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Columbia Missourian

Democratic County Convention draws small but lively crowd

By Hannah Cushman
March 30, 2012 | 12:54 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Boone County Democrats gathered to determine a slate of 27 delegates Thursday in the first of a multi-level convention process.

The delegation was eight fewer in number than anticipated, and no alternates were elected because of the low turnout. Just more than 30 area Democrats assembled at the Columbia Elks Lodge in Columbia to cast their ballots, and only those present were allowed to be nominated as delegates, per Missouri Democratic Party specifications.

The Missouri Democratic Party mandates gender parity of its delegations, which means both sexes must be represented equally. At the county, ward, township or legislative district level, party members who attend conventions are allowed to elect 35 delegates: 17 men, 17 women and one additional delegate of either gender.

Among the few dozen people who attended the Boone County convention, only 13 women accepted nominations, meaning only 14 of the 18 men who also accepted would be allowed to progress to the congressional district and state conventions in April and June, respectively.

One woman, former state representative Vicky Riback Wilson, initially declined her nod. When it was surmised that Boone County would only be permitted to send 25 delegates, however, she requested a motion to reopen nominations in order to afford two more men a spot at higher conventions.

Clustered in one-third of the 90 available seats dwarfed by the meeting room with its capacity of 792, attendees chatted and compared lists as they filled the appropriate number of spaces on their tennis ball-colored ballots with names.

Event coordinator and meeting secretary Phyllis Fugit said sparse attendance was expected but nonetheless disappointing. She fingered spring break and the current state of political affairs as likely culprits.

"When we have a sitting president, there's always fewer that show," she said.

Unlike its Republican counterpart at Kemper Arena earlier this month, the mass meeting held by county Democrats focused very little on candidate preference.

In fact, the incumbent president was barely mentioned, except for a festive green T-shirt sporting a white shamrock and the name "O'Bama" and a smattering of bumper stickers in the parking lot.

Buzz was instead geared toward Charlotte, N. C., where the 2012 Democratic National Convention will take place in September.

Nancy Wilson, a past delegate looking to reprise her role this year, called her trip to the national convention in 1992 "one of the most exciting things I've done in my life."

She listed daily keynote speakers and nightly parties in addition to 24-hour exposure to important figures among the plethora of opportunities a national convention has to offer.

"I'll go just as far as I can to be a delegate," Wilson said.