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Healdsburg wunderkind pounded pavement for Elizabeth Warren in Iowa

It wasn’t easy, but Jackson Boaz found a window in his packed schedule to sit down with a reporter this week. He suggested meeting at Plank, a coffee shop in his hometown of Healdsburg.

Asked when he started drinking coffee, Boaz recalled his time in 2018 working on the successful Healdsburg school board campaign of Mike Potmesil. “I wasn’t sleeping much,” he said, “and I needed it.”

Those were heady days. “I’d never run a campaign before,” he recalled. That makes sense, considering he was 13 at the time.

Now, as a hard-boiled 15-year-old who happens to be president of his ninth grade class at Healdsburg High School, Boaz is a seasoned political veteran who recently returned from Iowa. He spent two weeks working on the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, a time he describes as “the craziest, most rewarding, most exhausting experience of my life.”

Boaz, the son of Healdsburg fire chief Jason Boaz, has packed plenty of politics into his 15 years. On a recent Wednesday, however, he wasn’t interested in talking about Wine Country Young Democrats - he’s the president of that group, as well - or his internships with State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, or Congressman Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena.

“I’d really like to talk about Warren,” said the wunderkind, who shared a hug and a conversation with the candidate the day before the Iowa Caucuses.

Rather than dwell on her third place Iowa finish, Boaz called attention to “the coalition Elizabeth Warren has been able to build,” and the fact she won the most votes in both the state’s most conservative and progressive counties.

Explaining his affinity for the Senator from Massachusetts, Boaz calls to mind a mix of David Axelrod and Doogie Howser. Citing the “unprecedented issues that my generation’s going to have to deal with,” he points to her raft of detailed policies.

“I consider myself a nerd, and being able to go on her website and read, in detail, every single one of her plans for every issue we face - that’s really valuable to me,” he said.

Among his political mentors is Ariel Kelley, a Permit Sonoma commissioner and Healdsburg resident who recalled sitting at a table next to Boaz at the Flying Goat coffee shop in Healdsburg two years ago. He was being interviewed by a woman who needed a consultant for her school board run. (She decided, in the end, not to run.) Kelley remembers Boaz asking the woman questions like, “What makes you want to run for school board?” and “How is your voice unique from the other voices represented on the board?”

Asked if he reminds her of herself at that age, she replied, “Not at all. He is so much more together, and focused, and determined than I was - even in law school - let alone, when I was 15.”

Navigating the “All In For Warren” website in November, Boaz saw an offer to “Winter With Warren” - encouraging students to spend their winter break in Iowa, knocking doors for the campaign.

One problem: the program was intended for college students. Campaign officials told Boaz he was welcome, but would have to line up his own lodging - which he did.

His time away from the classroom, incidentally, did no damage to Boaz’s GPA. “I get good grades” - A’s and A-pluses, he said. “I participate in Future Farmers of America and Model U.N. I do speaking competitions.”

But in the end, he admitted, “school is basically my side job. Politics is my life.”

On a typical morning in Des Moines, he would rise at 4:30 a.m., and “try to do some schoolwork.”

At 6:30, bundled against the biting cold in a pea coat borrowed from his father, he’d walk to the Scenic Route cafe and order his usual: a medium chai latte and oatmeal. “Their oatmeal kicked ass,” he said.

Two blocks from the state capitol, the Scenic Route was where Boaz saw - and sometimes introduced himself to - a parade of state and national politicians and their staffers.

The bulk of his time was spent knocking on doors - sometimes 300 a day - sharing his passion for Warren with anyone who would listen.

Late in his first week in the Hawkeye State, Boaz was “knocking on some turf” when he noticed a woman and her young son, about 10, trying to move a large bookshelf down some stairs, from her porch to the front yard.

They were struggling, so Boaz crossed the street and offered to help. He ended up spending an hour, helping them move furniture to the front yard. It turned out the woman, a renter and a single mom, had been evicted and now faced the prospect of living in her car.

After explaining who Warren was and what she stood for, Boaz pulled up the candidate’s affordable housing plan on his phone, then handed it to the woman, who read it with interest, then told him she’d do her best to get to the caucus.

That’s what McGuire is talking about when he describes Boaz as “a doer” who “commits to a cause, follows through 100% and always over delivers, which is a true talent.”

After knocking on ?150 doors the day before the caucus in Iowa, he dropped by the “staging house,” in the Des Moines suburb where he was pleased to find pizza and free Clif Bars - “very helpful for my budget,” he said.

Excitement among the volunteers was high: Warren was in the neighborhood, and would be dropping by in 10 minutes.

Which is how Boaz found himself shaking hands with, then - after securing her permission - hugging Warren, who was delighted to learn that a ninth grader from Sonoma County was in Iowa on her behalf.

Checking his wristwatch on Wednesday, Boaz interrupts himself. Time has flown and he’s got a Healdsburg Parks and Recreation Commission meeting in 11 minutes - he’s the city’s youth commissioner. On the way, he’s got to “hop on this call and organize a phone bank.”

In five weeks, Boaz will be eligible to apply for his learner’s permit. Six months after securing that, he can take the test to get his drivers license.

In the meantime, he asked a reporter, “Can I get ride to City Hall?”

You can reach Staff Writer Austin Murphy at 707-521-5214 or austin.murphy@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @Ausmurph88

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