CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Thousands of Democratic Party delegates have gathered in the southern state of North Carolina for what top party officials are promising will be the “most open and accessible” political convention in history.
Visiting Democratic Party delegates and North Carolina residents gathered Monday for a free festival open to the public near the convention center in Charlotte.
Democratic National Convention organizers launched “CarolinaFest 2012” as a family friendly, Labor Day holiday celebration to kick off the week.
At an opening news conference, chief organizer Steve Kerrigan said this is the first time a public event has heralded a convention. He promised even more access to the public once it officially starts on Tuesday.
“This convention is the most open and accessible convention in history. We began our planning not just by looking at venue blueprints and different scenarios for logistics, but by reaching out to the American people,” said Kerrigan.
Kerrigan said that about 2,000 people responded to first lady Michelle Obama's appeal more than a year ago on how to make this “their convention.” Now, caucuses and President Barack Obama's acceptance speech will be open to the public. And for those who could not travel to Charlotte, organizers are engaging people on eight online platforms, he said.
Charlotte’s Democratic Mayor Anthony Foxx said his city is ready for the week, and that holding the convention in North Carolina could help the president win what is turning out to be a very close race in the state.
“North Carolina was tight in 2008. It will be tight this year. I don't think that it's going to be an easy state to win, but it is a state the president absolutely can win,” said Foxx.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt promised that improving the U.S. economy will be a prominent theme of the convention.
“Every speaker chosen this week will address how we are going to build the economy from the middle class out. The president believes that his speech will be the opportunity not to just talk about where we've come from, but to lay out that vision, because that's the question on top of most Americans' minds.”
Obama will give his nomination acceptance speech Thursday at an outdoor stadium, much like he did four years ago at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.