By Tom Larkin, Massachusetts Democratic State Committeeman and Bedford resident
On Friday, September 7th, I returned to Bedford from Charlotte, North Carolina, where I was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
It is an exhilarating experience for a Democrat political activist to be elected to represent Massachusetts at the Democratic National Nominating Convention, because what you see on television is only a glimpse of the convention proceedings.
I was elected at a caucus held in Peabody where anyone from Bedford’s congressional district could run for a delegate seat; other delegates were selected at a public meeting of the Democratic State Committee. The Massachusetts Delegation is evenly balanced under the party’s affirmative action rules, resulting in a very diverse group.
The 135 Massachusetts delegates to the Democratic National Convention stayed at the OMNI Hotel in Charlotte. From the time I was greeted as I stepped off the plane on Monday, September 3rd, until I was escorted back to the airport from my hotel on Friday, September 7th, I was treated to genuine southern hospitality.
Although we had to pay our own travel and hotel expenses, we were provided with a daily breakfast paid for by the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee. There were also receptions, luncheons and parties offered by candidates, labor unions and other political action groups; some were fundraisers but most were social gatherings. The Massachusetts Democratic Party officers and staff managed our day-to-day activities and were very efficient and helpful.
There was intense security on the streets of Charlotte near the Convention Center, including hundreds of local and county police. On the last 2 days of the convention the Secret Service was out in force.
Every morning at breakfast, delegates had to sign in to pick up the precious delegate credentials that allowed us to pass security and enter the convention hall that night. Security was very tight.
At the daily breakfasts, which lasted for 2 hours, there were always several guest speakers. We heard from Governor Deval Patrick, Lt. Governor Timothy Murray, Treasurer Steven Grossman, Attorney General Martha Coakley, Auditor Suzanne Bump, Senator John Kerry, and Secretary of State John Galvin.
Massachusetts’ Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren spoke to our delegation, as did most of our representatives in Congress. Several pollsters and political consultants also gave presentations, detailing the arithmetic and strategies leading to victory or defeat in November. In the afternoon, there were often caucuses scheduled for various groups such as teachers, unions, Planned Parenthood, gays and lesbian coalitions, veterans’ groups, Affirmative Action advocates and others.
As a retired member of the Boston Teachers Union and the American Federation of Teachers and Co-Chair the Field Services Committee of the Democratic State Committee, I also attended meetings relevant to my personal interests.
Conventions are also opportunities to meet and greet old friends like Kitty and Mike Dukakis, retiring Congressman John Olver and former Democratic Party elected officials.It is a huge re-union of political activists from past campaigns. The average age of the delegates seemed to me to be over 50.
Usually delegates arrived at the Convention Hall around 6pm but several wait until 8 or 9pm for prime TV time when the superstars make their speeches. From 6 to 9 pm every night almost every one of the Democratic Party’s political leaders were introduced and spoke to the delegates. The roster included many current and formerDemocratic Governors, Senators and Representatives in Congress. First Lady Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, Vice President Biden and President Biden were all scheduled for “Prime Time.”
The convention schedule was tightly controlled, but everything ran smoothly and I observed no disruptions within the convention or on the streets.
As a political activist, becoming a delegate to a national convention is similar to an avid fan of professional football or baseball attending the Super Bowl or the World Series, or a lover of plays and live theatre acquiring hard to get tickets to a smashBroadway show.
Every morning and night I heard inspired speeches from great political leaders at the top of their game. I had a front row seat at political theatre at its best.
Since the Democratic Presidential Primary was uncontested this year, all delegates were pledged to support President Obama, but the final act plays out between now and November 6th.
The Democratic National Convention inspired me to come home to Bedford and re-double my efforts to re-elect President Barack Obama, elect Elizabeth Warren to the US Senate and to support the entire Massachusetts Democratic ticket. This includes electing Bedford’s Ken Gordon to the Massachusetts House of Representatives.