off the victory with an outreach effort that would have tested even teenage tolerance for telephone time.
"I pretty much called almost all 700 people who were registered to vote in the convention," he says.
He also made appeals in person at Republican club meetings, all while juggling Advanced Placement biology, economics, U.S. history, the swim team, the debate team and other activities at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, where he is entering his senior year.
"Almost every night of the week, I'd finish school, do whatever after-school activities I had and to go to tea party gatherings, local Republican meetings," he says. "It was quite a process."
Hokanson, who says he got a late start on his campaign, tips his hat to the whippersnapper who bested him.
"He earned that delegate seat the old-fashioned way: He worked for it," Hokanson says. "He was calling people. He was going to every meeting every night. He was all over Arlington, Falls Church, Alexandria, Fairfax."
He has hardly slowed down since, continuing to attend Republican club meetings in addition to going door-to-door for the GOP ticket. He's helping former Republican senator and governor George Allen's Senate race against former Democratic governor Timothy M. Kaine, serving as chairman of Young Ambassadors for Allen.
Draim has never attended a national political convention, but he's a veteran of two state GOP conventions. The first was in 2009, when Gov. Robert F. McDonnell was nominated, and the second was a smaller gathering this year to decide party issues.
His father took him to the 2009 convention. That fact could lead someone to conclude that Draim is the offspring of politically active parents who dragged him to bull roasts and shad plankings since he was in diapers.
In fact, it's the other way around.
Draim's father, a legal malpractice defense lawyer, took him to the state convention in Richmond three years ago, but at the behest of the teenager, who was too young to drive.
"It was kind of like a graduation present for me," says Draim, who had just completed middle school.
Draim's political inspiration skips a generation, to his maternal grandparents, Ida and Anton Wurczinger. They came to the United States after World War II, having fled Soviet oppression in Hungary.
"I view it as my responsibility to give back to the country that has given them so much, and I want to make sure the American dream that helped my ancestors is there for future generations of immigrants and graduating students," he says.
David Rexrode called it "absolutely great" to have young people such as Draim engaged in the campaign.
"What Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan are talking about is solving the problems, and stopping (the) spending (of) money of the next generation," says Rexrode, executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia. "So it's good to have younger folks as delegates."
The GOP's message of smaller, more limited government resonates with Draim as a young man itching to take charge of his life.
"Young people should desire the same freedom and individuality from their government . . . they desire from their parents and other authority figures at this age," he says.