August 31, 2012

Local Democrats get ready for the state’s first national convention


Two Dare County residents are heading off to Charlotte this weekend to serve as delegates to the 46th Democratic National Convention, the first ever held in North Carolina.

Susan Harman-Scott, a Nags Head attorney, and Chris Hardee, a self-employed Realtor from Manteo, were chosen at the district convention earlier this year to represent the Third Congressional District .

But other attendees from the area are few and far between.

Dare County Democratic Party Chairwoman Sherry Rollason said she has heard of only one person from the county who might drive the nearly six hours to the outskirts of the city, only to battle traffic to get to the convention center.  The event will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 4, and end on Thursday, Sept. 6.

It’s the second convention in a row that Dare has had two delegates elected by their peers to the convention, and it will the fifth consecutive convention at which Hardee, who is also the district chairman, has served as a delegate. In 2008, he was joined by Kathy McCullough-Testa from Duck.

The current North Carolina Third Congressional District -- reconfigured by the Republican Party based on the 2010 census -- encompasses all or part of 22 coastal counties from Virginia to Wilmington and stretching inland to portions of Greene, Lenoir, Martin, and Pitt counties. Of the 22 counties, 13 are split with the First and/or Seventh districts.

Hardee said the delegate selection is competitive and highly sought after, so it is reflective of Dare’s significance to the district that two of the six delegates come from the county out of a large field of 68 candidates. Typically, 20 or 30 candidates have competed.

In addition, he said, there were 18 other delegates from the east elected at the First District or state level, making the totals the highest number in memory from the eastern part of the state.

Allocation of the delegates was based on the turnout in the 2008 election. North Carolina has 158 delegates, of which 93 were elected at the state’s 13 district conventions. More than 900 people had competed for the seats. Nationally, there are about 6,000 total delegates.

In addition to considering how active a candidate has been in the party, Hardee said, there is also care to represent the race, gender, age and sexual orientation of the state’s districts.
As to being chosen five times -- the first time when he was just 25 -- Hardee chalks it up to competence at the job.

“I filed; everybody else filed,” he said. “It’s up to the congressional delegation to choose whom they want to send. And they have confidence in me to represent them at the national convention.”

An early achiever in politics, Hardee, 40, campaigned hard to win his first delegate seat in 1996, when he was the youngest delegate at the convention. Soon, he realized the dividends by being elected to the district chair in 1999. Except for a short span around 2003, he has since been the district leader. 

The primary duty of the delegates is to go and cast a vote and adopt the national party platform. Second, it’s to rub shoulders with influential policy makers, political stars and future office holders. Not to mention attending a slew of parties and informal gatherings that foster networking and information gathering.

Some speakers at the convention’s first two days will include U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield; Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton; former President Bill Clinton; Caroline Kennedy; U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, and former Gov. Jim Hunt.

Performers will include native son James Taylor and rock band Delta Rae. A family-friendly Labor Day event, Carolina Fest 2012, will kick off the convention on Monday, Sept. 3 in downtown Charlotte.

Convention veteran Hardee said that this is a much more open and inclusive event than years past, with 50,000 people in the community invited to apply for credentials to hear the president’s acceptance speech. And he is confident that the energy it engenders will be reflected in the polls.

“We have to turn out North Carolina because we’re in the spotlight now,” he said. “It helps the entire ticket.”

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