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Young Idaho delegate turns his eyes to national politics

Jesse Maldonado of Lewiston, the youngest Idaho delegate to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia.
Jesse Maldonado of Lewiston, the youngest Idaho delegate to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. Jennifer Kerrigan

Jesse Maldonado doesn’t take well to being told that something can’t be done. When he was in eighth grade his teacher told him he couldn’t be a politician. Now, Maldonado is the youngest delegate from at the National Democratic Convention, already with a history of influencing Idaho politics.

In his senior year of high school, Maldonado interned with House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston. During his internship, he helped Rusche’s campaign manager with a non-discrimination ordinance in Lewiston, which would help protect LGBT citizens from hate crimes.

In April 2013 Maldonado decided to run for the Lewiston City Council, after being told that the non-discrimination ordinance would never pass the council.

In November, the 18-year-old Maldonado was elected to the Lewiston City Council. The ordinance passed nine months later.

Now the Lewis-Clark State College student is directing his attention to national politics as a pledged Clinton delegate at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia.

“I love that there are so many young people in politics now,” Maldonado said. “I think all it needed was that one person to spark it, and I think Bernie accomplished that.”

While Maldonado supports Clinton, he said either of the Democratic candidate would make a good president. For him, this election is about stopping Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“It’s just so tough as a grandson of immigrants to be supportive of a candidate who has basically called many members of my family felons, rapists and murderers,” Maldonado said.

He’s a good role model for young people that are just getting involved in politics because he’s shown that they can make change.

Idaho Democratic spokesman Dean Ferguson

Maldonado’s grandparents left Mexico and became U.S. citizens. His mother was raised in Nez Perce County.

Latinos make up 12 percent of Idaho’s population and the community is underrepresented in the Legislature.

Dean Ferguson, communications director for the Idaho Democratic Party, said Latino underrepresentation is a problem, but involvement in the Latino community with local politics is on the rise.

It’s just so tough as a grandson of immigrants to be supportive of a candidate who has basically called many members of my family felons, rapists and murderers.

Idaho delegate Jesse Maldonado

“Jesse is a part of that broader movement in Idaho,” said Ferguson. “He’s a good role model for young people that are just getting involved in politics because he’s shown that they can make change.”

At the convention, Maldonado has also taken on the role of Idaho whip captain for the Clinton campaign. His job is to make sure all his fellow delegates are in attendance during important votes and that they follow party rules.

When he returns to Idaho, he’ll resume his new position on City Council as second vice chair and continue the work he’s done managing campaigns for local candidates.

“It’s not surprising he’s at Philadelphia,” said Ferguson. “He’s a great representative for Idaho.”

Jennifer Kerrigan is a student journalist at Temple University: jennifer.kerrigan@temple.edu

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