Teenage delegate prepares for Alaska Democratic Convention

Delegates from around the state will descend on Anchorage this weekend for Alaska’s Democratic Convention. Organizers say young voters have turned out in record numbers, many supporting Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in his bid for the presidency.

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India Busby, 19, sits in a coffee shop winding down from her last shift of work as a barista and preparing for a trip to Alaska’s Democratic Convention on Wednesday May 11, 2016 in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney, KTOO - Juneau)
India Busby, 19, sits in a coffee shop winding down from her last shift of work as a barista and preparing for a trip to Alaska’s Democratic Convention on Wednesday May 11, 2016 in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney, KTOO – Juneau)

One Juneau teen is rushing headlong into her first national election by securing her spot as a state delegate to support a candidate she’s hoping will change the country’s political process.

India Busby is new to politics, passionate about voting and feeling the Bern. While it’s the first national election for the 19-year-old Juneau college student, she finagled her way into being one of 539 delegates for Alaska’s Democratic Convention in Anchorage.

“I’m very excited. I’m a little nervous. But, we’ll see how it goes,” she said.

At a coffee shop in Juneau where she’s just finished her last shift, Busby insisted on gelato before settling in to talk about her foray into the wide world of politics.

She just finished her first year at the University of Alaska Southeast where she is majoring in sociology and recently added a minor in political science. And, while she talks passionately about the importance of voting and why she believes the Democratic Party needs an infusion of young voters, it’s a marked shift from her days as a high school student.

“I had — well OK, so I had a D my senior year in government class. I will admit that. It was not my favorite subject. I mean, the teacher was great but I just hated the class. I thought it was confusing. It just had too much going on and I didn’t like the fact that there was, like, two different parties and I couldn’t wrap my head around it,” Busby said. “But I think I just didn’t have the patience to understand it ‘cause it is a lot to take in. It really is and as I, like, continued to do research about it, it was very, I’ll admit it was really hard for me to understand it.”

By the end of her senior year, Busby said she managed to bump up her grade to a D+.

“And I regret that D+, but I took it again in college and I ended up with a B+, so obviously I was doing something right,” Busby said.

Because it’s her first time attending a convention, Busby isn’t sure what to expect. But she’s looking forward to some of the workshops offered over the weekend.

“There’s one about the expansion of Medicaid. There’s one about the legalization of marijuana and what we’re going to do about it. There’s this one about running for office, which I’m really interested in,” Busby said. “Then we get to learn, like, the history of the Democratic Party. I’ve always been a history fan so I’m pretty excited.”

Busby will join hordes of other Bernie Sanders supporters who voted during the March caucuses. More than 10,600 Democrats turned out in Alaska and handed the Vermont senator nearly 80 percent of the votes.

She said she picked Sanders because he supports issues she cares about, like education and healthcare reform.

“The more I looked into who was running in the Democratic Party for president, I realized that, I mean, personally to me, like, I see Hillary Clinton as really corrupt and I think we just — and I mean she definitely does have a lot of experience and she’s a very nice lady — but it’s just not someone who I would vote for as my first. I mean obviously, if she’s in the nomination I’m going to vote for her,” Busby said.

At the state convention, Sanders delegates will hear speeches from about 350 people who applied for 20 delegate spots to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July. Jake Hamburg, the communications director of the Alaska Democratic Party said Sanders supporters will pick 13, Hillary Clinton supporters will pick three. There are also two alternates.

Hamburg doesn’t know how many teens are headed to the state convention, but he isn’t surprised to hear about Busby’s trip.

“We don’t identify delegates by age, but in talking with other folks that have been around for a while, we’ve never seen a delegation this young and also this engaged to showing up to a state convention before,” Hamburg said. “So it is really exciting to see. The new Democrats and the young people that are getting involved are really taking an active role in shaping the party going forward.”

Busby didn’t apply for a spot as a national delegate, in part because she doesn’t think she can afford it. She’s already spent $400 getting to the state convention, a small fortune for a college student.