State's youngest, oldest delegates heading to Denver

-A A +A
By Carol A. Clark

Nearly seven decades separate the youngest and oldest member of New Mexico’s delegation to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Sean Stimmel will celebrate his 20th birthday on his first day at the convention, Aug. 24, which also marks the birthday of the state’s oldest delegate, J. Paul Taylor, 88.

“What are the chances?” laughed Stimmel, adding that officials are checking to see if he is possibly the youngest delegate in the entire nation.

Stimmel lives in White Rock and represents the 3rd Congressional District. Taylor lives in Mesilla and represents the 2nd Congressional District.

Stimmel is a 2007 graduate of Los Alamos High School. He was elected a national delegate alternate and his supporters are working to raise some $2,000 for his trip to the convention.

About a dozen people held a fundraiser at the home of Betsy Raichur Wednesday evening. The event was catered by Patrick Raichur, 16 and Chase Havemann, 15.

Betsy Raichur teaches economics and business electives to ninth through 12th grade students at LAHS.

“Back in November 2006, I got an e-mail from Sean – I think he saw I had an Obama bumper sticker,” she said. “He told me he’d heard I support Obama and wondered if I was interested in organizing something with him.”

Raichur remembered Stimmel saying it was former LAHS teacher Nancy Schick who inspired him to get involved in public service.

“I’ve taught almost 20 years and I’ve never seen kids so excited about a political campaign,” Raichur said. “’Before it was ho hum – who cares – they don’t speak to us.’”

Stimmel described the motivation for his involvement in politics at such a young age.

“My main goal to become a delegate was to put Barack (Obama) in office and now I want to use the convention as a learning experience,” he said. “When I saw Barack at Santa Fe Community College in February, I thought he was really moving. He’s inspiring on television and 10 times more so in person.”

Kris Stimmel, 17, is slowly beginning to follow in his brother’s footsteps. He helped organize some student activities at LAHS earlier this year.

Four of the 3rd Congressional District delegates support Obama and three remain committed to Sen. Hillary Clinton, who withdrew from the race in June.

“I know there are some wounded and hurt Clinton supporters and I don’t blame them – because had it been the other way around, I’d have felt the same way,” Stimmel said. “During the convention, I want to try to help heal those wounds.”

New Mexico has 38 delegates and four alternates, which gives the state a 42-member delegation. There are currently 4,048 delegate votes to the convention that will be cast by 4,069 delegates.

The difference is that certain delegates from American Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands and Democrats abroad cast ½ delegate votes, according to the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) website.

Obama needs a majority of the total number of delegate votes in order to secure the party’s nomination. Presently, 2,117.5 delegate votes are needed.

Stimmel was one of the first to organize for Obama in New Mexico.

“I signed up in October and Hope Bustos in Los Alamos contacted me and said we should get something going,” he said. “We organized a New Mexico grassroots meeting at the Hilltop House Hotel and it took off from there.”

Marcy Stimmel, a teacher at Piñon Elementary School, attended her son’s fundraiser Wednesday. “He’s a great kid and we’re really proud of him,” she said. “He gets an idea and he goes straight ahead with it.”

Obama inspired Sean Stimmel, who was a registered Independent, to switch parties last year to Democrat, he said.

“I share his dream and passion,” Stimmel said. “Polictics before Barack seemed dirty and like they’d do anything for a dollar. Barack is really there for the people of America and not for the lobbyists. Also, he is so clean that they can’t find anything bad about him.”

While Stimmel has thought about entering politics himself, he spent last year attending classes at UNM-Los Alamos and will transfer this fall to New Mexico Tech to study pre-veterinary medicine.

“I have such a big passion to be a vet, so it would probably be five or 10 years down the road before I’d get into politics,” he said, adding that both state and national office appeal to him.

His immediate plans when this election is over is to help whomever comes along who will perpetuate Obama’s dream.

Business leader Stan Primak recalled meeting Stimmel through the Obama campaign. “Early on we met Sean in Santa Fe and I think what’s inspiring to me is to see how a young person can become inspired and take this on as kind of a mission ... Now he’s going to the convention,” Primak said.

Stimmel and the New Mexico delegation have a block of rooms at the Crowne Plaza in the heart of downtown Denver near Invesco Field at Mile High and the Denver Pepsi Center.

Checks to help Stimmel cover expenses in Denver may be mailed to Sean Stimmel, 511 Rover Blvd. Los Alamos, N.M. 87544. To volunteer with the campaign call 920-3611.