Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. I’m at Room 208 in the Charlotte Convention Center, awaiting the beginning of the Convention’s Opening Press Conference, where DNCC CEO Steve Kerrigan, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, and other DNCC officials are welcoming members of the press corps to the forty-sixth quadrennial gathering of the Democratic Party.
The weather is very nice outside right now, although we’ve been warned that a few thundershowers might be rolling through later this afternoon, which could momentarily put a damper on CarolinaFest, the big Labor Day celebration the DNCC is holding today for delegates and residents of Charlotte.
Accordingly, there are quite a few pavilions and tented areas set up in Uptown to protect attendees from the elements.
The press conference is just getting started. I’m going to update this post as we go along, so it’s going to grow a bit longer every few minutes.
First up was CEO Steve Kerrigan.
He reiterated how delighted Charlotte is to host the Democratic National Convention, and reminded the media that he and his team have been working for a very long time to get ready, to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
Kerrigan noted that members of the public are able to participate in many aspects of the convention, including:
- CarolinaFest (as detailed above);
- Caucus meetings at the Charlotte Convention Center;
- The final day of the Convention at Panther Stadium (free community credential required for access).
Mayor Foxx, the host mayor, spoke next.
“Throughout the convention week, the world will have an opportunity to experience North Carolina,” Foxx said. “Charlotte residents are ready to put their best foot forward… We like to say hello to you when you’re walking down the street.”
Foxx described the interest in the fourth day of the convention as “overwhelming”, noting that there were long lines to acquire community credentials.
DNCC Chair Antonio Villaraigosa (who serves as Mayor of Los Angeles) said he is very much looking forward to gaveling the convention to order tomorrow afternoon.
“After what we saw in Tampa, I’m proud to say this will be a convention that will be a little different,” Villaraigosa said.
“We’re going to engage everybody who’s a part of this effort. In Charlotte, we’re going to present our vision, and we’re going to affirm our values… We’re going to get down to business and get our country moving forward.”
After speaking in English, Villaraigosa delivered most of his remarks in Spanish for the benefit of Spanish-speaking Americans.
DNC Secretary Alice Germond followed him to provide the press with some numbers about the convention.
“I have participated in ten presidential conventions,” Germond said. “Because of that, I can say firsthand, this truly the most diverse, the most open, the most transparent… the most exciting convention [in our party's history].”
Some vital statistics provided by DNC Secretary Alice Germond:
- There are 5,559 delegates
- There are 407 alternates
- Fifty percent (half) of all delegates are women
- Twenty-seven percent of all delegates are black
- Record number of youth – six hundred and forty four youth delegates
- Oldest delegate is Elzena Johnson of Terry, Mississippi – born in 1914
- Youngest delegate is Samuel Ray of Iowa – born in 1994
- Over four thousand watch parties have been scheduled by local Democratic Party organizations
DNCC officials ended the press conference by taking questions.
One reporter asked about the strategic importance of picking Charlotte, North Carolina as the host city of the convention. Mayor Foxx observed that North Carolina is a battleground state, as is Virginia, its next door neighbor.
But he said that a major reason Charlotte was picked was out of recognition of its growth and development. The city has become a major financial center (it is the headquarters of Bank of America, and has even been dubbed “Wall Street South”). From 2000 to 2010, Charlotte’s population increased by nearly 200,000 people… and that’s not even counting the growth in Charlotte’s suburbs.
Reporters also asked when a specific schedule of speakers would be made available (convention officials promised that it was coming) and how many Hispanic delegates will be in attendance (Secretary Germond plans to release final numbers soon).
One reporter also asked if Barack Obama’s speech on Thursday at Panther Stadium was contingent on the weather. Kerrigan said that Obama will accept the nomination there “rain or shine”, though he hinted there is a worst-case contingency plan in case of very bad weather.
Convention officials proudly emphasized that the 2012 DNC will be very different than the Republican gathering in Tampa. There are nearly three times as many delegates participating in the DNC as the RNC, and this DNC – the most open in history, they say – is much more accessible to the public than the RNC was.
We’ve now gone for about forty-five minutes, and we’re wrapping up. I’ll sign off for now, and post again very soon.