Local Politics

Democrats prepare for largest Jefferson-Jackson Dinner

Posted May 2, 2008 4:45 p.m. EDT
Updated May 2, 2008 7:55 p.m. EDT

— The Democratic Party prepared Friday for the largest Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in its 78-year history in the state.

Party officials said 950 people will dine, with another 4,000 in the stands for the event, which features speeches from Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

“Our phones are ringing off the hooks. We have calls from anywhere from England to Italy,” said state Democratic Party Communications Director Kerra Bolton.

The event is 10 times larger than last year, mainly due to the Clinton and Obama race. Tickets for the event sold out hours after the two announced they would attend.

On Friday, the Democratic Party released about 100 more tickets, which also quickly sold out. Tickets for the dinner were $100 and theater seats were $25 each.

More than 100 journalists also plan to attend the event.

On Friday, attention was being paid to security, which includes metal detectors that each guest must pass through.

“We are working with law enforcement…city, state and secret service to make sure everything is what it needs to be,” Bolton said.

Another challenge has been keeping the event cool because the venue, North Carolina State Fairgrounds’ J.S. Dorton Arena, doesn’t have air conditioning. Organizers are encouraging people to wear comfortable, light clothing.

“While this is an important event, it’s not necessarily a formal event,” Bolton said.

The event starts at 7 p.m. when Jerry Meek, state Democratic Party chair, welcomes guests and recognizes party officials.

Senate candidate and potential Elizabeth Dole challenger, Jim Neal will be the first to speak.

He will be followed by, in order: gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue and presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Neal's rival for the nomination, State Sen. Kay Hagan, speaks after Clinton. She'll be followed by gubernatorial candidate State Treasurer Richard Moore and remarks from Gov. Mike Easley.

Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama will be last to the lectern.

“It is huge. We’ve never had anything like this. It is clearly unprecedented,” said Meek.