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Politics & Government

High School Senior Elected As Republican Delegate From Colorado

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's been 40 years or so since a national political convention had even a little suspense. Everyone usually knows long before the conventions open exactly who each party's nominee will be.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This year, Republicans may not experience their convention as the usual celebration, but rather as a knockdown, drag-out contest. That could happen if front-runner Donald Trump arrives in Cleveland without the majority of delegates he needs to lock up the nomination. And that got one step closer this past weekend, when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won all the pledged delegates in Colorado. Joel Crank is one of those delegates. We reached the 18-year-old in Colorado Springs. Good morning.

JOEL CRANK: Good morning. How are you?

MONTAGNE: Fine, thank you. Now, talk to us about how the Republican delegates are chosen in Colorado. I mean, it's not a primary.

CRANK: No, ma'am, it's not a primary. It's a very long process starting on March 1, I guess. It starts with a precinct caucus, so everybody in Colorado who wants to participate in the Republican Party, if they are a registered Republican, can go to their precinct caucus place and elect someone who is a delegate to the county, the congressional district and the state assemblies. And then, when they go to these assemblies at the congressional district and the state assemblies, they can vote for delegates to the national convention. And they vote based on who they want to represent and who these delegates will vote for at the national convention.

MONTAGNE: So how did you advertise, if you want to put it that way, who you would like to represent?

CRANK: Well, they give each delegate an option of going either pledged or unpledged to each candidate. I am pledged to Ted Cruz. And so I went in and I said, well, my name's Joel Crank. I'm supporting Ted Cruz. If you like Ted Cruz, then I'm your guy.

MONTAGNE: To the general assembly?

CRANK: This was at the fifth Congressional assembly.

MONTAGNE: And in the other direction, what were Cruz's campaign efforts like compared, if you could see that, to Donald Trump's and John Kasich's? I mean, how did, in a sense, he win your support?

CRANK: Well, here in Colorado, we've seen quite a bit more attention from the Cruz campaign than the Trump campaign or the Kasich campaign. And I think that contributes to why Ted Cruz has, in essence, swept Colorado. There are three delegates from Colorado who are unpledged just because it's their job as higher-up member of the Republican Party, so they can't pledge to a certain candidate. But the 34 other delegates are pledged to Ted Cruz. And that's - that's why we see this, is because Ted Cruz has had a terrific ground game here.

MONTAGNE: Did anyone at any point say to you, you're just a high school student; why should you be a delegate?

CRANK: Well, of course I've heard it. And I've seen it said about me and to me. But quite frankly, there's no time to waste. There's no time for me to wait till I'm 25 years old or 30 years old to start getting involved because I've seen my country, and it's in decline. And that's something I need to take control of because eventually this will be my problem, and eventually it'll be a problem for, one day, my children. So it's something that we have no time to waste. And even though I'm young, I need to get involved now.

MONTAGNE: You know, a lot of analysts think that no candidate will win enough delegates before the convention. That looks quite likely at this point. This year, you delegates will have to choose the Republican nominee at the convention. That hasn't happened in decades. You could have a really historic responsibility at this convention. Have you been thinking about that?

CRANK: Absolutely. You know, I think that's in everybody's mind right now. And I think that's a wonderful thing for so many people.

MONTAGNE: You know, you're talking about taking responsibility for your country at a pretty young age. Are you looking to go into politics yourself?

CRANK: I'm 18 years old, and people ask me this all the time. And my answer is always I have no idea. I'm a young man, so obviously I don't really plan ahead that well. But, you know, I may, I may not. I haven't really decided.

MONTAGNE: Well, good for you (laughter).

CRANK: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: That's a much better way to go into the world. Are you - where are you going to college, by the way?

CRANK: I plan on attending Colorado State University up in Fort Collins, Colo.

MONTAGNE: OK. Joel Crank is a high school senior and a newly elected Republican delegate from Colorado. Thanks very much for joining us.

CRANK: Thank you very much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.