At the state Democratic convention in Spokane last weekend, 17-year-old Jack Laurence, the grandson of legendary Washington Sen. Henry M. Jackson, lost his bid to attend the Democratic National Convention in August as a delegate for Sen. Hillary Clinton (see “Kid Clintonite,” May 28).
“I think it was a little bit of an eye-opener,” says his father, Dan Laurence. Part of Jack’s problem was the state Democratic party’s push for diversity; they wanted at-large delegates of ethnicities that hadn’t been elected at the congressional caucuses. As Clinton delegate Paul Berendt, the former chairman of the state Democratic Party, explains: “About a year ago, the state party adopted an affirmative-action plan; the party wanted its delegations to be an accurate representation of the state.” From now on, he adds, state delegations should contain accurate representations of the African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, GLBT, and disabled communities.
At this year’s congressional caucuses, most of those obligations were fulfilled. However, the party met only about half of its obligation for the Hispanic community, Berendt says. There were also an inordinate number of men elected. Therefore, of the 10 at-large Clinton delegates, six needed to be women, four to be men, and three to be Hispanic of either gender. Some 100 people ran for those 10 spots; about 60 percent of them were male. Therefore, the odds—already long—were a bit more so for young Laurence.
Nevertheless, Berendt tried to help Laurence as much as he could. “Jackson is still a legendary name in the state,” Berendt says. “I remember being a kid and meeting him and chills ran up my spine. I tried to help that kid because I thought he was kind of a neat kid.”
The experience may not be a complete loss, however. “I told him I would go to bat for him so he could go to the convention in some other role,” Berendt says. “And I will do that.”
Laurence wasn’t the only young delegate who walked away from the state convention disappointed. Jack Nettleton, also 17, is the grandson of former Gov. Booth Gardner. Unlike the other Jack, Littleton had hoped to represent Obama. But like Laurence, he wasn’t elected either.
“It’s OK,” says his father, John Nettleton. “It was a good experience for him. He had fun.”