#3: Ten Days to Denver and Counting

From Marisa Richmond

This is my 3rd post about the upcoming Democratic National Convention.  I am now just ten days away from heading out to Denver.  I do not have any breaking news today, so I thought I would take this opportunity to answer some of the most common questions I have received since I was elected to be a delegate in March.


Is this your first trip to Denver?


No.  I have been there at least four times, twice as a kid and twice as an adult.  My very first trip there took place when I was six.  My dad’s younger sister was living in Denver and working as a civilian employee for the Air Force.  We actually drove all the way out there and back.  The highlight of that visit was my first concert.  My dad was a big jazz fan, so we saw Dave Brubeck at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.  Returning home was an adventure that does seem a bit relevant here.  We stopped in Dallas to visit my mother’s parents.  We left Dallas a bit late in the day, so as we were in the middle of Arkansas, it was late and I was getting tired and cranky.  My parents refused to pull over insisting we had to get to Memphis.  What I did not understand at that age was that blacks could not simply pull into any motel in the rural South and rent a room for the night.  Finally, after all my whining, and the fact that all of us were getting tired, we pulled into one motel.  My mother was very light-skinned, so she ordered us to stay in the car while she rented the rooms.  Once she did that, we had to rush inside so nobody could see us and stay in there all night or risked getting thrown out or arrested.  It was only as I got older that I appreciated what happened that night.  When someone tries to tell me that it is okay for some groups to accept second class status, I reject their claims forthwith.  I have already been there and I refuse to accept it in the 21st Century.


How did you get involved in politics?


I have been a political junkie since the time my mother took me to see President Kennedy’s motorcade through Nashville.  As the open limo went by, barely fifteen feet from where I was standing on the sidewalk, I swear he turned and looked right at me as he smiled and waved.  I have been hooked on politics ever since.  Years later, when I was a student at Harvard, President Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline, was a classmate.  Like me, she was also a history major and we had a few classes together, chatting on a few occasions.  I never shared that story with her.  And before I forget, I owe a lot to my parents, who are both deceased, for my love of politics, music (my mom even took me to see The Beatles!), books, and humor.


Is this your first convention?


No.  I was a campaign staffer at the 1980 Convention in New York.  I was assigned three states to lobby, Tennessee, Arizona, and North Carolina.  I got the latter two states since they were sharing the same hotel as Tennessee since I knew several of the delegates.  I managed to get into several delegation parties, although I spent the most time with Tennessee.  One day, I was invited to lunch with Nashville Mayor Richard Fulton.  Since I had not expected such an invite, I had stopped at a Burger King on my way to connect with the Tennessee delegation.  When we got to the restaurant, with fine dishes and tablecloth, I pulled out my BK sandwich.  Mayor Fulton asked me, “Do you always eat fast food in fancy restaurants?”  I thought I was going to die.  I just mumbled that I had already paid for it.  He just laughed and said, “Don’t worry, I remember those days.”  On the Tuesday night session, I was in the upper stands of Madison Square Garden to hear Ted Kennedy’s stirring “Dream Shall Never Die” speech.  On Wednesday, I got a floor pass and was standing with the Tennessee delegation during the roll call that night.  Then, on the final night, I managed to talk my way into getting an official Tennessee delegate pass.  I still cannot believe I did that and I still have that pass as a souvenir.  And although nobody has asked me, I will state that I hope there is a roll again this year.  While much has been made about it being a “catharsis” for the other Clinton delegates, I want one simply because I like the hokey speeches from the delegation chairs.


Are you a “Superdelegate”?


Absolutely not!  There are four categories of delegates, and while we are all equal, the categories are based on the selection process.  Superdelegates, or Unpledged Delegates, as they are officially called, are the party leaders.  They include former Presidents and Vice Presidents (so Al Gore is a Tennessee Superdelegate), members of Congress, Governors, State Party Chair, and members of the Democratic National Committee from each state.  They also include the Presidents of the Tennessee AFL-CIO and the Tennessee Federation of Democratic Women.  Tennessee has 17 Superdelegates.  The Republican Party also has Superdelegates, but they did not make the news this year.


The second category is Pledged Party Leaders and Elected Officials (PLEO).  From Tennessee, they include a former Governor, the Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, and other state legislators and local elected officials.  We have 9 in our delegation.


The third category is the Congressional District delegate.  I did compete for one of these slots, but I was not successful.  We had to get people out to two meetings in February to stand with us in a room.  I had a little trouble getting my supporters out on a Saturday morning.  This is actually the largest group of delegates as we have 44, plus 7 alternates.


I was selected in the 4th group: At Large delegate.  We were elected by the Executive Committee of the Tennessee Democratic Party at a meeting in the State Capitol in March.  Prior to that meeting, I sent e-mails to every member of the committee, and followed with strategic phone calls to the ones who knew me personally.  It worked.  I was selected as the 15th, and final, delegate.  There are also 4 alternates in this category.


In addition, there are also 3 Standing Committees, Credentials, Platform, and Rules, and we selected 3 people for each committee.  With 85 delegates, 11 alternates, and 9 on committees, that brings the Tennessee total to 105 people from all walks of life.


In my 2nd post, the one about the Platform, I have received lots of wonderfully positive comments…including the one about my misspelling “included.”  I think I got all of my typos out this time, but I do have a cat who insists on using my keyboard as a pillow, so if you do find any typos, I Blame Them on Wendell!

Thanks to all of you for being interested in what I have to say.






Filed under 1, Political

3 responses to “#3: Ten Days to Denver and Counting

  1. Katherine Buchman

    Hey ‘Ghandi’
    Thanks for keeping this blog. I’m excited to hear how the convention is going from one on the inside. Here’s another question for you: what do you expect to “get” from this convention, in terms of tangible results for LGBT Tennesseans and Americans? How do you measure the results of your labors to be heard at such a massive pep rally?
    Sorry, that’s two questions, prof. I’m so proud to have you representing us. On another note, I had an interesting response to your story about traveling home from Denver as a kid. I’m so used to thinking of you as a L/T activist that I forget that you’ve got plenty of experience with discrimination as an African American. Boy does it make my blood boil that having an LBGTQ movement just means we have added to the list of second class citizens when we’ve still never managed to take anyone off of it.
    Thanks for all your hard work. Blow raspberries at my frum, homophobic relatives in Denver while you’re there.

  2. Marisa Richmond

    Katherine, thanks for everything you say.
    On your first question: the platform looks very good on LGBT issues. It actually supports “Comprehensive” employment non-discrimination and hate crimes language. This is a major goal of the LGBT community. The platform also says both sexual orientation AND gender identity. That was real important.
    Second: We are also interacting with members of our various state delegations. TN is one of the more challenging states, so I have a lot of work to do during the convention in trying to educate Dems who have little knowledge or experience in dealing with LGBT people. It may not show up on TV in the Pepsi Center or Invesco Field, but our work will pay dividends.

  3. ‘Number Two’,
    Congratulations on your history making turn as our first African-American transgender delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

    I’m pleased that you will be representing Tennessee and the African-American transgender community, I’m looking forward to reading more of your thoughtful impressions of this historic event as we get closer to the start of it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s