Party faithful campaigning to be convention delegates

Posted April 9, 2012 5:49 p.m. EDT
Updated April 9, 2012 6:51 p.m. EDT

— The fall election may still be months away, but some party activists are already campaigning furiously for the chance to represent North Carolina at the Republican and Democratic national conventions this summer.

North Carolina Democratic Party executive director Jay Parmley said Monday that a trip to a convention is the ultimate reward for longtime volunteers.

"For these party activists, it's the pinnacle of their success and their career in politics, so to speak, Parmley said.

The Democratic National Convention is scheduled for Sept. 4-6 in Charlotte. Ninety-three of the 158 North Carolina delegates at the convention will be elected by fellow Democrats in their congressional districts, with most others elected statewide.

Parmley expects about 1,000 competitors. Sometimes, the process gets personal, he said.

"I have seen more hurt feelings, I have seen more people get mad, I have seen more people ticked off over delegate selection than I have any other process because this is so real to them," he said.

Nineteen of the state's slots at the convention are reserved for so-called superdelegates, including elected officials like Gov. Beverly Perdue members of Congress and party leaders elected statewide.

North Carolina Republican Party spokesman Rob Lockwood said GOP faithful also are lining up for the chance to choose their nominee at the Aug. 27-30 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

"We've seen a lot of people who are excited because the convention should be very exciting this year for Republicans. So, there's a lot of enthusiasm," Lockwood said.

The 55 North Carolina delegates heading to Tampa will be assigned proportionally based on the May 8 primary results. Thirty-nine will be elected in their congressional districts, and 16 will be at-large, including elected leaders.

Lockwood said delegates who back one candidate usually aren't assigned to another.

"It's a preference thing. We can know and that's taken into consideration to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible. We don't foresee any problems," he said.

The Republicans will elect their district delegates this month, while Democrats will elect theirs in May. Both parties will select their statewide delegates at their respective state conventions in June.

Delegates have to pay their own way to the conventions. Some spend even more on ads, handbills, stickers and buttons, trying to make their case to go.

"To hear them tell it, they've all called 12 million people and knocked on 12 million doors and registered thousands of voters, and they probably have done all of that. So, that's what makes this really exciting, because their hard work really does pay off," Parmley said.