By Joel Senick/BU Washington News Service
CHARLOTTE — A number of enthusiastic Maine delegates swapped dress slacks for shorts and jeans Monday afternoon, getting down and dirty as home builders one day before the start of the 2012 Democratic National Convention here.
Fourteen Maine Democrats in Charlotte painted walls, cleaned cupboards and nailed siding on one-half of a house that will be donated to a U.S. military veteran. The other half was completed by Republican delegates last week in Tampa, where that party’s national convention was held.
After construction is completed on the two halves during the conventions, they will be “united” when delivered and installed in October on a lot in the Belmont neighborhood in Charlotte. The completed home then will be donated to a military veteran.
“I think it’s great for building morale and team spirit,” said former state Attorney General Janet Mills. “It demonstrates something for the country that we don’t always see, people working together.”
It’s a message that founders of the project named House United hoped to get across to the American public, said television personality Ty Pennington, who is leading the effort.
“You have a bond, because you’ve accomplished something together,” said Pennington, the host of ABC’s “Extreme Home Makeover.” “There’s a message there: ‘Let’s work together.’”
The Maine Democratic contingent worked in sweltering heat inside and outside the structure for just under an hour. Robert Wake, a lawyer from Windham, nailed siding into place on the back of the house, while Mills held the ladder steady.
“There’s a lot I disagree with them about,” said Wake of the Republican delegates who built the other half of the house. “But in the end, we’re all Americans together.”
“This is very unique,” said state Sen. Barry Hobbins, who is attending his seventh convention. “Hopefully that same spirit of cooperation will exist after the November election.”
More than 20 delegates took part in the project, which coincided with a large Labor Day festival in Charlotte, just steps from where the Democratic convention will kick off today. In Tampa, where the volunteer site was farther from the Republican National Convention, only eight participated.
“Of the delegates that came, I would say it didn’t matter what party they were,” said Kevin Flaherty of Champion Home Builders, a partner of the project. “This is a little better venue, but as far as participants go, identical.”
The home project will be completed today, just hours before delegates file into Time Warner Cable Arena for the start of the Democratic convention. The house will be presented to a military veteran next month.