Shane Grannum is just 13, but he's already hobnobbed with some pretty heavy hitters in the Democratic Party, such as Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and past vice-presidential candidate John Edwards.
It's no wonder then that these encounters only whet his appetite for more and made him want to share his love of politics and Democrats with others where he lives, the Sully District.
So Shane, an eighth-grader at Stone Middle School, has just started the Young Sully Democrats. Members will help the Sully District Democratic Committee, debate current events and discuss ways to get involved in the community.
The first meeting is next Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 6:30-7:10 p.m., at the Sully District Governmental Center, 4900 Stonecroft Blvd., in Chantilly. To join, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; for more information, see www.ydemocrats.wordpress.com.
"I got the idea for the Young Sully Democrats in August 2005," said Shane. "I always wanted to do something for my age group because I felt like a loner [in my love of politics]. But I figured there were others out there like me — I just had to round them up."
He first became interested in politics at age 10. It was during Howard Dean's campaign for president, and he had a small cameo in CNN's documentary about it, "True Believers." He began volunteering at the Dean headquarters in Falls Church, several hours each night.
"This lady made a video for the Dean campaign, and she interviewed me about what I thought about Dean," said Shane. "Then I was in the Washington Post's 'Kids Post' and also in the Washington Times and that led to CNN."
Then in 2004, after Dean dropped out of the race, Shane started campaigning for James Socas. During the Kerry/Edwards presidential campaign, he handed out political literature on election day at Deer Park Elementary and Stone Middle School.
But he got involved locally, the previous year, when he worked on Georgette Kohler's campaign for Sully District supervisor. He became a Democrat initially because his parents, Denise and Roger Grannum of Sully Station II, are Democrats. But even moreso, he said, "After I got into it, I learned more about the party and what it valued."
For Kohler's campaign, he did phone banking — "calling people and asking them whether they're voting for person A or person B," explained Shane. "If it's not your candidate, or they're undecided, you try to persuade them otherwise. Sometimes, they get mad and hang up. But it doesn't bother me because, at school, you see how people react to things, so I understand how adults do, too."
He also likes the fact that a political contest is a race, and he enjoys the anticipation and being anxious about something. Every year since fourth grade, he ran for student government in school, but didn't win until seventh grade. And he's now running for student body president at Stone.
Since he's so bright, his slogan is "Shane the Brain," and the election is in the middle of this month. As for a campaign issue, he said, "I'd like to change their water policy. A lot of times, people put their mouths on the water fountains and do lots of disgusting things, so I want water bottles allowed outside of the cafeteria, around the school and in the classrooms."
Shane says it's "not only a dehydration thing, but a health thing." He also wants to increase the number of SCA-sponsored activities and have the organization sponsor things in addition to dances. "I know people would come to other functions, if we had any," he said.
Since his experience on the Kohler campaign, he's attended the monthly meetings of the Sully District Democratic Committee. When he learned that Tim Gaine was running for governor and Chuck Caputo was running for 67th District delegate, he plunged into their campaigns with gusto.
"Since I knew Caputo personally, it was a big campaign for me," said Shane. "I did a lot of phone banking for him because his headquarters were just a mile from my house."
He met Kaine when the now Virginia governor came to Centreville during his campaign. "It was just a handshake and a hello, but he told me to keep doing what I was doing," said Shane." Although he conceived of the idea for the Young Sully Democrats more than a year ago, the rigors of seventh grade kept him pretty busy.
But this August, he decided to follow through with his plan and start a group. "I spoke about it at the August and September meetings of the Sully Democrats and to the Democratic Women of Clifton, on Sept. 17," he said. "They applauded me and agreed that my idea was good."
Shane said Jane Barker and Jane Blechman, co-chairs of the Democratic Women of Clifton, gave him some useful ideas about how to begin. "But the real person who helped me is Georgette Kohler," he said. "She gave me a lot of ideas that I've followed through with."
For example, she suggested that he create a big poster to display at Centreville Day at the Sully District Democratic Committee booth. And she also advised the energetic and enthusiastic teen to advertise the new group at back-to-school nights — mainly at Stone Middle and Westfield High. Shane also passed out flyers about the Young Sully Democrats — 100-150 at the schools and another 200 at Centreville Day.
He says the young Dems could help the Sully District Democratic Committee by volunteering, helping to make signs, canvassing and sharing some of the work of the local elections. "They're very busy and have a lot to do, and we can help them out," he explained. "We'd also help any other Democrats in Fairfax County that need help."
And to clarify, Shane said he told the Democratic Women of Clifton — who are in the Springfield District — that the name "Sully" in his organization is just to identify where the group originated and where it will meet every month.
Potential members may download the new group's registration form at its Web site and then bring it to a Young Sully Democrats meeting. Shane also set up a Google group "where people can join the mailing list so I can send potential members information about the meeting dates and ways to volunteer." And there's a link to it on the Web site.
"Ultimately, I'd like to have 10-20 really devoted members," he said. "And I'd like to help Democrats win and stay in office."
Shane has one sister, Chanelle, 17, a Westfield senior. Because of his interest in politics, his favorite subjects in school are history and American history. In his spare time, he likes being on the computer and watching football and basketball on TV. His favorite football team is the Miami Dolphins because he was born in Florida.
"He's just a really awesome kid," said his mom, Denise. "I'm just as proud as a mother can be. He's got the drive and motivation, and he pulled straight A's in honors classes last year. He's also an avid reader and a kind and caring person."
She said his talents made themselves known early. In fourth grade, he won a bike-helmet safety award from the Epileptic Foundation; and in fifth grade, he received an award from the Robinson Secondary DECA organization for writing about Internet safety for children.
As for Shane's newest endeavor, she said his family supports him 100 percent. She also noted her son's personal political aspirations: "He wants to be a senator from Florida someday. He's been going to Sully Democratic Committee meetings for two years — and he's the only child there."
Sully Democratic Committee Chairman Mary Lee Cerillo also has high praise for Shane. "This is not a new thing for this kid," she said. "He's been doing it for a couple years. He volunteered on the Kerry campaign and made phone calls for Chuck Caputo and was pretty, darn good at it. And last week, he met John Edwards. He's pretty well-known around the state because he's been so active."
So what's her opinion of Shane? "I think he's a great young man," said Cerillo. "He's very bright and he wants to be in politics. He's been an asset for us — and he's not doing it for credit for school. He's doing it because he really loves the Democratic Party and wants to help out. We're just happy that he's in Sully — we feel very blessed."