|Enjoying their sweep of
statewide offices in elections this past November but troubled by the looming
prospect of war with Iraq, Democrats from across the state gathered in
Sacramento for the party's convention on March 14-16, 2003.
Amid speeches by the state's
top Democrats, six of the nine announced Democratic candidates for president--Sen.
John Kerry, Sen. John Edwards, Gov. Howard Dean, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rep.
Dennis Kucinich, and Amb. Carol Moseley Braun--addressed some of the 2,238
registered delegates. Five of the campaigns also sought to sign up
supporters at tables in the hallway. Although Sen. Lieberman did
not attend, he made an appearance by video and his campaign had one of
the tables. By contrast, Rep. Gephardt had no noticable presence;
a spokesman pointed out that he keynoted the convention last year.
The delegates seemed to be largely opposed to war with Iraq. Many sported yellow "No War" stickers. Mayme Hubert, a delegate from San Rafael, passed out flyers promoting an anti-war demonstration and march on Saturday. "I am desperately opposed to this war," she stated. Hubert praised Gov. Dean and Rep. Kucinich for being "steady on as doves."
During his speech on Friday night, Sen. Kerry endured a couple of shouts of "No war, John, no war." Sen. Kerry defended his position, stating, "As I said in my speech on the floor of the United States Senate and as I have said everywhere across this country, the United States of America should never go to war because it wants to, we should go to war because we have to." Likewise Sen. Edwards received some boos but maintained his view that "Saddam Hussein is a serious threat."
The big winner at the convention was Howard Dean. Dean began his speech in a similar manner to his DNC speech three weeks earlier, asking the audience, "What I want to know...is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the President's unilateral intervention in Iraq?" After the former Vermont governor brought his speech to an impassioned close, the Dean table was swarmed by people wanting to sign up. "We were beseiged," said Joe Ross, who is helping to organize the state for Dean on a volunteer basis. "These are the people who are active in campaigns," he enthused. Ross said the response to the speech marked "the beginnings of an effective organization," and he noted that California is a large source of donors so Dean can expect to benefit from increased fundraising as well. Dean's success was perhaps best summed up by a delegate waiting at Sacramento airport for her flight home. "The one that did really well was this one named Dean; I had never heard of him," she stated.
California, which holds its
primary on March 2, 2004, will send 440 delegates, or slightly more than
10 percent of the total delegate votes, to the 2004 Democratic National
Convention in Boston.
Copyright © 2003 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.