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DNC will see diverse N.C. delegation

The Tar Heel delegates will include more young people, Hispanics, blacks and LGBT members than past

More Information

  • DNC in Charlotte: More about the convention
  • Democratic delegates from Mecklenburg County

    • U.S, Rep. Mel Watt

    • N.C. Rep. Becky Carney

    • N.C. Rep. Martha Alexander

    • N.C. Rep. Beverly Earle

    • Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts

    • Charlotte City Councilman John Autry

    • Pat Cotham, Democratic National Committee member

    • Joyce Brayboy, Democratic National Committee member

    • Cameron Harris, Charlotte businessman

    • Bishop George Battle, AME Zion Church

    • The Rev. Gregory Moss, St. Paul’s Baptist Church

    • The Rev. Brenda Stevenson, New Outreach Ministries

    • Olma Echeverri, chair of Hispanic-American Democrats

    • Margaret Katherine Alexander, president of Hispanic-American Democrats of Mecklenburg County

    • Samuel Spencer, president Young Democrats of N.C.

    • Vani Hari

    • Robbie Akhere

    • Elena Botella

    • Rasheedah Hasan

    • Nelda Leon

    • Cynthia Lee Wallace

    • Frank Deaton

    • Gautam Desai

    • Robert Hillman

    • Hiawatha Foster

    • Janice Covington

    Other notable N.C. delegates

    • Gov. Bev Perdue

    • U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan

    • U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell

    • U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield

    • U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre

    • U.S. Rep. Brad Miller

    • U.S. Rep. David Price

    • U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler

    • N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall

    • Linda Coleman, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor

    • N.C. Democratic Party Chairman David Parker

    • Former N.C. House Speaker Joe Hackney

    • Former N.C. House Speaker Dan Blue

    • James Andrews, president of N.C. State AFL-CIO

    • MaryBe McMillan, secretary-treasurer of NC State AFL-CIO



September’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte will be the first time North Carolina has ever hosted such a major party gathering. So it’s fitting that the host state is sending a 158-member delegation that will be historically diverse.

The North Carolina group, to be headquartered at the Crowne Plaza Uptown, will have more young Democrats (32) than ever before. There will be more Hispanic delegates (five) than in 2008. The state delegation will also include its first transgender delegate and what’s believed to be its first gay married couple.

And then there’s Charles M. Johnson of Rocky Mount, who will turn 91 a month after the convention.

“I know we’re the best state in the nation. We should have had (the Democratic National Convention) here long before now,” said Johnson, a self-described “Harry Truman conservative” who’s also a big fan of President Barack Obama, who he will help nominate for a second term.

Also noteworthy in a national party that asks state parties to meet affirmative-action goals: The North Carolina delegation includes 73 women; 60 African-Americans; three Native Americans; two people with disabilities and eight delegates who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Mecklenburg, the state’s largest county, will be represented by 26 delegates. The total for other Charlotte-area counties: Catawba, three; Gaston, three; and two each from Cabarrus, Union and Iredell County.

As a gay man and first-time delegate, Ryan Butler is looking forward to showing his support for Obama – the first president to endorse gay marriage.

Butler, 33, and his partner tied the knot in a Canadian ceremony six years ago.

“The Democratic Party is the party of inclusion,” said Butler, a Greensboro attorney who is also president of the LGBT Democrats of North Carolina. “It’s always been a big-tent party. When you look out at the convention, you see people from all walks of life, all different sexual orientations.”

Earlier this year the state party approved, for the first time, a LGBT auxiliary. It joins other such subgroups, including the Young Democrats, Senior Democrats, Democratic Women of N.C., the African American auxiliary and the Hispanic auxiliary.

Margaret Katherine Alexander, president of the Hispanic American Democrats of Mecklenburg County, said she will bring “a different eye” to a convention likely to champion issues important to Latinos. One such example would be the DREAM Act – legislation that could offer a path to citizenship to young undocumented immigrants who graduate from high school or serve in the military.

Alexander, 58, who is Salvadoran-American, said she was inspired by her uncle, who fought in the civil war in El Salvador in the 1980s. “I’ve carried his legacy of fighting for rights for people,” she said.

Alexander now lives a five-minute drive from uptown Charlotte. But she grew up in Los Angeles and said she’s looking forward to hearing that city’s mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, who will wield the gavel as chairman of the 2012 convention.

Spanning the ages

The age span in the N.C. delegate stretches from 18 to 90. Young Democrats are defined as anyone younger than age 36.

On the teen side of the scale is Vibhav Kollu of Concord. He started a Democratic club at Cox Mill High School before moving on to become president of the N.C. Teen Democrats and national political director for the High School Democrats of America.

“I had the mindset of many teens that politics was ‘blah,’ but my teacher was a really smart, funny person that ignited a passion in me,” said Kollu, a native of India.

Johnson, meanwhile, is a World War II veteran who said he was born a Democrat (in 1921) “and I’ve been one ever since.”

This will be his seventh Democratic National Convention – his first was in 1988 in Atlanta, when he was a delegate pledged to then-Sen. Al Gore of Tennessee.

Over the years, he’s served on the convention’s rules, credentials and platform committees.

And four years ago, he met – and offered some advice – to then-candidate Obama, who was appearing at the state’s Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Raleigh.

“Good advice,” he said Obama told him.

And the advice was?

“You’re going to have to ask the president that,” said Johnson with a laugh.

Staff writer Tim Funk contributed.

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