Monday, March 31, 2008

Nerdy Girl Goes to the Senate District Convention

Saturday morning I attended the Convention for Senate District 12. Tarrant County is too big for a single County convention so they break us into Senate Districts which then promote delegates to the State Convention. We met at the Gaylord Texan (a note for out-of-staters: I would love to describe to you the gross opulence that is the Gaylord Texan, but you wouldn’t believe me if I told you…let me just say this—it is one thing for folks in Las Vegas to recreate indoor resort escapes reminiscent of Paris or New York; it is another thing entirely when Texans recreate an indoor resort escape reminiscent of Texas). We were told to arrive at 8:00am for registration so that we could begin promptly at 10:30am. At 11:00am or noon an announcement was made that there were still about 1,000 people who needed to be registered. That was the not the announcement we had been hoping for. The Challenge Committee began to work its way through the 87 challenges that were being presented. By 3:00pm we made it through the 87 challenges. By 5:30pm most of the precincts had decided their elections for their precinct delegate(s) who would represent them in the state convention in June. At that point I was out of there. I would so love to go into nerdy mode and tell you all about the challenge process, how it effected our precinct (I was one of the challenges), and what transpired during the four or five hours that it took to hear all 87 challenges, but I won’t. Feel free to call me or write me and I’ll gleefully give you as much detail as you would like. Instead posted below is a summary that the Fort Worth Star Telegram printed.

I will say though that many accusations have been raised about the Clinton campaign’s influence and power in this process. From where I sit, it just seems like the volunteers most active in politics in Tarrant County happen to be Clinton supporters. When you are volunteering in the process, you have access to information quicker, you already understand the process and know how to use it to your advantage and, whether with malicious intent or not, you do bring a certain bias to the table. What I think needs to happen is that all these newly fired-up Obama supporters need to get entrenched in the political process. What is hard is that all (except maybe one) of the Clinton delegates in our precinct were at an age and/or lifestyle which offered them more time and resources to volunteer in the party. All (except maybe one) of the Obama delegates were not so fortunate. I would also offer that our precinct’s Obama delegates offered a distinct age, income level and ethnic diversity to which our precinct’s Clinton delegates could not compare. I would guess that all the Clinton delegates were white, all (except one) were over 60 years old, and all appeared to be retired/semi-retired and/or of an economic level or lifestyle that afforded them ample volunteer and leisure time. Our precinct’s Obama delegates included an African American man, two African American women, one Indian man and mutt me. We ranged in age from an 18 year old high school student, a college student in her early 20’s, a law student in his mid-20’s, a couple of us in our 30’s, and likely representation in each decade up to 70.

It is late. This delegate is tired. Here is the Star Telegram excerpt:

District 12: Grapevine

A shoddy sound system and widespread uncertainty about the process left many of the more than 2,000 delegates at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center frustrated.
"I understand this is supposed to build community, but I mean this is all kind of a joke if you ask me," said Tim Bialek, an Obama supporter from North Richland Hills. "It's like how many Democrats does it take to screw in a light bulb? That's what everyone is waiting in line for."

Tensions flared around noon over how to handle precinct caucus results that were challenged. There were 87 challenges from Senate District 12; the majority of the challenges came from the Clinton campaign.

Rather than waiting for a credentials committee to make recommendations on each challenge, convention leaders suggested splitting the challenged precincts evenly for Obama and Clinton.

The crowd roared a definitive "no" at the initial suggestion. A second vote on the idea failed. Organizers warned that the caucus could go until midnight if each challenge had to be heard individually. Several Obama supporters suggested that the effort was an attempt by the Clinton campaign to steal delegates.

"We will caucus until midnight to get our man in office," said Obama supporter Mindy Barton of Fort Worth.

Around 3 p.m., the delegates addressed all 87 challenges in one vote, accepting the recommendations of the credentials committee.

Despite the early drama, the convention appeared to go more smoothly than many other large conventions in North Texas. Most participants left by 6 p.m. after they caucused for their candidate.

A final tally had Obama with 108 delegates and Clinton with 84.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Not only did I fully participate in the democratic process here in Texas—I used the precinct convention (a.k.a. “caucus”) to shamelessly find myself a date. Did it work? No. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

It was my first caucus and it came with a lot of unknowns (what is going to happen, will I be required to speak, what does it mean to be “uncommitted” to a candidate, should I vie to be a “delegate”, how long will it take, should I bring a snack, can I bring my laptop, will they have wi-fi). Even with all of those looming unknowns, I felt the event needed an added layer of thrill. So I posted a personal ad on Craigslist seeking a date for this important event ("SWF in Precinct #3385 Seeking a Date to the Democratic Caucus - 35"). Now the odds of getting a date for the caucus were really, really low. What I was seeking was a man, who was registered AND voting democratic in my precinct's primary AND who was single AND who happened to be reading my ad AND who wouldn’t be alarmed by the idea of going on a first date to a caucus. That narrowed my pool to about zero. But I did get a lot of response from caucus date seekers all over Dallas and Collin counties and suddenly feel like I have several new friends in this sometimes-lonely star state.

So the primary. First I all, I dedicate this section to MO and HAI (you know who you are) who suck up campaign information like it is candy and who listened to my live caucus details (by cell phone since citizenship for MO and state residency for HAI kept them out) like it was hot porn. First of all, turnout: of the 151 who showed up, about five had EVER attended a pervious caucus (and, by the way, I have been told that about five people total generally attend these things). So 151 is a LOT and they were clearly not prepared for those numbers. The whole process took 2 ½ hours. 2 ½ hours in a middle school cafeteria with people who are growing tired, maybe hungry and increasingly disenchanted with being a part of the beautiful, mystical “democratic process.” First thing we did was sign in and declare our candidate. Then the nice volunteers added the numbers. Then we voted on who would lead the meeting. Not having a microphone system, the group almost unanimously chose the nominee with the loudest voice. Then we voted for the secretary. That job went to the nominee who actually seemed to want the job. Then the newsprint and the reporting of the numbers: 151 present. 72 for Clinton. 79 for Obama. 0 uncommitted to a candidate. Then lots of calculations. 19 delegates from our precinct will go to the county convention on March 29 in Fort Worth. With the numbers as they were, 9 would represent Clinton and 10 would represent Obama. Very close. Then we broke into caucuses for each candidate and voted on who the delegates would be (and alternates).

It was an educational experience. And I’m an official “alternate delegate” in the event that one of the other delegates backs out. I’m comfortable with that. I didn’t want to volunteer up front, but if I’m meant to go there is room for it to happen. And I have to say, this whole caucus thing is kind of fun and bonding. Not only do I have new would-have-been-caucus dates, but I met some nice, enthusiastic Grapevine democratics and for a short time we sat in a room with over about 300 like-minded people (two precincts met in there)…and that doesn’t happen often in this great big state of ours.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Texas Weather
(a pamster poem)

Inside I nurse the enflamed heat-rash from my weekend hike,
while outside the snow accumulates rapidly on my porch.