Thursday, February 16, 2012

Democratic National Convention 2012 Notebook: Leadership team faces questions about Latino vote, same-sex marriage

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 11:23 AM

  • Photo by Rene Min
  • Villaraigosa
In a conference call to formally announce Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's nomination as chair of the Democratic National Convention, the mayor and other DNC heavy-hitters fielded questions about Latino voters' support of President Obama and the Democratic Party's position on same-sex marriage.

The issue of same-sex marriage is particularly urgent for North Carolinians, considering the May vote on a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman — with groups aligning on both sides. That, together with recent fights over health-care coverage of contraception, has elevated social issues in the presidential campaign, particularly in this swing state.

“I do support marriage equality,” Villaraigosa said on Wednesday, but added, it’s “not for me to dictate that” for others in the party. Democratic Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose nomination of Villaraigosa will be presented to the convention rules committee and voted on by the delegates at the opening session, said the drafters of the convention platform “have a deliberative process to go through,” starting with regional meetings. She emphasized Villaraigosa’s career, which he has dedicated, she said, to civic engagement.

When Villaraigosa was asked if Latino voters would enthusiastically support President Obama in November as they did in 2008 — considering some have expressed disappointment with the progress of immigration reform — he said he would not “get into the forecast business” before predicting the support would be there. “Our party’s a big tent,” he said, and named Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks and Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, as inspirations.

Villaraigosa called on the U.S. to support the Dream Act, immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for those who have grown up in this country, worked hard, then gone to college or served in the military. His convention message would “focus on the importance of civic engagement,” Villaraigosa said. Web videos in English and Spanish accompanied his nomination.

As permanent chair, Villaraigosa would preside over convention proceedings and wield the gavel as the party nominates its presidential and vice presidential candidates, adopts the national platform and conducts business. As both parties compete for the country’s growing Latino vote, Villaraigosa will be a visible convention presence and spokesperson. He spent time as a union organizer and volunteered with farm workers when he was still in high school.

In Villaraigosa’s hometown, the Los Angeles Times reported that the new post would raise the mayor’s national profile as he considers his future political plans. (He was scheduled to join President Obama Wednesday at a fundraiser in the upscale Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles.) First elected in 2005, Villaraigosa has just over a year left in his second and final term as mayor of the nation’s second largest city. He is president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which counts Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as a member of its advisory board.

Other recent convention developments

* Where would you want to stay during a convention based uptown? The large New York delegation, for example, will be housed in SouthPark, as will Pennsylvania’s. In Tuesday’s announcement of hotel assignments for the more than 6,000 delegates, the Hilton Charlotte Center City and the Westin Charlotte were tapped as the base of convention operations, with states headquartered in hotels in uptown, South Park, I-77/airport, University and Concord areas. See the full list here.

All locations considered a short shuttle trip uptown. Me? I’m sticking close to the small Hawaii group, housed at the Hilton uptown. In an earlier visit here, members told me they would be bringing Kona coffee, macadamia nuts and other gifts.

* How about a chance to get some love for your do-it-yourself, home-style barbecue? This week, Charlotte in 2012 put out an official call for a barbecue-sauce vendor as part of the convention merchandising effort. The convention is seeking three styles — mustard, vinegar and tomato — so no part of the Carolinas will feel left out. The sauces will be sold together in the online merchandise store. Dan Murrey, host committee executive director, said his team is “looking forward to the taste test.”

Those interested in submitting a proposal — due Feb. 27 — must register their businesses in the vendor directory at the Charlotte in 2012 website and must be open to working with the organization on bottle and label designs. Sauces must be made in America; preference will be given to “made in the Carolinas.”

Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to The Washington Post's “She the People” blog, The Root, NPR and the Nieman Watchdog blog. Her “Keeping It Positive” segment airs Wednesdays at 7:10 a.m. on Fox News Rising Charlotte, and she was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.

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