More than 2,400 delegates will head to the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, which begins July 18, some high-profile names, some not so much. And in the midst of it all is Westhenry Ioerger, a 19-year-old Drake University student.
Ioerger will be one of the youngest attendees at the national gathering. He is participating in the convention as an alternate delegate, meaning that if a delegate is absent from the floor, Ioerger has to step in their place. Leading up to the event, the Iowa native has clocked roughly 80 hours a week working on his family’s farm to pay his way to the convention—and his excitement hasn’t wavered.
Ioerger’s affinity for politics started when he saw his cousin run for public office. “That was my first wake up call,” he told me. “Politics is more close to home than the presidential election that you see on TV.” Ioerger, a registered Republican, also cites a personal connection to Barry Goldwater, one of his top inspirations (besides Ronald Reagan): His uncle volunteered for the campaign.
Shortly before starting college, Ioerger attended a Religious Liberty Rally; that’s where where he first heard presidential candidate Ted Cruz speak—and he liked what he heard. So when Ioerger arrived at Drake in Des Moines, Iowa—home of the first-in-the-nation contest—he was thrilled to be at the epicenter of national politics. Ioerger began interning for Cruz’s campaign in the lead-up to the state’s caucus night in February. “[I] made phone calls, and helped volunteers learn how to make phone calls, and ran errands for the staffers, and [did] the nit-gritty jobs that had to be done,” he said. “I really enjoyed that and met a lot of people through that experience.”