Nhut and I attended the Williamson County Democratic Party Convention yesterday at Stony Point High school in Round Rock. This was the next round in the Texas convention process where 88,000 precinct delegates statewide narrowed down the delegate field to 7,000 delegates to attend the state Democratic Party Convention in Austin on June 5, 6 and 7. Nhut and I were elected as state delegate and alternate from our combined precinct, so we’ll be going to the state convention in June to support Barack Obama. Cheryl, another delegate from our precinct was selected as an “At Large” delegate to attend the state convention as a Hillary supporter. JL from our precinct posted a bunch of pictures of the Williamson County Convention on Flickr. And of course, Nhut brought his camera, and I’ve posted his pictures in my gallery here.
We had attended a county convention training session last weekend, and were thinking the convention would be well organized and smoothly run, as compared to the precinct conventions, and considering that there were over 1600 delegates represented, the convention was pretty well organized, and fairly smooth, but not without it’s glitches.
The convention was set to open registration at 8:00 AM, and we were advised to arrive early, as the business of the convention was scheduled to start at 10:00 am, or as soon as registration was complete. Anyone in line at 10:00 would still be allowed to complete registration, and would be able to participate in the days activities.
Well, when we arrived at around 8:20 AM, the back parking lot was completely full, so we drove around front of the school, and found the larger lot still had a lot of available parking spaces. We grabbed a free donut and a couple of campaign signs on the way in, courtesy of one of the Obama precinct delegations, and got on line; the very end of the line. Which, after we joined, seemed to grow ever longer. There was a problem with the badge printer at some point before we got to the registration table, so that by the time we got there, all the badges were being hand written, rather than affixing a printed sticker. Yellow badges were issued to delegates, and white badges to alternates. I had written our precinct number on one of the campaign signs so that we could find our fellow precinct delegates while waiting in line, and that actually worked.
Once we had our badges, we headed into the convention room, only delegates were allowed on the convention floor, so Nhut waited in the alternate/guest area until our precinct delegation lead (that was me) could request that alternates be upgraded to delegate status to fill empty delegate slots. Since the credentials committee was not finished, we couldn’t start the business of the convention, and decided to break for lunch. The county party had broght in PokeJo’s, a local barbeque joint, and we had some brisket, turkey, potato salad, cole slaw… typical Texas BBQ lunch and chatted with a few other delegates while we enjoyed the food.
We had three empty delegate slots in our precinct, 2 Obama, and 1 Clinton, and were able to upgrade the status of our 3 Obama alternates after lunch to fill the slots and have a full precinct for convention business. By the time all of this wrangling was complete, and we were all back in our seats, I think it was after 3:00.
One of the first orders of business is to appoint a permanent convention chair and secretary. It’s customary to elect as permanent chair and secretary the temporary chair and secretary. The temporary chair is the head of the county party, and the secretary is the county party secretary. As an aside, in our precinct convention, Abigail and I were the temporary precinct chair and secretary and were elected as permanent chair and secretary. Permanent is a really misleading term in this context. You preside over the meeting till it is adjourned that day, there’s no power or glory associated with the job, it’s just a matter of knowing how to run a meeting according to Robert’s rules of order, and the Texas Democratic Party rules. So, when 5 people decided they wanted the position, and ran for it, the convention got all shades of out of whack over the process. In the end, the temporary chairperson was selected as the permanent chair, but a new permanent secretary was selected from one of the precinct delegations. What was funny about that, is that once the woman was elected, and announced, she had to be reminded that her position was effective immediately, and to please come up on stage and get to work!
By the time we got to electing state delegates, we had lost two of the people in our precinct delegation, it had to be after 5 at that point and a couple folks had to go home. We were supposed to be done with this part by 1:00 PM. There were three of us running for the one delegate and one alternate spot in Austin, and as it turns out, all three of us will be going. Nhut and I were selected as delegate/alternate from the precinct vote, and Cheryl was selected as an “At Large” delegate. At Large delegates are selected in an effort to balance the convention delegation so that the numbers of delegates going to the state convention matches the percentages in the presidential preference poll of the county convention. For Williamson County, the numbers were 64.88% for Obama, 34.12% for Clinton.
After we turned in our packet, we wanted to stick around to see the rest of the convention business be conducted, and find out about the At Large delegates. Well, apparently the nominations committee had to sift through 750 At Large applications to narrow down to 28 delegates and 30 alternates. Once that was done, they would report back to the convention, and their results, as well as the results of the precinct elections would have to be approved by the convention. Since the nominations committee was going to take a while to complete it’s work, the convention took a one hour dinner break around 8:30 PM, and would come back to finish up at 9:30 PM.
We took a quick ride out to a Jack in the Box around the corner from the school and got something to eat. After dinner, we heard the reports of the credentials committee on challenges and resolutions, and approved the actions of the committee for all of the issues that they had to deal with. One of the items had to do with our precinct delegation because some of the detailed sheets with delegation sign in information got lost between Austin and Georgetown. The credentials committee had contacted Abigail and me last week, and we were able to provide them with the information they needed to satisfy the challenge and make sure all of our delegates were seated. The convention approved the committee’s resolution of our precinct problem.
We also sat through the report of the resolutions committee and finally got everything approved. One resolution was submitted from the floor, but defeated. The idea was to eliminate the caucus process and go with a straight primary. The idea being that caucuses disenfranchise people who can’t make it and limit voter access. The one positive thing about the convention process that people don’t understand unless they participate in them, is that regardless of which candidate you’re supporting, you are coming together as a group of like minded party members at an event that enables you to socialize and better understand who your neighbors are and what they’re thinking is important to them. We waited in the lunch line with Cheryl, one of the Clinton delegates from our precinct, and had a really nice chat. Then we sat down at a table of women from both sides and got to talking about different stuff. It was funny, as we were getting up to leave from lunch, the one woman we talked to says to me; “It was nice chatting with you…”, and says to Nhut; “It was nice watching you listen to us!”.
We finally adjourned the convention somewhere just after midnight, and got home around 12:30 or so, it was a long day, but really interesting to be involved and part of the process. Nhut says we’ll be living in a state that doesn’t have a caucus/convention system for the next election… we’ll see.