August 27, 2008

Kentucky does Denver - Democratic delegates from the Bluegrass share thoughts on the convention and the future of the party

DENVER — On day one of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Kentuckians in attendance seemed eager to unite their party and move past recent rows over the delegate process.

Even with the anointing of Barack Obama as leader of the Democratic ticket under way, Kentucky delegates who backed Sen. Hillary Clinton still were waiting for the go-ahead to redirect their support to the presumptive presidential nominee. In the meantime, they continued heaping praise on the senator.

Just after the gavel dropped on Monday to kick of four days of “Obamapalooza,” LEO Weekly pulled two Kentucky delegates from the floor to get their take on the convention. Both Bill Ryan and Ken Koch supported Clinton in the May primary, as did about two-thirds of the state’s delegation.

Ryan — a former advertising executive with WHAS who now works in the personnel cabinet for Gov. Steve Beshear — still is committed to Clinton. But he fully expected the senator to release her delegates during her scheduled speech Tuesday night.

As one of the 60 Kentucky delegates in Denver, Ryan anxiously awaited her speech, saying it should remind the country of all that she has done for the nation and the Democratic Party. 

Echoing those comments, Koch — vice president of the Kentucky AFL-CIO — said working-class Kentuckians owe a debt to Hillary.

When asked what he expected from her speech, Koch said, “She will be very gracious, she should lay out what she has done throughout her career, especially for children and on the issue of healthcare.”

As both men praised Clinton, they also were looking ahead in support of the chosen ticket. Ryan said he and other Kentucky Dems were going to do everything they could to spread Obama’s message and make the Bluegrass state “Blue” in November. He also praised the newly minted Democratic vice presidential candidate, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware. “I loved the pick,” he said, “couldn’t have made a better choice.”

Biden made a surprise appearance in Denver early Monday at a downtown rib shack. Not expected to venture out much until his convention speech on Wednesday, Biden’s appearance at Boney’s Smokehouse prompted a crowd of almost 1,000 to gather as soon as he stepped out of his car. 

Flanked by his wife and brother, the crafted photo-op couldn’t have gone much better for Biden, who was basking in the spotlights of about 100 television cameras.


Such “celebrity” sightings will be par for the course this week, where delegates like Ryan, Koch and the rest of the Democratic faithful are taking in the mountain views here and the posh parties that come with a convention. 

On Sunday night, Democrats from New Orleans threw a party for delegates like only folks from the Big Easy know how.

Of course the “Ragin’ Cajun” James Carville was in attendance, along with CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Donna Brazile. Other parties planned throughout the week: the “Arab American Institute Comedy Show,” the “Distilled Spirits Council and Cigar Aficionado” party, the “Planned Parenthood Dance Party,” and something called the “Barely Political Date with the Obama Girl.”

But clearly some folks aren’t relying on parties to celebrate. Amid the many dark suits in the crowd, some delegates were decked out in outlandish garb. A delegate from Florida was spotted on the first day wearing bright pink “2008” fun-glasses and a rather large flamingo on his head. Outside the convention, a ’70s era Cadillac completely covered in Obama stickers cruised by the crowds, and a parade float operated by the group “Falun Gong” crept by, despite the absence of a parade.

Thus far, it appears security at the convention might be the only thing dragging down the party. The perimeter surrounding the Pepsi Center, where the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets play, is barricaded for blocks. Attendees have to go through multiple checkpoints before they reach the convention floor.

Perhaps the best perspective on the security measures came from Kentucky’s Ken Koch. Asked what the most interesting thing he had seen on the first day was, he replied without missing a beat: “A horse, an armored horse.”

Leave it to a Kentuckian to be scouting the equines a mile high in Denver.