BY HAYLEY HODGES
Iowa saw a plethora of political activity last year leading up to the Iowa caucus, but, the political excitement quickly diminished for most voters as soon as the ballots were cast.
Students at Drake University were fully immersed with political events happening on and around campus leading up to and including the caucuses at the beginning of February 2016.
From there, many students were ready to suspend their collective interest until election day coming up in November. For a couple of students however, Iowa was just the beginning.
Sophomores Westhenry Loerger and Joshua Hughes had the unique opportunities to be delegates at the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention, respectively.
Loerger, a business major, became a delegate for Ted Cruz. Hughes, a law, politics and society major, was a delegate for Hillary Clinton.
“I was elected as an alternate delegate to represent Iowa’s Third Congressional District at the district convention,” Loerger said in an email. “My election was truly a blessing from God because I was running against well-known local politicians and asking people who had never heard of me before to vote for me. It took around eight ballots but I finally prevailed as the third alternate of three.”
Drake offered plentiful opportunities for students to get a peek at one side of politics, but in order to make it to the RNC, Loerger had to do more and reach out further.
“I expected some political opportunities but what I experienced leading up to the caucuses far exceeded my expectations. I was very involved; I met nearly every candidate, volunteered at the Republican debate in Des Moines and interned for the Cruz campaign,” Loerger said. “I have always been interested in politics, and going to Drake has given me unique opportunities to pursue my interests.”
While it was Cruz who won in Iowa, Donald Trump is the Republican candidate who received the presidential nomination at the national convention. Although Loerger’s candidate may not have won, his trip wasn’t for naught.
“I am still glad I attended the convention even though my candidate didn’t get the nomination, and it was great to meet a lot of other Cruz supporters form both Iowa and other states,” Loerger said.
As a delegate for Clinton, Hughes’ trip to the DNC was cause for celebration as Clinton received the presidential nomination for the Democratic Party.
“I will never forget the moment when the DNC Secretary, Stephanie Rawlings- Blake, reported that Hillary Rodham Clinton had received a majority of the votes and was the official nominee for President of the Democratic Party, and I’ll never forget when Hillary herself accepted the nomination,” Hughes said through an email interview. “I will also never forget the balloon drop. I’m 6’5” and I was neck-deep in balloons.”
Hughes’ support for Clinton is long-lived and that drove him to push to become a delegate for her.
“I decided I wanted to be a delegate about this time last year. By then I was convinced that Hillary would not only win Iowa, but that she would win the nomination and be our nominee, and I wanted to be there when we as a party made history.”
Hughes noted much of the work involved to become a delegate and explained his calculated strategy involving plenty of campaigning and perseverance, but felt they paid off once he made it to the convention.
“The convention itself was a whirlwind. I have a hard time describing it any other way. There was never a moment of non-activity — for 4 days, 24 hours a day, the city was buzzing with excitement and activity,” Hughes said. “Convention is basically a glorified four-day party. Delegates do very little — my only official duty was to sign a document indicating how I cast my vote (which I was pledged to). But it was still amazing to sit in the room where history was made.”