by Jim Boyle
The Elk River area was heavily represented at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., where delegates this past week nominated President Barack Obama for re-election.
Gabe Davis, Patrick Jansen and Wes Gadsden, all with Elk River mailing addresses, were among the delegates at the Charlotte Convention Center to hear from the president and a long list of dignitaries, as well as a star-studded cast of Obama supporters.
“It was very unifying,” Davis said of the convention, noting it’s extremely rare for a community to have three delegates attend the national convention.
It was Davis’ and Jansen’s first convention. Gadsden was at Obama’s first presidential endorsement. He said both conventions were equally enjoyable, but for different reasons.
The first, of course, included the first nomination of who would become the first black president. Gadsden continues to see the dawning of a new era.
“This time I was looking for newcomers, and I saw just that,” he said of women speakers and speakers supporting gay marriage and the president supporting gay marriage and gay speakers.”
Each local came about their delegate status a little differently in the highly competitive selection processes.
Davis and Gadsen had to wait until the very end of the 6th District congressional endorsing convention. Election of delegates is the very last step of the event. Delegates there cast their vote and leave. Those vying for the right to be a delegate at the national convention then must wait until the votes are tabulated.
Then it was announced and Davis and Gadsden were winners.
“You have no clue what it’s like,” Davis said. “It’s like winning the lottery. It’s like winning the golden ticket.”
Jansen had to do it differently for his delegate status. He had to garner support during a walking caucus among his union colleagues at the state convention. He was able pull support together by joining groups and agreeing to work together for agreed-upon results. It wasn’t quite as climatic, but every bit as effective.
Gadsden relied on young Republicans he sought support from before the conventions started.
The three men from Otsego (Davis and Jansen) and Big Lake Township (Gadsden) enjoyed meeting delegates from other states and discovered many are facing or have faced the same issues as Minnesota.
They hope that Minnesota will be the first of 30-plus states to turn down an attempt to pass an anti-gay marriage amendment.
Davis said Minnesotans are paying legislators to figure things out and if legislation they pass doesn’t work, it can be tweaked in another session rather than having “to put something to another vote.”
The convention was an opportunity to see people like Mary J. Blige, James Taylor and Jeff Bridges perform. It was also a chance to meet with Ty Pennington of ABCs “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” and Tyne Daley of “Cagney and Lacey.” The number of politicians they met with and listened to made it difficult for them to pick a favorite meeting or speech.
The speakers are what made Gadsden’s second national convention equally enjoyable. Republicans’ message has been one of doom and gloom, these Democrats said.
“The First Lady spoke so well, the governor from Michigan knocked it out of the park and, of course, Bill Clinton made it a great convention,” Gadsden said.
They left the convention hopeful for the future.
“We have to bring people back together,” Davis said of the future in America. “It’s up to us. That’s the feeling I left with.”
The trip also gave Davis, a longtime political junkie, a chance to connect with soldiers at Fort Campbell Army base in Kentucky that he has sent care packages to for the past eight years. He has made it a custom to gather from fellow Democrats the necessary items for care packages at conventions he attends and at other times.
The U.S. Army installation is situated along the Kentucky and Tennessee border between Hopkinsville, Ky., and Clarksville, Tenn. Davis took an hour flight to Nashville, Tenn. en route to see the Cecilio Ponce family.
“It was great to see him and meet his family,” Davis said.
Davis, an Air Force veteran, has been attending endorsing conventions for 20-some years.
Jansen has been around politics his entire life, except for a 22-year span that he spent out of the state of Minnesota after serving in a Navy submarine force.
“My mom got me involved,” he said. “She worked on campaigns for Humphrey, Mondale and Dayton.”
When he moved back to Minnesota in 2001 it was natural for him to start getting involved in party politics. He never dreamed it would take him to a national endorsing convention, however.
It gave him a chance to connect with Hawaiian delegates he has a special bond with, having served in Hawaii.
It also gave him a chance to share his distaste about Rep. Michele Bachmann. Jansen wore a pin with Bachmann crossed out that drew many comments.
“She’s universally hated,” Jansen said. “People wanted to buy the pin. We could have made a fortune.”
All three will now turn their attention to Nov. 6. Democratic success that day would mean a trip to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration.