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Young lions



The youth vote didn't dent the election, but a few are waiting in the wings

Gina Castañeda seemed relaxed as she visited several voting precincts on the South Side Tuesday afternoon. "It's all been pretty exciting, but I don't have any anxiety," the manager of the South Side Democratic Headquarters said. Castañeda has been a political infighter on the South Side since 1976, so she has a long-term view of the political process.

There was no way to tell what the final results were on Tuesday afternoon, but the precincts were reporting higher numbers than were counted in 2000.

According to the Bexar County Elections Department web site, there were 416,570 voters at the polls in 2000, compared to 478,073 in Tuesday's election, a difference of 61,503.

Subtract the total of 871,042 registered voters in 2000 from the 909,168 that were registered in 2004, and you get 38,126. Subtract that amount from 61,503, and you get 23,377 new voters at the polls in the 2004 national, state and local election.

Leave that for the political scientists to divine with their statistical charts and scientific calculators, but Fox News reports that the young vote did not help swing this election.

The election has galvanized local young voters, and several of them have emerged as contenders to keep an eye on in future political races.

There is 21-year-old Robert Vargas, the chairman of the South Side Republicans. He would likely be carded at a local convenience store if he asked for a pack of cigarettes. But he was not too young to stand in the parking lot of Palo Alto Elementary and monitor voters who were being sent away to vote in other precincts.

Ty Coad, 27, a political science major wrapping up his studies at Northwest Vista College, is the founder of that campus' new group, the Young Democrats. The single father of a 3-year-old boy, he lives in City Council District 7, and promised, "I will run for City Council within the next five years."

Emma Hersh hails from Washington, D.C., and attends Trinity University. She helped bring Generation Democrat to San Antonio. She said she has enjoyed participating in local election efforts, but in her hometown, "everyone gets involved. You can't be there and not be excited. In D.C., politics gets in your blood."

Hersh said she was full of anxiety during Tuesday night's election watch at Sunset Station, but she also was talking about what Generation Democrat plans to do next week: "We're doing issues advocacy.

"I would love to run for Congress someday," she says, "but for now, I'm having too much fun working in the trenches."

By Michael Cary

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