Saturday, March 13, 2010

Johnson County Democratic Convention 2010

Live from the Johnson County Democratic Convention

10:34 and hello from West High in Iowa City where the JCDems have been underway for a couple hours. The blog is behind the curve; I'm co-chair of credentials again and had to do that work first. But the delegates are all seated (95) and after a mid-morning donut break we're listening to the legislative delegation. Bolkcom, Jacoby and Lensing are speaking now. Bob Dvorsky spoke early and Mary Mascher is co-chairing the show.

Congressman Dave Loebsack spoke earlier before heading to the Lee and Muscatine conventions. He hopes to make more conventions next weekend but his priority is the health care vote. "Don't sniff at this bill," he said to a lefty crowd that, like Loebsack himself, would have liked a stronger bill. "This is going to do real good for millions of Americans." He specifically cited an end to pre-existing conditions and coverage for 31 million people.

Loebsack was also optimistic about the electoral outlook: "I have no doubt we Democrats will do awfully well in the fall."

Action, if you can call it that, is moving toward the platform. Near as I know, the only platform fight is, as usual, Palestine/Israel. There was another petition floating about safe (sic) nuclear power, not sure if it met the signature threshold.

69 people running for the district and state convention; we have 87 seats so we'll fill the vacancies from the floor. No preference groups this year; back in 2006 we split along gubernatorial lines.

Janelle Rettig
Supervisor Janelle Rettig

The courthouse crowd also spoke earlier: all five supervisors, Lyness, Slockett and Pulkrabek. I was busy with credentials and missed what they said. Also on hand: Regenia Bailey of the city council. Not seen: any primary challengers to the five courthouse incumbents.

Jim Larew spoke on behalf of Chet Culver and focused on rail and project labor agreements. (James Lynch of the Gazette was paying more attention than I was at this point, since I was still on Credentials patrol.)

Petitions have been floating around; Ed Flaherty is getting signatures for Bob Krause. The other two Senate candidates, Tom Fiegen and Roxanne Conlin, are scheduled to be here. (I have yet to see a Fiegen petition.) Dan Tallon has two petitions: one on Don't Ask Don't Tell and the other on the 21 bar issue. Tallon says the bar issue has gotten 3500 signatures in 48 hours. Some of the locals are already padding their already sufficient lists of names.

For your reference, here's the platform as written.

It appears as of 11:07 that Yes Nukes did indeed get the signatures. Anessa Olson is the person advocating it; for her it's about research money. A few extra bodies trickle in as the buzz spreads that we're actually doing something. The lights go down, then up; Tom Carsner suggests "it must be the nuclear glow." More speakers line up against than for, as Anessa speaks a second time (the protocol is, everyone on a side speaks once before you get a second turn). And that's how it shakes out as we vote no.

Iowa City Federation of Labor president Pat Hughes wants to delete "We support the employees‟ right to change unions without affecting their contract." Dave Tingwald (co-chair with Mascher) is in parliamentary procedure heaven as we first discuss suspension of the rules before we get to talk about the issue itself. "Several of the great minds of labor in Johnson County couldn't figure out what this meant," says Hughes. "It doesn't have enough clarity to go further in the platform." "This just allows you to change your union and keep your contract," says the advocate.

"The AFL-CIO has a no-raid clause," says Hughes. "This would make unions free to raid one another and weaken the labor movement."

Debate stops as Larry Marek and Becky Schmitz arrive after attending the Washington County convention. Marek must have caught the platform discussion: "I'd rather have wind power than any sort of nuclear power."

SchmitzSchmitz gets louder applause than Marek; she's trying to make four conventions today. Calls the GOP "the party of has-beens," referring to all the comeback kids."They're trying to bring back Branstad, and now they're trying to bring back Sandy Greiner," she said of her likely opponent. Telegraphing some of the campaign to some, Schmitz said, "She gave all sorts of reasons to leave two years ago, I don't know what's changed." Schmitz says under Greiner's tenure as chair, people referred to "the environmental degradation committee."

"She's very tight with big business and she has deep pockets," Schmitz said of Greiner.

The labor debate resumes No one lines up for the plank as labor speakers line up on the no side (Yes keeps the plank, No deletes it.) And we vote it out. The plank's advocate continues in discussion with some of the labor guys at 11:45.

May be a gap here; we need to fill the remaining 18 seats and my credentials duties may resume.

12:48 and indeed there was a gap but not for the reasons I expected. Almost simultaneously, we broke for lunch and Roxanne Conlin showed up. So she spoke in the lunch hall and I was separated from the computer and had to resort to taking notes old-school style.

We'll catch up to that soon but right now Francis Thicke is speaking to half the delegates (the other half are still eating or shaking hands with Conlin.) Thick has a new look; since I last saw him at my caucus, he's shaved. With Thicke is campaign manager Rob Hubler, who gets big applause for running against Steve King.

"What's going to happen to agriculture when oil climbs to $300 a barrel?" asks Thicke, who's looking at ag in the big global sense. Local control over CAFOs gets applause.

"Northey has support from the PACs of Monsanto and Walmart, but we have support from the grass roots." And it's pronounced TICK-ee.

Jumping back in time, Conlin seems to be settling into the biographical section of the stump speech. "I have been hungry because there was no food in the house... I have been cold because the utility bill didn't get paid," she says of her childhood.


I have to jump away from Conlin again because the biggest platform fight is about to start. James Eaves-Johnson wants to strike the entire plank and replace it with his own substitute. "The platform committee discussed this amendment and voted it down unanimously," notes platform chair Robin Roseman.

I don't have the Eaves-Johnson language in electronic, but here's the platform committee version:
Israeli/Palestinian Conflict
We support:
306. Two-state solution based on the Geneva Initiative of 2003.
307. A direct, active, and even-handed US role to facilitate a peaceful final resolution.
We oppose:
308. Israeli settlement activity on territory captured in the six-day war of 1967.
309. Moving the US embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem prior to final resolution.
310. The Separation Wall.
311. Use of human shields, collective punishment and violations of international laws.

"The platform does not criticize the actions of any specific country in the world, with one exception, Israel," says Eaves-Johnson. And with his usual rhetorical flourish of defining other people's views for them: "If you believe that Israel is the one black spot in the world that deserves our condemnation, then you should vote against this amendment."

The crowd seems to have thinned significantly post-lunch (1:28 PM)

At this point Maria Conzemius throws the phrase "anti-Semitic" out there. Someone has to loudly object so I do. There's a confab of parliamentarians on stage; they rule that because Conzemius called the entire Democratic Party anti-Semitic, rather than singling out any one person, she was just barely within the rules.

Roxanne Conlin signs Dan Tallon's petition to end Don't Ask Don't Tell.

The substitute language gets voted down (overwhelmingly) so the platform stays as it is. And with that the whole platform gets voted through with no changes only the one labor line changed.

So things are winding down at an unbelievably early 1:45.

Back to Conlin, she's got a "fed up" cadence worked into the speech: "I'm fed up with the endless wars, I'm fed up with the bailouts to Wall Street," etc. As for the general mood in DC: "I have four children and five grandchildren so I'm qualified to provide adult supervision."

As for the incumbent, Conlin says, "He sends an occasional letter. Does he follow up? Not so much," calling Grassley a "rubber stamp" for things like the Bush-era upper class tax cuts. ""Whatever he SAYS when he gets back here, that's what he DOES."

Mary Mascher, Roxanne Conlin

Conlin's a fan of public campaign finance, and jokes that she's even more in favor of it now that she's having to dial for dollars. "We could public finance every election from dogcatcher to president with what the drug companies make."

As for her well-publicized legal career: "One of the things I can take to Washington for you is the ability to negotiate. If I had been there for the health care debate, we would have started with single payer." Then it was off to Jones, Jackson and Scott counties for Team Roxanne ("We're going to make her one of those people you know just by their first name like Madonna or Cher," jokes Mascher.)

Oh, darn, we were ALMOST done and we get a contested vote. That just cost us... an hour maybe. I was wrong; it was only 15 minutes.

Nothing left but giving everyone a chance to make announcements. We're officially done at an amazing 2:06 p.m. So what happens if Fiegen and Krause show up at 4:00? They were scheduled but no sightings. I'm not waiting to find out.

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