Hundreds of Democrats are standing in wide lines to check in for the state party convention today, campaign signs and buttons galore are promoting not only election candidates but also the many state delegates who are vying for a chance to attend the national party convention, and it’s tough as can be to find a parking space at the Doubletree Riverside. That means the lower-key of the two state party conventions in Idaho today is off and running.
Excitement over the presidential race appears to be the hallmark for the Democrats this year, with attendees saying they don’t recall such energetic campaigns just to serve as national delegates. Norena Gutierrez, an Ada County 2nd Congressional District delegate who’s among close to a dozen vying for five national slots from her area, said, “I’ve never done anything like this. … I have been inspired. I was in corporate America for 25 years and I never did anything – I didn’t even vote.” Laid off from Hewlett-Packard three years ago, the former executive sold real estate, then threw herself into politics and now works for the Ada County Democrats. “I know we need change,” she said.
She’s among an array of aspiring national delegates hosting “hospitality suites” for other delegates today. At hers, her sister’s making up fresh-made burritos for folks and Gutierrez is offering campaign buttons, snacks and outdoor seating. Gutierrez said her two adopted African-American sons, who are 10 and 11-1/2, are thrilled about Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy. “The little one said to me, ‘What do I have to do to be president of the United States?’” she said proudly.
Pausing to add a new “Obama Mama” button to the five Obama buttons already displayed on the lapels of her dark blazer, Gutierrez said, “I’ll tell ya, we are an Obama family. It’s so exciting to be absolutely excited about somebody.” She also was offering other aspiring national delegates a chance to display their fliers and campaign materials on the hotel suite’s king-sized bed. “Everybody is so good and everybody deserves to be a national delegate,” she said. Down the hall, vendors are selling everything from humorous political buttons to “Blue Girl, Red State” T-shirts, candidates are working the crowds and delegates are attending training sessions.