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UCLA student attends Democratic National Convention as delegate

Madhu Narasimhan, a fourth-year political science student, attended the Democratic National Convention last week as a California delegate.

By Suzy Strutner and Katherine Hafner

Sept. 10, 2012 3:22 a.m.

Correction: The original version of this article contained multiple errors. Madhu Narasimhan represented California’s 17th congressional district, which includes Fremont, Milpitas, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Newark and Cupertino. Narasimhan ran in his home city, Fremont.

Red, white and blue paraphernalia adorned the arena.

Swarms of news crews scattered the floor, as thousands of people, some of them recognizable from major television networks, came together.

Fourth-year political science student Madhu Narasimhan was also within the crowd as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, held in Charlotte, N.C., last week.

Narasimhan likened the convention to what he called the “greatest sporting event ever,” except with politicos from across the nation instead of players and fans.

“It was spectacular to see the huge throngs of people,” he said. “(It) made me really thankful that I got to be a part of (the convention).”

The Democratic and Republican National Committees hold conventions every four years to nominate their parties’ official presidential and vice presidential candidates and vote on a party platform.

Based on population and voting patterns from previous elections, states send a predetermined number of “district delegates” from each congressional district to the party conventions. A delegate’s job is to vote on the party’s platform and officially nominate the party’s presidential and vice presidential candidates ““ in Narasimhan’s case, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden.

Narasimhan was one of 365 district delegates from California who attended the Democratic convention ““ the largest delegation from any state.

He represented California’s 17th congressional district, which includes Fremont, Milpitas, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Newark and Cupertino.

In April, Narasimhan received an informational email from the Obama for America campaign about becoming a convention delegate. He decided to run for a delegate position, he said.

Every spring of an election year, democrats vote for their district’s delegates. Narasimhan ran in his home city, Fremont, where voters asked him questions about his stances on political issues.

Narasimhan’s desire to attend last week’s event stems from a deep interest in politics, he said. He added that he has been a fan of politics since the fourth grade, when he was captivated by the 2000 presidential election.

Watching the 2008 election caused his casual interest in politics to grow into an obsession, he added.

“(Narasimhan) is very obsessed with politics,” said Michael DiBernardo, Narasimhan’s roommate of the past three years and a fourth-year business and economics student. “He’s always willing to have a political debate with someone ““ and I don’t think anyone our age can beat him at (debating).”

Since 2008, Narasimhan has helped organize party fundraisers and spent a quarter interning in Washington, D.C., for the White House’s Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He took the internship partially because of his Indian-American background, and partially because of a passion for work on Capitol Hill, he said.

“I see my delegate-hood as an extension of (my internship),” he said.

Narasimhan raised about $900 to cover the costs of his flights, lodging and food while in Charlotte. Most of the money came from friends’ and family members’ donations. He created a website where people could donate to fund his travel expenses through a PayPal account, and made appeals to people through Facebook, email and over the phone.

“I owe my trip to supporters in my family and the Bruin community,” he said.

At the convention, Narasimhan started his days with a breakfast for California delegates, where he heard speakers and conversed with his fellow delegates.

For the rest of the day, he would attend meetings, watch speeches and performances inside the convention center, and interact with other politicians and activists, he said.

A delegate’s role is mostly symbolic, said Tim Groeling, chair of the communication studies department who studies political communications. The convention itself is largely symbolic as well, he added.

The Republican party held its national convention in Tampa, Fla., two weeks ago.

Being a delegate at the convention provides a networking opportunity that could help Narasimhan start an early political career if he decides to pursue the field, said Michael Dukakis, a former Democratic presidential candidate and UCLA public affairs professor.

Narasimhan said one of the best experiences he had at the convention was the chance to actually participate in policy discussions.

“(When you go) you really do feel like you have a voice in the party,” he said. “(Political leaders) are staying at the same hotels and going to the same meetings ““ it’s great running into people and talking to them about policy.”

Unsure of what he will do after he graduates this year, Narasimhan said he may want to run for political office or head a philanthropy group.

“If he can get involved in any way (with politics), he will,” DiBernardo said.

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Suzy Strutner
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