This 19-year-old elector is prepared to take down Donald Trump
The Democrats caucusing in Moses Lake, in rural Washington state, could agree on that.
When it came time to elect a delegate, a young woman stood up and vowed to fight Donald Trump if he won.
Her name: Levi Guerra.
From: Warden, a farming town, population 2,700.
Background: Associate’s degree by 18, former high school wrestling champ, 100-pound weight class.
“I told them I would love the opportunity to represent the rural communities, the agricultural communities, and the youth who live and thrive in those communities,” Guerra said.
Seven months later, Trump had won enough states to win the presidency.
Guerra didn't forget her promise: The fight was on.
“I started researching other options — that’s when I found the elector Bret Chiafalo,” she said, referring to the 37-year-old elector from Everett, Washington.
Like Guerra, Chiafalo was a Bernie Sanders supporter. He talked about going rogue: He wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton like he was supposed to as an elector from oh-so-blue Washington state. Instead, he would find a more palatable Republican, like Mitt Romney or John Kasich.
"They have the constitutional right to vote for who they want," Chiafalo told KUOW’s Bill Radke. The Electoral College is not a rubber stamp, he has said repeatedly, even if states fine electors who don’t vote as the states would like.
This appealed to Guerra. But it scared her too.
“It was frightening, and it still is,” Guerra said. “I wish I could tell you how much thought went into this. How much sitting down and thinking about this decision.”
The so-called “Hamilton Electors” now include Guerra. These electors say Trump is unfit for office — their name comes from Founding Father Alexander Hamilton’s belief that electors should be allowed to vote their conscience.
Guerra worried about backlash if she challenged Trump. She had heard about threats to other electors, and she worried about her family.
“One of the things that scared me was the hate that is going on,” she said. “I’m the person doing this thing that could cause any harm to them.”
She has not been targeted, probably because she’s hard to find. But commenters online got in digs. “What a stupid little girl,” one wrote.
“My age is an insecurity for me,” Guerra said. “I am young. I want to make up for it.”
So she reads the Federalist Papers and studies the Electoral College. She examines past elections and looks at what scholars say about the Constitution. This in addition to attending community college and being a caretaker for people with special needs.
Guerra tackles tough situations head on — she started wrestling at age 5. Her father wanted to join the wrestling community, she said, but her brother was too young, so he dragged her along.
“It’s a big thing in our town,” she said. The other team’s fans will set up chairs and watch passively, but “the people on our side are yelling moves to do — ‘Get under, get over.’”
She started thinking about politics in high school, while taking community college classes.
She approached a professor and told him, matter-of-factly: “I want to learn more about politics and become a part of it.”
She determined to caucus and become a delegate for Sanders.
Guerra is a second-generation citizen; her family comes from Mexico. She is her mother’s eldest child, and one of nine children total, including step-siblings.
She describes her mother Joanne Castro as a strong, Hispanic woman. Her mother describes her similarly:
“She’s always been strong-headed, strong-willed,” Castro said. “She has her own opinion and she lets you know. She never does the wrong thing. You could be doing some of the craziest things, and if she feels it’s not morally right, she’ll stop you.”
In the wrestling room, she stood down bullies, her mom said.
Castro is proud of her daughter, even though her daughter’s political talk has become white noise.
“She started really schooling us on politics, what it was, who is going to be up and coming, and she started going to these meetings,” Castro said.
“She told me about the caucus, and I said, ‘What is that?’ She’s like, ‘Mom! I’ve been talking about it!’”
But that’s Warden, where potatoes and onions are more relevant than Trump versus Clinton.
“We have one small little store, Town & Country,” Castro said. “Farmers sitting, drinking coffee at the local grocery story, coffee house. You walk in, they’re not necessarily talking politics. They’re talking weather, what today is going to bring, or what the harvest is going to bring in.”
The town is so small that Castro has a rule for her children: “I tell my kids they’re not allowed to date anyone from this town because they’re related by marriage or blood somehow,” she said. “You have to wait until you’re in college, sorry.”
Guerra is their latest celebrity. The last one was Castro’s Uncle Paco, who was in a McDonald’s commercial for his potatoes.
“That was the biggest news ever,” Castro said. “So Levi being televised — people are just wow. We’ve gotten a lot of positive response. People saying, ‘We’re going to be praying for her, we’re proud of her, we’re here for her.’”
Electors vote on Monday, Dec. 19. It would take 37 Republican electors to vote for someone other than Trump to change the course of this election.
Do they stand a chance?
“If I thought there wasn’t a chance,” Guerra said, “I wouldn’t be doing it.”