September 5, 2012

Dare’s delegates get a taste of the hub-bub
and hustle at Democratic convention


CHARLOTTE -- The Outer Banks may be in the same state as this city, but amid the hub-bub and hustle at the Democratic National Convention that kicked off on Tuesday, the barrier islands may as well have been across the country.

“The Outer Banks?” asked a Charlotte resident enjoying some convention sight-seeing. “That’s worse than getting to Chicago -- you have to go back and around.”

‘I’ve never been and people say it’s their favorite place on Earth,” said Linda Gutin, a Raleigh resident for four years.  “If the Republicans win, I may never get the chance.” 

Gutin, a self-described “failed comedian,” wore a bumper sticker plastered across her chest: “Get Out Dem Votes. Being Right Has Never Been So Wrong.”

Two delegates from Dare County made good use of the free-wheeling camaraderie at the three-day event -- a flash melding of thousands of delegates, lobbyists, journalists, lawmakers, and political staff from all over the country -- to keep the northeast on the North Carolina radar screen with nonstop networking and back-and-forth information sharing.

“I like to think myself and the delegates from the East are the cheerleaders for the northeast to the rest of the state,” said Chris Hardee, a Manteo resident and one of the Democratic delegates chosen to represent the state’s Third Congressional District. “We’ve got to get the word out.”

Hardee cited one gathering sponsored by a marine manufacturer that was pertinent to coastal issues and economic development.

Susan Harman-Scott, a delegate from Nags Head, said a session that was sponsored by Raleigh-based North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association got her wheels turning about the potential of clean energy manufacturing to create new jobs in the region.

In 2011, according to the nonprofit association, clean energy firms had physical offices in 87 counties of the state, with a focus on development of energy production from wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric.  New Hanover County alone has 85 offices, the seventh highest number in the state.

“That’s providing a growing number of jobs and business opportunities in our state and in our region,” Harman-Scott said.  “I was the only one from the East who came to this meeting. Everybody else is cashing in on this except us.”

Not unlike the high energy and camaraderie that people share on the coast when there’s a storm coming, the atmosphere at the convention, the first ever held in North Carolina, was notably friendly, no doubt burnishing the polite Southern reputation nationwide. 

Law enforcement from practically every corner of the country and every police agency --including many Secret Service agents -- lined the streets. They were invariably courteous and helpful. Even a showdown with protesters on Tuesday was subdued, with dozens of police in riot gear calmly telling onlookers to stay back while they kept an eye on the protesters who were blocking the street.
Strangers openly shared personal tidbits about their lives while waiting in gridlocked traffic on the shuttle buses to the convention center. With no fear of starting a fight or offending, everyone seemed to delight in telling political jokes.

“Welcome, welcome!” Ron Sanyal, a state executive delegate committee member, said to delegates as they boarded the shuttle while he handed them donated hand sanitizer. “Okay ---sanitize from the Republicans!”

An upbeat and outgoing man, Sanyal took pains to make sure his friend could get her wheelchair onto the bus and watched to ensure passengers did not have their seats blocked.

In a later interview, Sanyal, who is 63, said he moved to Raleigh from India in 1976. “This is my American dream,” he said about attending the convention.

Sanyal said he has seen North Carolina from “the mountains to the sea,” including Dare County. “I’ve been to the Outer Banks,” he said. “I love it.”

Every morning, each state’s delegation meets for breakfast to be regaled by different Democratic speakers. On Wednesday, the stars included Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, who is running for governor; Linda Coleman, who is running for lieutenant governor, and a surprise appearance by Rev. Jesse Jackson. 

“I am from Eastern North Carolina -- Greenville --- so I do know what it’s like east of I-95,” Coleman said in an interview. 

She said that she plans to visit the Outer Banks soon to learn more about the renewable energy potential on the coast. “There should be some opportunity because there are jobs that have not yet been created. I think that North Carolina can become a leader in that respect.”

Tonight, the delegates will hear a speech by former President Bill Clinton, and tomorrow night, President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden will accept their party’s nomination.


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