Somerville's 29-Year-Old Delegate to the Democratic National Convention

Samantha Shusterman is attending her first national convention as a delegate, but the 29-year-old is no stranger to political organizing.

If it were a decade ago, Samantha Shusterman is not sure someone like her, a 29-year-old woman from Somerville, would be heading to the Democratic National Convention as a delegate from Somerville's congressional district, which also encompasses much of Boston and Cambridge.

But in the last 10 years, in Shusterman's opinion, Massachusetts Democrats have "made the party more accessible and more relevant."

For much of that decade, Shusterman has had a front-row view of Democratic politics at the state and national level. Not yet 30, the Somerville resident already has a long resume as a political organizer.

Political organizer

The Connecticut native originally came to Boston in 2001 to attend Boston University, and as a student there she became a leader of the college Democrats. In 2004 she got involved in John Kerry's presidential campaign as president of the BU for Kerry group.

The Democratic National Convention was in Boston that year, and Shusterman was brought on board the Kerry campaign as the convention's motor pool coordinator, she said. She was the scheduler for about 600 drivers who ferried party dignitaries to and from Logan airport.

She also got to attend the convention, though not as a delegate. "I got to see Obama's speech, which was amazing," she said, referring to President Barack Obama's keynote address at that convention.

Her work on the Kerry campaign continued, and she joined the campaign full time, organizing in Missouri and Ohio, she said.

After graduating from Boston University in 2005, she spent a year working in non-profits, and she was Jarrett Barios' field director in his state senate race in 2006, she said. Then she was volunteer coordinator with Deval Patrick's gubernatorial campaign.

When Patrick took office, Shusterman was deputy director of personnel for about a year and a half, she said.

"I actually moved the governor's stuff into the State House the night before he was inaugurated," she said, talking about moving computers, papers and other stuff. "We moved it in at 11:30 at night" while Gov. Mitt Romney's people were moving out. "They had taken all the dollies," she said.

After working in the governor's office, she spent two years working with the state's Office of Refugees and Immigrants, which she called "an amazing experience." Immigration has become an issue she cares about.

In 2009, she worked on Rep. Michael Capuanos's senate campaign. "In that race, I got to know Somerville in a different kind of way," she said.

Now, Shusterman is going into her third year of law school at Boston College.

At the convention

Shusterman is the only Democratic National Convention delegate from the 7th Congressional district who's not from Boston. The list of delegates includes big political names from Boston, such as Tito Jackson, Charles Yancey and Felix Arroyo.

"We are a very diverse, very progressive district. We lead the way in the state," she said of the 7th district (which used to be the 8th before recent redistricting).

"Massachusetts is leading the way. We're one step ahead of the country," she said of the state. "The feds look to us, they really do."

As a delegate from Massachusetts, "We want to push the president to fulfill the promises he made," she said. She'd like to see Obama do more on immigration reform and she wants gay marriage to be on the Democratic platform.

"We need jobs, we need money for transportation, we need grants for startups," she said about priorities in the state.

At the convention, Shusterman also plans to have some fun. She'll "totally" wear a funny hat, she said, and "I expect to dress in some serious red and blue sequins."

Somewhat new to Somerville

Shusterman moved to Somerville about a year ago because her fiance lives here, she said. Her fiance, Carl Nilsson, is director of Obama for America in Massachusetts.

The two got engaged at , Shusterman said.

She loves walking around Somerville, going to its coffee shops and shopping for Asian food in Union Square, she said.

"I love being in Somerville, but I'm a new resident. I expect we'll be in Somerville a long time," she said.

Correction: In an earlier version of this article, we said Shusterman worked in Jarrett Barios' campaign for DA in 2006. It was actually his state senate campaign. The correction has been made above.

Katie Wallace August 29, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Samantha is not the only delegate from Somerville going to the Convention. Kerianne Lorenzo a graduate of Somerville High and longtime activist who runs the Somerville for Obama Campaign is also a delegate to the convention.
Kate Norton August 30, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Wow. Nice article, but you completely missed the boat. Keri Lorenzo is a lifelong Somerville resident, plus co-chair of the MassDems women's caucus, an Obama for America fellow, and the organizer & host for the most successful OFA phone bank in the state. She's been active in MA politics forever.
Chris Orchard August 30, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Thanks Katie and Kate. It turns out we missed Keri Lorenzo (perhaps because she's an at-large delegate). I've been in email contact with her, and I hope to write a story about her, too. Thanks again.
John Mills August 30, 2012 at 03:33 PM
A vote for Candidate for register of Deeds in South Middlesex County Maryann Heuston is a vote to support her and her hubby's Cokecaine dealer! Wasn't her purse recovered last year by Cambridge Health Alliance Security and a small baggie of Cokecane was discovered inside of it? Hospital Security then contacted a Somerville Police officer after going through the purse and finding her id card and driver's license who in turn swept it under the rug for her and her friends in the press along with Somerville Police officers that work for her and she controls thier payroll budget squashed that story for her didnt they? It must be nice? Please look into this and it with surface sooner than you think. The security guard is now all of a sudden going public with it. Maryann blammed her nephew and will turn this into an addiction problem for the kid when in fact it's her and her hubby's adiction.
Kate Norton August 30, 2012 at 04:37 PM
There's a full list of DNC delegates on their website: http://www.democrats.org/2012-convention-delegate-list. The list includes hometowns for everyone.


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