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Local candidates benefit from political conventions

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Pat Cotham, who is seeking an at-large seat on the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners, networked with local supporters and met potential donors at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

Matthew Ridenhour, a Republican running for county commission in District 5, learned some campaign strategies at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., last week.

And Jack Brosch, 54, a Republican opposing Democratic U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, raised “a little bit of money,” while also in Tampa.

National political conventions are about building momentum and support for a presidential nominee. But for candidates running for local and state offices, this year’s conventions have been an avenue for building support for their campaigns as well.

Though she has not aggressively campaigned, Cotham said fellow delegates from North Carolina this week have come up to her and asked about her campaign.

“I tell them the convention is the focus this week; I’m focused on the president,” said Cotham, who is also a member of the Democratic National Committee. But she will follow up with supporters and people who have said they’d make a contribution to her campaign.

“It’s certainly an advantage, it’s more of a networking opportunity,” Cotham said. Instead of calling potential supporters and donors and reminding them of who she is, she met them in person during the convention.

At a Latinos for Obama event last Saturday, Jennifer Roberts, a delegate and Democratic nominee in the 9th Congressional District, shook hands and talked to people. She was wearing a shirt with her name and the office she was running for.

Roberts, a Mecklenburg County commissioner, said she was mainly focused on “making sure people have a great experience” in Charlotte this week. She said she was “not actively fundraising,” but rather, meeting business people and others to talk about bringing jobs to the area.

Susan Roberts, a political science professor at Davidson College, said it is a plus to be a delegate to a national convention when you’re a candidate for office.

“People are making connections. They may not be fundraising, but you’re meeting people that can help you in some way,” Roberts said.

“I think it’s an enthusiasm bounce for any Democrat, especially someone running for office in and around Charlotte,” Roberts said. “Having it in Charlotte creates excitement for the Democratic Party and the ticket, just as it did in Tampa,” for the Republicans, she said.

Ridenhour, 34, said he may use some of the campaign strategies he learned about from elected officials, campaign volunteers and others at the RNC last week, though he would not reveal what those strategies were.

“It’s just a ripe opportunity for the exchanging of ideas,” Ridenhour said. “There’s so much of an opportunity for this networking to occur, (like) during workshops and afternoon gatherings.”

Another advantage of being an RNC delegate, Ridenhour said, is he spent “quality time” with N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican from Cornelius, and other officials.

“It’s good to build these relationships so that if I get elected, I’m laying some of the foundation in building a network with state elected officials,” Ridenhour said. He added that he did not recruit volunteers or raise money while he was in Florida.

Brosch, 54, met some of the party leadership during the RNC last week in addition to raising money. He found people – including North Carolina delegates outside his district – who said they would support him by working phone banks, knocking on doors and hosting meet-and-greets for his campaign. Overall, he said, he met 150 new people.

“It’s revving up the base for both parties. It gets you more of a personal feel for your candidates,” Brosch said of delegates meeting fellow delegate candidates. “It’s being able to get in contact with people, get your message out there to a broader audience.”

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