Local Democrat attends DNC

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By Nathan L. McBroom

One of the youngest delegates at this week's Democratic National Convention got hooked on politics while sitting in a government class at Shelby County High School.

Arshiya Saiyed, who graduated from SCHS in 2006, said her path to representing Kentucky at the DNC began when her teacher, Phillip Bell, made politics come alive in class.

"Through his classes and having lively debates with classmates, I learned the importance of political involvement," she said.

Saiyed, 20, was elected as a delegate this past summer at the Kentucky Democratic Convention. She is one of the 60 Kentucky Democrats who will help nominate the Democratic nominee for the President of the United States.

Not bad for someone has yet to vote in a presidential election.

And while she is younger than most of the other delegates at the convention, the historical importance of this year's convention has not escaped her.

"I know I'm going to look back on this experience and remember that I was there when the first African America was nominated for President of the United States," she said. "I'm taking it in as much as I can."

Saiyed, a junior at Centre College, is pursuing a degree in government history and hopes to attend law school after she graduates.

Currently, she works with Gov. Beshear's office where she helps create the govenor's schedule and runs the governor's internship program.

At present, she said she has no political aspirations. She said she prefers to be "more behind the scenes" in politics.

Saiyed was one of two local Democrats who filled out paperwork in order to be a national delegate.

At the convention, which is meeting in Denver, delegates are expected to nominate Sen. Barack Obama as their presidential nominee.

Saiyed, who was elected as a Sen. Hilary Clinton delegate, is obligated to vote for her unless the New York senator releases her delegates.

Clinton could try to steal the nomination from Obama by retaining her delegates and hoping that superdelegates, who are not obligated to vote a certain way, will overwhelmingly vote for her.

While some local Democrats said it is possible that Clinton could attempt such a move, it is unlikely that she could win the nomination.

Saiyed said if she were released, she would vote for Obama.


Along with nominating the Democratic presidential nominee, Saiyed and other delegates will establish the party's platform.

Saiyed said the three issues that the country must address are health care, the energy crisis, and immigration.

She said the issues that face the nation are serious and must be addressed.

"If we don't begin to solve this problem within the next year, I'm really worried that we are going to have a huge health care crisis," she said.

Saiyed said there is a feeling of unity in the air at the convention - a mutual desire for change.

Saiyed, along with other Democrats, fear that if Sen. John McCain were elected as president, the county would suffer.

"He has shown in his years in the Senate and through his friendship with President Bush that he is a rubber stamp for the direction the current administration going," she said.

According to a press release from the Kentucky Democratic Party, Saiyed is helping make this year's delegation the most diverse convention in the party's history. Just over 44 percent of the delegates represent minority communities, 50.1 percent are women and 31.4 percent are either seniors or youth.

Saiyed is the first local Democrat to be elected as a delegate to the DNC since Shelby County Clerk Sue Carole Perry attended the convention in 1988.

Perry said Saiyed will never forget the experiences she is now having.

"Just soak up all you can," she said. "I get chills just thinking about it."