By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn was well represented at a four-day national convention of young Democratic Party activists that took place deep in the heart of Texas, according to one participant, who said he came back energized by the experience.
Bay Ridge resident Kevin Peter Carroll, the Democratic district leader of the 64th Assembly District (Bay Ridge-Staten Island) was part of an eight-person delegation from Brooklyn that attended the Young Democrats of America Convention in San Antonio, Texas on Aug. 8-11.
“This was my first convention and I was really impressed,” Carroll, a 26-year-old City Council aide, said. “When the delegates from Alaska and Hawaii got up to vote, I remember saying to myself, ‘That’s impressive. They came all the way here from so far away to be a part of this convention,’” he told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Texas, which has a Republican governor, Rick Perry, is home to former president George W. Bush and which recently instituted strict limits on abortion, has long been considered a deeply red state. But Carroll said that from his observations, that might be changing.
Many of the delegates were wearing “Ready for Hillary” buttons, showing their support for the idea of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton running for president in 2016. Carroll said he too wore a pro-Hillary button the entire time he was in Texas.
The Young Democrats of America, an organization founded in 1932 to encourage young people to become involved in Democratic Party politics, holds its convention on a bi-annual basis. ‘"he mission is to get young people more involved and to promote Democratic Party ideals,” Carroll said.
The organization is open to people between the ages of 14 and 36. “One delegate I spoke to, a guy from Indiana was 15 years old,” Carroll said.
Delegates from 42 states took part in this year’s convention, where participants heard speeches from Julian and Joaquin Castro, twin brothers who are considered rising stars in the Democratic Party. Joaquin is a congressman from Texas. His twin brother is the mayor of San Antonio. US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida), chairman of the Democratic National Committee, addressed the delegates via video.
The delegates also elected a slate of officers, including a new president, Atima Omara-Alwala of Virginia, who is the first African-American woman to lead the organization.
“In this organization’s 81 year history, there has never been an African American but I know my victory today is because of all the activists that have worked for more equality for African Americans and women,” the new president said in a statement she issued on the day she was elected.
A New Yorker, Benjamin Yee, was elected first vice president.
In addition to the elected, the convention featured floor speeches and workshops, Carroll said. “And there was also a lot of networking,” he said.
As a district leader, Carroll is a party official in the Democratic Party in New York State. His official title is state committeemen, meaning that he is a member of the party’s state committee. He was elected to his post two years ago. His fellow convention delegates told him they were impressed by the fact that he was able to get elected to a party position at the age of 24 and asked him many questions about his career in politics. He gladly offered tips on how to run political campaigns.
Carroll also brought a unique perspective to the meetings of the convention’s northeast regional caucus.
“People tend to think of New York as strictly a Democratic state. But I pointed out that the congressional district where I live is represented by a Republican congressman,” he said, referring to US Rep. Michael Grimm (R-C-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Staten Island). “We have a Republican congressman, but Barack Obama won the district in 2012. I told people that if we could get more Democrats to come to New York to help us campaign, we could get a Democrat elected to that congressional seat,” he said.
On the convention floor, the two topics of conversation that generated the most buzz were same sex marriage and the Trayvon Martin tragedy. “I don’t know if it’s a generational thing, but there was a great deal of support for marriage equality among the delegates. I think young people have moved this issue to the forefront in our country. We talked about the importance of working for marriage equality in all 50 states,” Carroll said.
When he busy with convention-related activities, Carroll went sight-seeing in San Antonio, visiting the Alamo and strolling along the city’s River Walk. ‘It’s a nice city, but it can’t compare to New York,” he said.