By Kelly Catalfamo/BU Washington News Service
CHARLOTTE–The “most open and accessible convention in history” was promised Monday by Democratic National Convention Committee CEO Steve Kerrigan, as the quadrennial party gathering got underway here.
The preparations to make the convention more accessible began after First Lady Michelle Obama emailed President Obama’s supporters to ask what they would like to see at the 2012 convention. The first lady read every response, Kerrigan told a news conference, and the resounding answer was that the supporters wanted more opportunities to participate in the convention.
As a result of their request, the public will be able to follow a live stream of the program in both English and Spanish at DemConvention.com/live, making this political convention the first in the nation’s history to provide such a service.
Convention officials also will open caucus and council meetings to the public and will include the first festival associated with a convention: CarolinaFest 2012, which will include music by James Taylor, Jeff Bridges, and Janelle Monáe.
“Our city has been waiting for a long time to hold a convention,” said Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, who appeared at the press conference along with Kerrigan. “In fact, our state has been waiting for a long time. It has been 150 years since a convention was held in North Carolina.”
The state was chosen in part because of its strategic importance: Obama, with a narrow 2008 victory, was the first Democratic presidential nominee in 32 years to win North Carolina, and it is considered a swing state in this year’s election.
But convention officials praised the city for other reasons. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the chairman of this week’s convention, called Charlotte “a great, vibrant city; a green city.”
In addition to the accessibility of convention proceedings, Democrats chose to highlight the diversity of their delegates. “We’re going to show the country that we’re the party of openness, and opportunity, ingenuity, and innovation,” said Villaraigosa. He emphasized that, in the state delegations, “you’ll see people from every walk of life.”
Of the 5,556 delegates, half are women, said Democratic National Committee Secretary Alice Germond. The percentage of African American and Hispanic delegates has increased since 2004, and the birth years of delegation members span from 1914 to 1994.
Of the 10 Democratic national conventions she has attended in the past, this year is “the most exciting one,” said Germond. “It is big. It is bold. It is beautiful. This is America.”
–Tong Zhang contributed to this story