Marion high schooler youngest Democratic delegate

Sam Gray is 17 but will be 18 on Election Day

Sam Gray
Sam Gray

MARION — Interested in politics for as long as he can remember, Sam Gray is finally a delegate to his party’s national convention. But there’s plenty of time for more.

“No one else my age is interested in it,” said Gray, 17, a Marion High School senior. “But it doesn’t make sense that people don’t get involved.”

Iowa Democratic Party spokesman Michael Hunt confirmed Gray, son of Joann and Pat Gray of Marion, is the state’s youngest delegate to next week’s convention in Charlotte, N.C., “and I think he’s one of the youngest in the country as well.”

Party rules allow 17-year-olds to participate as long as they’ll be 18 on Election Day. Gray’s birthday is Oct. 18.

Gray’s interest isn’t shared by his two older sisters, and his parents are “just about the average” in political awareness, said Joann Gray. But his grandfather Sam Mazziotti was mayor of Oelwein, and uncle Don Mazziotti was deputy transportation secretary for Jimmy Carter.

“When I was still in elementary school, I remember watching the debates,” said Gray — the ones between Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000. “Definitely before all my friends were interested.”

“In middle school,  he started showing a lot of interest,” said Joann Gray. “Watching television, reading the Wall Street Journal, just wanting to keep informed. He definitely has his own opinions. He’s serious about it.”

Gray said he became a Democrat because the party’s positions on social issues best match his own.

“Helping others,” he said. “Just basically all-around platform-wise, it just fits the best of my beliefs.”

Joann Gray will accompany her son to Charlotte and hopes to get floor passes — they’re released daily by the party — for at least a couple days.

As for the delegate himself, “one of the main things is to go and meet people who have the same beliefs,” he said. “It’s a learning experience — just to be more aware and gain more knowledge about our political process.”

Gray said he’ll attend Democratic Youth Council meetings. He’d like to land a fellowship to work on President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign but doesn’t plan to lobby his friends who can vote, much.

“I guess just talking to my friends, making sure they’re going to vote,” he said.

Gray said he thinks Obama will win a second term this year.“It’s going to be interesting, a close one,” he said.

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