The 2012 Democratic National Convention gets underway in Charlotte tomorrow. And the North Carolina delegation will be one of the state’s most diverse ever. There are more delegates of color, and for the first time there is an auxiliary group for Lesbian-Gay-Bi-Sexual and Trans-gendered delegates.
It’s the beginning of the school year and college students are everywhere on the U-N-C Chapel Hill campus. And it’s clearly campaign season.
Mike Hefron: Quick question, if the election were held today, would ya’ll be voing for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama? (Barack Obama) Okay. Are you guys registered to vote? Okay.
Mike Hefron is a senior and a registered Republican. And he’s got a tough job. Hefron talked to more than 100 students and registered only three. He says the students say they’re already registered and they’re Democrats. Freshaman Vibhav Kollu is also hanging out under the big Oak Tree in “The Pit.” He says he’s clearly for President Barack Obama in November. And to prove his support, Kollu successfully ran to be a North Carolina delegate to this year’s Democratic National Convention.
Vibhav Kollu: I think this convention is going to be an amazing opportunity to network that’s what I’m really excited for. And I’ve also heard of a lot of celebrities coming to the convention, a lot of famous musicians, I’m kind of excited for that too!
Well – Kollu is just 18-years-old – and the youngest member of the North Carolina Delegation. He was born in India. Kollu says he’s been seriously involved in politics since his early teens.
Vibhav Kollu: I got into politics because I saw so many stuff wrong with the world and my Civics and Economics teacher really inspired me to get involved. He just put it out there that civic activism is what we need to do.
There are ten-times more youth delegates in North Carolina who won spots to go to this convention than in 2008. These are delegates under 35-years-old.
Walton Robinson is a spokesman for the North Carolina Democratic Party. He says overall, twice as many people – both young and old – ran to be delegates this year.
Walton Robinson: Our delegation got larger because President Obama won North Carolina last time – we had a larger share of the vote, so we grew. Our delegation was roughly 160 delegates or so last time, now we’re at188 total in the delegation. So we grew a little bit, the tent got a little bigger and we were happy to have some more people in it with us.
For the first time – the state Democratic party includes an L-G-B-T Auxiliary Group – for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Trans-gendered Democrats. Ryan Butler is a Greensboro-based attorney who helped lobby for the group.
Ryan Butler: Now that the majority of the American public is on our side, it is the perfect time to make sure that our Democratic Party had an LGBT Democrats Auxiliary.
Butler says his organization wanted to support a president who publicly supports same-sex marriage – especially after the state’s bitter fight over the constitutional amendment banning such unions. Butler and his partner are both delegates to the convention. The delegation headed to Charlotte will also have more Hispanic and Latino delegates. Olma Echeverri of Charlotte chairs the Hispanic Democrats of North Carolina and is one of nine delegates representing her auxiliary. She’s worked for 20 years registering voters.
Olma Echeverri: The openness of people to embrace me the way I am. It didn’t matter where I came from how I looked like, I was immediately one of them.
The state G-O-P sent 55 delegates to Tampa for its nominating convention. States and political parties choose their delegations differently. The size of North Carolina’s Democratic delegation to the convention is based on a formula that has to do with how many electoral votes the state has and its share of the presidential vote from the last three presidential elections.