Friday, August 18, 2000

Convention notes

Flight fight

        The war over the Wright brothers spilled onto the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

        At their breakfast Thursday, Ohio delegates were patting themselves on the back for their defense of Ohio as the birthplace of aviation from the night before.

        Wednesday night, during the roll call of the states, when state delegation chairs get up to deliver their votes and boast about their home states, Gov. Jim Hunt bragged that North Carolina brought aviation to America because two Dayton, Ohio, men — Wilbur and Orville Wright — took their plane in 1903 to Kitty Hawk, N.C., and made it fly.

        The Wright brothers' plane, of course, was built in Dayton. North Carolinians and Ohioans have been fighting over the name “birthplace of aviation” ever since.

        A few minutes after Mr. Hunt spoke, it was Ohio's turn. Before Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Leland could start his speech on the greatness of the Buckeye State, the Ohio delegates started a chant: "First in flight!

Ken who?

               The absence of U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, a Boone County Democrat who did not attend the convention because of differences with Al Gore, was felt again Wednesday night.

        During the roll call of states, when delegations cast their votes for the presidential nominee, Kentucky was recognized and asked for its 58 delegate votes.

        But because Mr. Lucas and Louisville delegate Tom Osborne are not here, Gov. Paul Patton said Kentucky was casting just 56 votes for the 56 delegates here.

        Here is how Mr. Patton described Kentucky before a national television audience:

        “The Commonwealth of Kentucky, which leads our nation in education reform, and which has made early childhood care and education our top priority, proudly cast the votes of our 56 delegates present unanimously for our neighbor to the south, the next president of The United States, the education president, Al Gore.”

Love and politics

               Will Callaway proposed to his girlfriend and she accepted. What's so unusual about that? He did it in front of the Tennessee delegation to the Democratic National Convention.

        “We like to do really special things with our friends, and they're all here,” said Mr. Callaway, who is challenging Republican Rep. Zach Wamp for a seat in Congress.

        After the convention proceedings had ended Wednesday, the delegation was relaxing at a reception. That's when Callaway, a 36-year-old sales representative, proposed to Mary Littleton, a 26-year-old attorney and Democratic fundraiser.

        Has a date been set? “After the elections!” they said in unison.

Kennedy croons to mariachi band

               Never a wallflower, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy got in on the act with a seven-piece mariachi band that played Thursday at a California delegation breakfast.

        Mr. Kennedy put his arms around the black-suited musicians in oversized red ties, warbling along in Spanish with a Boston accent. Delegates clapped along rhythmically.

        Mr. Kennedy later described haltingly in Spanish how he once studied the language for a short time in school, then said he would give the rest of his speech supporting Al Gore in English.

        The mariachis also played for California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who danced to the podium with state Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres.

        “To be serenaded by such romantic music so early in the morning — I can't stand it,” Ms. Boxer said. “That was very funny.”

        One of the morning's last speakers was San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who wondered why he didn't get music with his introduction.

        “Art, where is the ... music?” Mr. Brown asked, prompting a mariachi reprise.

Red, white and blue — and green

               Eight years ago, when Bill Clinton and Al Gore took the stage at Madison Square Garden to accept their party's nomination for the White House, showers of silvery confetti rained from the rafters.

        It clung to the front of Mr. Gore's pants, glittered from then-Texas Gov. Ann Richard's hair. It was a spectacular sight, though a political faux pas.

        The metallic mess turned out to be non-biodegradable — not good for the ticket whose vice presidential candidate was known for his environmental activism.

        Two conventions later, with Mr. Gore now leading the ticket, Democratic organizers have learned their lesson. The 2000 Democratic National Convention may be more “green” than red, white and blue.

        “Obviously we hope that all the confetti will be recyclable, and that all of Al Gore's ideas to protect the environment will be new,” quips Daniel J. Weiss, political director of the Sierra Club, a Gore backer.

        Several months ago, Democratic National Committee officials met with the staff at Staples Center, the convention site, and the Los Angeles Convention Center, base for 15,000 media representatives, to see what could be done to make the convention environmentally friendly.

        The result include:

        - Eighteen electric buses, provided by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, are shuttling delegates to and from hotels along with a DNC transportation fleet that includes about 175 alternative-fuel vehicles.

        —Twelve solar power panels, attached to a canopy over the LA Convention Center's truck dock, are providing about 330 kilowatt hours of energy a day to the building. The panels are part of an unrelated project, although they became operational the week before the convention began.

Leahy lauded by celebrities
               Sen. Patrick Leahy has his own Hollywood cachet.

        The Vermont senator was the most sought-after celebrity at a post-convention party Wednesday night featuring rock star Sheryl Crow at Hollywood's Sunset Room.

        “When I heard about the concert, I called Pat to get me a ticket,” said Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, a percussionist from one of Leahy's favorite bands.

        Apparently Hart wasn't the only celebrity musician cashing in on a friendship with the Vermont senator.

        “Mary Chapin Carpenter called me for a ticket to get in,” Leahy said. “I try to help out how I can.”

        Along with the Vermont delegates and guests from other states, the bash also drew a hefty political lineup.

        “This is it. This is the place to be tonight,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, who says he shares Sheryl Crow CDs with his three children, ages 29, 26 and 20. “People have been talking about this party all week.”

        Even the evening's featured performer lauded Leahy's hipness.

        “Hanging out with Senator Leahy is like being around a lot of rock stars,” she said before launching into her hour-long concert of acoustic and electric tunes.

        While partygoers just wanted to have some fun, the shindig did have a purpose — the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's tribute to LMr. eahy for his efforts in banning anti-personnel land mines.

"Spank the bank'

               Protesters returned to the streets today for the last day of the convention, denouncing big business and promising to greet Al Gore's acceptance speech with a chorus of shouts, chants and drum beats outside the convention hall.

The first rally began at Pershing Square, a gathering place for protesters this week, where about 100 activists criticized Citibank for funding projects that they said were ruining the environment. The protest, called “Spank the Bank,” moved about two blocks to Citibank Center downtown, then returned to Pershing Square without incident. “Boycott Citigroup, the world's most destructive bank,” read stickers that protesters pasted on surfaces downtown.

               Friday's events:

        Vice President Al Gore and his running mate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, begin a 400-mile “Setting Course for the Future” riverboat campaign tour along the Mississippi River to talk with working families about their plans for the future.


Associated Press coverage
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