Local Democratic delegates fired up for Charlotte


Published: Saturday, September 1, 2012 at 5:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 1, 2012 at 5:30 p.m.

When Jon Reiskind went to the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, he watched an Illinois state senator, then little-known outside his home state, give a rousing speech that put him on America's political radar.

Eight years later, Reiskind will return as a DNC delegate to see that man give another speech, this time not as a state senator but as the president of the United States.

In 2004, he said he was impressed with Barack Obama and recognized him as an up-and-coming Democrat. But who would've known he'd rise so rapidly to the Oval Office?

"There are lots of bright stars out there, and you never know when you're going to get a supernova," he said.

Several other North Florida residents will join Reiskind, chairman of the Alachua County Democratic Party, at the 2012 DNC in Charlotte, N.C., which starts Tuesday, as elected delegates. On that list are Gainesville lawyer and Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith, Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe, Alachua County Commissioner Paula DeLaney, Lizzie Jenkins, Alachua County branch NAACP President Evelyn Foxx, Suzanne Kiker, Alena Lawson and Stephen Smith.

Terry Fleming, chairman of the Alachua County Democratic Party's Campaign Planning Committee, and state Rep. Charles S. "Chuck" Chestnut IV will attend the convention as members of the national Democratic Party's platform committee, which is responsible for developing the party platform that delegates will vote on this week in Charlotte.

Fleming attended a committee meeting in Detroit in early August, at which members reviewed a proposed draft of the platform.

"It was incredibly exciting to be the deliberative body that decided what would be in the platform for the party," he said.

The committee made some amendments to the draft, but members were in sync on most points, Fleming said.

"It was surprisingly not contentious at all," he said. "There was strong unanimity to support all of the issues on the platform."

While the committee was unified, voters are anything but.

Chestnut said he expects the November election to be much closer than the one in 2008 when Obama faced Republican nominee John McCain. But he said he expects Obama to win by a small margin.

As Election Day nears, he said he hopes to hear Democrats discuss concrete plans for moving forward at the convention this week instead of aiming negative zingers at Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

He said he felt politicians at the Republican National Convention spent more time bashing Obama than offering their own ideas on how to solve national problems.

"I don't want to hear any rhetoric about Romney," Chestnut said. "I want to hear about the plan in terms of what we're going to do for people."

Delegates will cast their votes this week to officially nominate Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as the party's candidates, trusting they will be able to repair the damaged U.S. economy if given four more years in the White House.

Because both men are already in office, the vote will be a formality since they're already established as the candidates for the November election.

But formalities aside, delegates say they are looking forward to seeing Obama give his acceptance speech on the convention's final day, Thursday.

Lowe said he was excited to hear Obama present his vision for the nation, which "has been very consistent with the goals of the city of Gainesville in charting a successful future."

DeLaney on Thursday night will mark 37 years of marriage by celebrating with Obama instead of her husband, Bruce, who isn't able to attend the convention because of scheduling issues.

But if she can't have her husband with her that night, hearing the president speak is still an exciting way to spend her anniversary, she said.

She donated to Obama's campaign in 2008 as well as in 2012. She hit the maximum contribution limit of $5,000 for his 2012 campaign this month.

"I support him for his vision; I support him for his intellect; and I support him for his values and his character," she said. "In my opinion, in four years, none of that has changed."

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