5 things I learned about being a delegate to the DNC

There are a lot of ways to be a part of the convention, from volunteering to coming as someone’s guest to being an actual delegate.  More work and expectation going into being a delegate, more than I initially thought.  There are also benefits and rewards.  I considered going as a guest if I didn’t get elected as a delegate, and glad that it didn’t come to that.

When it comes to convention, you have to expect the unexpected.  It’s a but easier to handle if you are there in an official capacity.  I’ve been a state delegate for several years now, but even that didn’t really prepare me for being a delegate on the national level.

That said, here are five things I’ve learned about being a delegate at the DNC:

1. Be familiar with the national platform!

Every delegate should be familiar with the national platform, as it is one of the things you will vote on.  You don’t have to know it cover to cover, but there should be one or two platform items that speak to you (that’s why you’re a delegate, right?!).  As a delegate, people will ask your opinion about the platform, especially the media.  Media is everywhere and they want delegate reactions to everything!  When the media approaches you, the first thing they will ask is “Are you a delegate?”  They don’t want to talk to anyone that isn’t one when it comes to meaty questions.

On the other side of that coin, it can be embarrassing if you, as a delegate, can’t answer questions about something you are there to vote for.  I saw it happen on more than one occasion last week.  It’s not pretty.

Lastly, your name is attached to the platform, literally.  On our chairs Tuesday night, we received a book that contained the platform.  In the back of the book, all of the delegates names are listed.  I am now on record as part of the platform approval.  Thus, it’s good to know what you’re attaching your name to.

2. Be a responsible delegate!

Going to the DNC for the most part is a self-funded event.  You pay for everything (airfare, hotel, etc.).  For California delegates, the average cost was about $2,600.  Some people were able to pay for themselves.  Others fund-raised, like I and many others did.  Those who donated to the cause did so because they felt the importance of you being there, and in a way, you are living this experience for them.  In feeling that way myself, I shared the experience by blogging, taking photos and attending every meeting and caucus that I could.

There are more events, caucuses, receptions and parties that I could count.  It’s easy to only get 3 hours of sleep due to all of this.  While the temptation to sleep in was always there, I still got up to attend the breakfast meetings to hear various speakers address California delegates specifically on how things on the national level are relevant to our state.  In my mind, I couldn’t justify skipping out just because I may have decided to celebrate and socialize a little too much into the wee hours of the morning.

3. Delegate status = You’re in!

I stated in an earlier post my dismay of the contingency planning for changing locations for the President’s speech from a 70,000+ venue to one that holds about 20,000.   Those with community tickets would no longer be able to attend.  Delegates, however, were not effected by the change.  We are part of the official count, so we couldn’t be booted or left out.

4. Access!

It’s amazing how many people you get access to, and who want access to you.  I’m speaking mostly about my fellow delegates/peers, but also about state and national elected officials.  The ability to ask meaningful questions in the small window of opportunity that occurs is pretty amazing.  Two opportunities that stand out for me the most include speaking with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.  In the one minute I had with her, I told her I grew up in Detroit and am still very much invested in the success of the manufacturing and automotive industries there.  I asked what is or can be done to help?  She told me to direct people to the DOL.gov website and encourage people to attend classes to gain credentials and further their education.  There is a big push to get people certified and credentialed in an effort to earn more money and stability.  I really appreciated that answer.

The second incident involved seeing former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm on my way back to SFO.  She was on the same flight as I was and we’d both been up a good 24 hours.  While I didn’t want to bother her, the speech she gave the night before was still fresh on my brain, and I really wanted to thank her for talking about what happened back in 2009/10.  She was gracious when I approached her, and she thanked me for being vested in the success of Michigan’s economy though I was now in California.

5. Randomness of celebrity!

The California delegation probably had the most “celebrity” in-house at the DNC.  One afternoon, I witnessed a conversation between Sen. Feinstein, Mayor Ed Lee and MC Hammer.  I later spoke with MC Hammer and Mark Leno in the hotel bar before they went off to discuss local politics.  Alfre Woodard and Lynn Whitfield roamed the hotel lobby, Eric McCormack had a few drinks with us, and Kerry Washington was regal even when relaxed.

In the arena, I watched as Wayne Knight of Seinfeld fame walk over to sit with the Oregon delegation while Will.I.Am waved to the crowd as he walked the main floor.  I saw CNN’s Roland Martin get his boogie on between broadcasts, and I swear Wolf Blitzen’s facial expression didn’t change at all over the past 3 days.

My favorite celeb sighting was one I orchestrated: I wanted to meet Chef Art Smith and I made it happen.  Second is meeting Alexis Bledel, aka Rory Gilmore from the Gilmore Girls.

 

All in all, it was a great but tiring experience.  I will make sure not to have to go to work soon after stepping off the plane next time.  Thanks to everyone who helped me get to the convention, and I hope the blog posts and photos made you feel like a part of the festivities.

 

 

By aliciainedmonds Posted in General

DNC Thursday: The Final Frontier

The last day of the convention reminded me a lot of going to general admission concert with a big name headliner.  There is a scramble to get there early to get the best seats and a whole lot of tension in the process.

Granted, Tuesday and Wednesday was pretty much the same scenario, but with the change of venue to a significantly smaller space and not having the room to move around as before, anxiety ran high.  I averaged getting to the arena at 5pm before.  Today 3pm was the goal.

I packed my suitcases earlier in the day, as I had a 7am flight Friday morning (meaning I wouldn’t be going to sleep tonight).  Fellow delegate Jeffrey Adair and I grabbed lunch then headed over to be interviewed by an independent about out experience at the DNC.    Interviewed separately, I got to listen and understand the platform issues that are important to him, and I think he got the same from me.

Then walking 2 blocks to the arena, the security line was longer than normal.  Again, people were coming a lot earlier today.  As I walked into the arena floor, I saw something I hadn’t seen before: white pieces of paper taped to seats. Not just in the California section, but other states as well.  Yes, people had as early as the night before began seats by taping their names on them. I admit I was a bit peeved by this action.  I wasn’t the only one.

Once everything was under way, tensions started to subside when we saw Gabby Giffords taking the stage.  Perspective began to set in.  We’re all here for relatively the same reason, so let’s enjoy it.  We did.

I wrote in an earlier post about my faith being restored in people.  Another area of restoration came in former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.  I had griped earlier about the “Auto Industry” segment of the convention, but not having anyone from Detroit as part of it on stage (I like Ohio, I do!  Just saying.)  When she spoke and possibly even surprised herself by how electrifying her speech was, I felt redeemed.  Granholm represented.

A lot has been  said already about the speeches of Biden and Obama, so I won’t go into it so much here.  I will say that I used to like Joe Biden.  Now, I really really like him.  He’s someone I’d love to join for dinner at his house with his family and just ‘kick it’.  An everyday guy you can talk to about…well, everything.  In looking at my President, I couldn’t help but think how much we’ve aged this guy!  While I want him in office 4 more years, I fear he’ll be completely gray by then!

There were no shortage of parties to attend after the convention, and I’d RSVP’d to a couple.  However, I decided the best way to conclude the convention was to end it with the people I started with: the delegates I ran with in CD-18.  So, Jeffrey, Carolyn, Jill, Dave and I headed to a bar in a hotel nearby and relaxed a little.  Reflected a little.  Celebrated our experience more than a little.

A few hours later, I arrived at the airport, discovering that pulling an all nighter was no longer in my list of skills. Struggling to stay awake, I soon learned i wasn’t the only person taking the first flight back to SFO: Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and a few other elected officials were also doing the ‘all nighter shuffle’.  I’d decided not to even try and approach anyone, but there was one person I had to make an exception: Jennifer Granholm.  Yes, she was on my flight as well.  Still feeling so much from her speech, I had to let her know, thinking there would probably be no other time in the near future I’d have this opportunity.  I approached her, apologized for disturbing her, mentioned I grew up in Detroit and thanked her for what she said.  She thanked me back and seemed genuinely okay that I spoke to her.

I’m just now able to really process the week I’d just had (I was back in the office working after my flight landed and had to work long hours over the weekend at the MV Art & Wine Festival).  I’m working on one last post that talks about the benefits of being a delegate.

  

By aliciainedmonds Posted in General

Faith restored in people

Something happened today at Thursday night DNC that warranted is own post.

During VP Joe Biden’s speech tonight there is a woman who ended up having some type of medical emergency. The paramedics were discreetly called over but after a while it was hard to hide the fact that someone was in need of medical attention.

When other delegates and the press noticed paramedics attending to someone, cameras in the immediate area turned in the direction of the patient. Instantly the delegates that were seated in front of the woman stood and held up their sign so that the media could not record or take pictures of the woman. I was moved by the fact that while people could have been focused squarely on the speech or wanted to put themselves in view of the camera to get on television or video, the delegates decided to protect the identity of the woman and not make her fodder for the press.

I should add that during the course of the afternoon emotions were running pretty high. This is mainly due to the fact that since there was limited seating in the new space for the president’s speech, people were saving seats in a way that was making people pretty crazy. Between saving large blocks of seats for people who would not arrive for hours combined with being in close quarters in Charlotte over the past week, people are pretty tense and ready to go home.

That being said, the fact that those emotions were pushed aside instantly to protect the integrity of a fellow delegate just reminded me that we all know on some level how to take care of each other when the time comes.

DNC Wednesday: A call to arms

If Tuesday was about empowerment, Wednesday was a call to arms. The biggest topics of the evening included the automotive industry, immigration and the war in the middle class. I’m not sure if people at home can see the videos played between sets of speakers (probably are commercial breaks), but the people putting these videos together and making effective product.

The day was a bit overshadowed with the news of the change in venue for Thursday (I’ve addressed that in an earlier post), but the mood rebounded by seeing many high level political figures roaming about and being a lot more personable than I expected. Thousands of people want their attention at the strangest moments, like standing in line for the restroom or as they’re already joking between mobs of others. Yet, I haven’t seen any real irritation from them. I’d say the MVP in all this in Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. Maybe his days in the NBA prepped him for such an occasion. The man could barely get two steps going before another group of people stopped and asked for photos. His handlers were clearly stressing about keeping him moving along.

Many speakers at the DNC on Wednesday were from California. Lots of energy and pride from our delegation. Our group also is seated bay one of the closest entry/exits of the arena, so a lot of national notables passed out way, including John Kerry.

In the busyness of the day, many of us didn’t know or learn about the “God”/Jerusalem situation with the platform committee. Hopefully this will be directly addressed sometime today.

Celebrity was in the air. Many were in VIP sections above the convention floor. Eric McCormack of Will and Grace fame sat with our delegation for awhile. Not sure if he was a delegate, guest of delegate or what. The real celebrity sightings happened at the afterparty events, but I skipped out on this and chose sleep instead.

Text messages and tweets flooded in around 9pm with rumors that the president would be arriving. The rumors proved to be true, and just his sheer presence on stage was enough to temporarily curb the fatigue we were all having after such a long day.

I admit I have a gripe about the auto industry segment. Detroit is constantly mentioned, but no one representing Detroit was on stage or there to address the crowd. I like Ohio and all, but still. It would be like having a segment on the startup industry and having someone from Phoenix talk about their experience instead of someone from the Bay Area. Just saying.

Though I chose to come back to the hotel instead of partying, I still managed to get celebrity time in. As soon as I sat at the bar for a quick bite to eat, MC Hammer walks in with legislator Mark Leno. After chatting and a quick photo, they went about discussing politics. Between seeing that and learning that Mayor Ed Lee invited him to convention, I’m thinking they are trying to get zmr. Stanley Burrell (Hammer) to dip into local politics. Mark my words.

Thursday is the last day and the biggest one of the convention. I’m sure there will be more protests, more disgruntled speak about the venue change, more energy from delegates, more craziness from pundits and less sleep for me. With everything wrapping up around midnight, then celebrations and a 7:30am airline departure, I won’t be seeing sleep again until I’m 30,000 feet in the air.

Lastly, I’ve had a few people ask me why I haven’t slept in or skipped meetings. My answer is that the people that helped me get here financially have invested in the experience of what the DNC has to offer, and I want to honor that. I’ll eventually sleep sometime Sunday evening🙂

CA Attorney General Kamala Harris
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Jesse Jackson crashes Kamala Harris luncheon
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MC Hammer, Mayor Ed Lee and Sen. Feinstein
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I met celebrity chef Art Smith at LYFE Kitchen pop up!!!!
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Banana lady
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Fuzzy photo of John Kerry greeting CA delegates
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Hello Mr. President
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Mark Leno and MC Hammer
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By aliciainedmonds Posted in General

CA Breakfast meeting notes: Thursday

Labor Sec. Hilda Solis:”We are on the side of those suffering the most: the middle class.”

SF Mayor Ed Lee: shouted out to MC Hammer. Is a guest of the mayor at the convention.

State Controller John Chiang:” Education, access to capital and infrastructure are required for successful economic growth.”

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “Continue to organize and mobilize!”

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. ACA is already paying.

Congressman Mike Honda: educated us on the Shik community and how we need to be more culturally aware in general. I would love to have a meal and gain insight from him. Such a wealth of knowledge he has.

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By aliciainedmonds Posted in General

Thursday’s DNC change of venue

Everyone has a right to be upset about the change in venue. Trust me, delegates are also a bit troubled by the news. However, I can understand why the DNC felt the need to change the venue based on weather circumstances. A lot of comments I’m reading and hearing from both sides are legitimate, but I feel, misdirected.

For every person that says it should be at the stadium rain or shine, there is another person who would be angry about sitting in a rainstorm and being subjected to illness because of it. There are a lot of older and special needs attendees where attending in those circumstances would be I’ll advised. Having been caught in one heavy downpour on Monday, I’m in no hurry to do it again.

My point, though, is that the real issue is not that the location is being moved, but where it is being moved to. Would the level of disappointment be as high if the Time Warner Cable arena held the same capacity as the Bank of America stadium? The answer would be “no”. The disappointment comes from the 50,000 seat/capacity difference between the two locations.

Thus, this is where my disappointment resides. Despite other arguments one way or another about whether the DNC should have been hosted here in the first place, the committee should have picked a place where there’d be a contingency location that could accommodate the needs of the original space. It doesn’t seem as though this option was given enough merit in the vetting of host cities. If you’re having the main event in a facility without a dome, then a backup location that has one and could hold a similar number of people should have been a serious consideration. This is specifically important of weather issues during that time of year are feasible.

While I can deal, begrudgingly, with the traffic issues we’ve had in Charlotte, I wouldn’t have discounted it completely as a bad choice for the convention. The overall hospitality here has been great with merchants and public safety personnel. However, this incomplete contingency plan leads me to feel otherwise and leaves an undeserved negative memory on this city that could have been prevented with better planning.

By aliciainedmonds Posted in General

Most random lunch ever!

This afternoon I attended the luncheon by the California Correctional Police Officers Association in honor of Kamala Harris. I had to duck out midway for a radio interview with a local San Francisco station, KALW. I had to end that interview halfway through because during the luncheon I saw that Rev. Jesse Jackson made a surprise appearance!

After wrapping up the luncheon, I went outside to get a breath of somewhat fresh air. As I was checking messages, I saw three more people arrive and walk through the door at the same time: MC Hammer, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

I wouldn’t say that I was starstruck, however it’s hard not to get a little bit of enjoyment out of seeing all of these different people in one place.

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Wednesday CA delegates breakfast

I think everyone averaged about 3.5 hours of sleep. Breakfast started on time on the day most were not alert enough to appreciate it. I did manage to get there on time, but was in the minority.

Hotel jokes were the opening act. I am seriously considering contacting Gordon Ramsey and Hotel Hell.

Speakers with notable quotes:

Alfre Woodard – “I’m ready for California to lead in education again.”

General Wesley Clark (awesome!!!!):
“Vote for Barack Obama and put fear aside.” California Earns Stripes!

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom: “Ask yourself: what world are we living in?” Gavin gave lots of facts and figures. Also discussed digital natives vs digital immigrants.

Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood:
“Thank you California for always leading the way!”

Senator Diane Feinstein: Couldn’t choose just one good one. Bottom line: we are in good hands with her!

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:”Yes, we are better off than we were 4 years ago!”

Alfre Woodard
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General Clark
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Gavin Newsom
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Senator Feinstein
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Mayor Villaraigosa
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Cecile Richards
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By aliciainedmonds Posted in General

Tuesday DNC convention: amazing first day

After the fiasco of the protests and shuttle situations, which continued through the evening, getting to the convention center and experiencing the first day of speeches was more than I could have expected.

I sat in an aisle way that was a popular route for a lot of political powerhouses, not just from California. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Barney Frank and Deval Patrick walked pass me, just to name a few. Tom Ammiano, Mark Leno, Kamala Harris, Ash Kalra, Debra Bowen and others also sat within a few feet of me.

There also seemed to be a lit of cameras and reporters focused on the California delegation: NPR, CBS Radio (they interviewed me), CNN, Fox News and PBS. Celebs passed my way too, including Wayne Knight of Seinfeld fame (a delegate from Oregon), Will.I.Am and Alfre Woodard. Ledisi’s performance was great.

Videos were plentiful. Most notable was the one of Edward Kennedy that played before Joe Kennedy III spoke. The best part was the snippet of Kennedy debating Mitt Romney, we’re he flip flopped on healthcare and Roe vs Wade.

Speeches: just…wow. Obviously, for a lot of people, Michelle Obama was the reason for being there tonight. I think the substance we got from the large amount of speakers was enormous. I was most personally moved by Lilly Ledbetter. It was emotional to out a face to a name and to hear her story in her own voice.

Others who stood out for me: Julian Castro, Elaine Byre (the military mom) and Joe Kennedy III. Tonight was about equality, opportunity and longevity. This resonated with all.

Michelle Obama’s speech was so real, so personal. I loved that she shared vulnerably about the fear of her family changing with a presidential run. The best line from her in my opinion had to do with how being a president doesn’t change you but it reveals who you are.

Personal fun things of the evening: (1) chance meeting with actress Sheryl Lee Ralph that started with her getting someone to buy food for her so she wouldn’t have to stand in line…which led to a fun 20 minute conversation afterwards, (2) meeting and having an equaling fun conversation with Alexis Bledel at the hotel bar afterwards. You may know her best as Rory Gilmore on Gilmore Girls and (3) meeting the guy from Letterman!

It’s now nearly 3am here in Charlotte, but wanted to put some thoughts about tonight before turning in.

Me with Alexis Bledel
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Crazy hat
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Me with Hilda Solis
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Letterman guy🙂
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Outside Time Warner Cable Arena
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Outside Time Warner Cable Arena
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Dennis Kuchich. What’s he doing with the CA delegation!?

By aliciainedmonds Posted in General

Protests at DNC

It has been overall quiet and peaceful, but the protests are here. Photos from some of the below. I feel they will intensify Wednesday and Thursday.

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By aliciainedmonds Posted in General