Sunday, June 25, 2006

NC Democratic Convention News

Yesterday, I attended the North Carolina Democratic Party's convention in High Point. I didn't know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised at how organized the event was. High Point was a great location for the convention since it was central enough to most of the state. It also provides great hotel and meeting facilities in a small city setting.

There were women in great hats and plenty of folks dressed in patriotic clothing. The theater was loud with delegates meeting up with fellow Democrats and friends from across the state. I'm not fond of large gatherings. I usually hang out on the fringes and observe. Not today. There was something different about being in a gathering of people I immediately felt some kinship with - if for no other reason than we are Democrats.

Standing at a table reading bumper stickers and buttons I immediately fell in with the other women laughing at the funny sayings. We didn't know each other, but we quickly were showing each other the funniest of the buttons and laughing at our nation's leaders over the witty sayings and funny images. My favorite: The Three Stooges pin that showed the hair of Larry, Moe and Curly on Cheny, Bush and Rumsfeld.

The bumper sticker I saw held up for friends to see and that was purchased most often was a large black oval that framed a yellow dog. I purchased one. I have voted for Republicans in local elections when I honestly felt they were the better candidate, but have never and will never vote for a Republican in a national election. Ever. Could this Southern Democrat actually be a Yellow Dog Democrat afterall?

A young man set up a booth and was displaying Warner for President bumper stickers and buttons. He made sure to say he wasn't affiliated with Warner, so these weren't official items. I didn't care. I have a bumper sticker and button to add to my collection.

I also picked up a Brad Miller bumper sticker. I didn't see Brad, but I did meet Denise Turner, with the Miller campaign. He has obviously surrounded himself with smart, energetic people.

Another group represented was NOOLF or shortened OLF which stands for the Outlying Landing Field. This group wants to protect the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge from a landing strip that would bring noise and fumes to a peaceful wildlife refuge and disturb the winter resting grounds of over 100,000 large migratory birds. This group will get more attention at a later date in one of our action plans, but please visit their web site to learn more about this issue.

Several other candidates were represented and none was more prominant than the black and gold signs of
Larry Kissell. Larry had more staff and supporters at the convention than it seems any other candidate. Larry was juggling the convention and a blogger meet and greet being held online. Howie Klein from Down With Tyranny hosted an event at FireDogLake where regular commenters from across the country donated close to $1200 in a couple of hours. Howie has worked with Christy Hardin Smith and Jane Hamsher, of FDL, to highlight Democrats in races that might not be in the national spotlight, but deserve more attention. It was exciting for me to see one of my favorite blogs showing respect to my favorite candidate.

Mel Watt also had staff and supporters attending and he arrived later after attending events in Charlotte. Mel is my representative. He gave a lively speech in April for the Mecklenburg County convention. He has worked hard on the Voting Rights Act that the Republicans in Washington seem intent on destroying, so I know this has been a rough week for him. I'm sure it was good for him to spend some time among supporters and fellow NC Democrats.

Before I get into the details of the convention, let me mention one more person I met who is running for Attorney General in 2008 and he is Hampton Dellinger. He's a lawyer and has served as the chief legal counsel for the Governor of this state and has held top posts in the Department of Justice. He's also a genuinely nice guy. I encourage you to visit his site to learn more about his candidacy. Oh, did I mention that he's a BlueNC reader?

The NCDP Chair, Jerry Meek, started the meeting by welcoming the press in attendance. Schorr Johnson, NCDP Communications Director, had been kind enough to give me a press pass so I sat up front near the stage where I could hear just about everything, but gave myself a case of whiplash trying to see the delegates as they stepped to the various microphones to speak. Jerry not only invited the press, something the NCGOP had not done for their convention, he invited the few protestors that were outside to come in and join the convention.

I have to take Jerry's word for it that there were actually protestors. I did not see them shortly before noon, nor did I see them a couple of hours later when I took a blogging break at the Radisson across the street. It was classy of the guy to step outside and welcome them in, even if they didn't take advantage of the invitation.

Oh, and Jerry runs a meeting like noone else I've ever seen. At times it seemed like everyone and their brother and sister were going to try to make changes to the platform, but Jerry kept the meeting moving along quickly and the delegates stayed on their toes to close debate and move to a vote without letting the debates drag into arguments. This doesn't mean the meeting didn't drag a bit longer than some of us liked, but Jerry definately kept the meeting moving.

There were some emotional pleas from the anti-abortion faction of the party. On one hand I do feel for them. Most differ from the party on this one issue and they stand by their convictions. They wanted language inserted into the party platform that recognizes them as a significant voice in the party and to have their differences acknowledged. While that doesn't seem unreasonable, I did have to agree with the majority who enthusiastically voted this down.

Pat Patton a delegate from Mecklenburg County spoke against the motion saying that making this consession brings attention to the choice issue as one that divides our party and gives Republicans ammunition against us. It seemed to be almost unanimous among those who spoke against this motion that Democrats are tired of the Republicans defining our party and it is time for Democrats to stand firm.

National issues also seemed to be on the minds of most in attendance. I heard delegates talking about the economy, the war in Iraq and the incompetence in the White House. Overall, though, the mood was positive and the delegates seemed excited about the prospects in the fall.

While I was blogging at the Radisson I had the pleasure to meet Rob Christensen. He saw me writing and noticed my press pass and stopped to chat. I read his article this morning in the Raleigh News and Observer and he did a good job of reporting what happened. One point I might pick with him is that he failed to give any quotes from those opposing the motion proposed by Sandy Babb of Wake Co., but he gave two quotes from anti-abortion delegates. That could have probably used some balance because there were some very eloquent speeches given against the motion.

Another point I would pick with him is that he quoted a consultant and allowed her to speak for the party instead of finding out if everyone agreed with her. This is what she said.

"By traditional rules, things should be good for us," said Beth Sibley, 33, a political consultant from Cleveland County. "But we are still in the middle of a war, and voters may not want to change. The terrorism threats and the war still hold strong sway.

"We'd like to make it a referendum on Bush, [Tom] DeLay, [Dick] Cheney and [Jack] Abramoff," she said, referring to the former House majority leader, the vice president and a Republican lobbyist convicted on influence-peddling charges.

This has been the only person in this state that I've heard who wants to make it a referendum on this list of corrupt Republicans. Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff? It's one thing to refer to them and to remind people of the corruption that is rampant in Republican Washington, but it is an entirely different thing to make the entire election about these people.

What I was hearing from the delegates as their main issues were the economy and the war in Iraq. You want to know what's funny? Those are the top two issues across the country that were highlighted in the last Pew poll. They were followed by immigration and gas prices, but I didn't hear any delegates talking about either of those issues. In North Carolina it seems health care and education are running third and fourth.

On a happy personal note I had the chance to meet Robert. He was in the midst of all the delegates, so he might have heard something different from the folks he was sitting around. It was great to put a face with a name. Maybe we will all have a chance to get together before Lance heads down to Atlanta.

I wasn't able to stay for the Sanford-Hunt Dinner, but from the comments at BlueNC it sounds like the dinner was a success and folks had a great time. It looks like Jim Hunt might have to fight off a push to get him to run for Senate. I'm old enough to remember those days. In fact, I still have a button. Go Jim, Go!


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7:11 AM, June 28, 2006  

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