Over the course of two weeks in July, the nation’s Republican and Democratic parties nominated their candidates for president, somewhat to the chagrin of the parties themselves.
Each national convention featured protests on the floor against the parties’ nominees, but in the end, the November ballot will look the way most Americans figured it would look – a showdown between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Johnston County commissioner candidate Wendy Ella May attended the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia as a North Carolina delegate attached to Bernie Sanders. She was originally elected an alternate delegate but moved up to full status at the state Democratic Party convention in June.
Going into Philadelphia, May held out hope Sanders’ supporters could wrestle the nomination away from Clinton through a roll-call vote on the convention floor. The Democratic Party limped into its convention just days after hacked emails revealed the party had actively conspired to help Clinton win the nomination. May said she relented, though, when Sanders urged his faithful to throw their support behind Clinton.
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“He told us this movement is about change, not Bernie being president,” May said. “I’m going to support every Democratic candidate from the courthouse to the White House.”
Broadcasts from the convention sometimes showed scatters of Bernie supporters protesting with tape over their mouths or holding anti-Clinton signs, but May questioned their loyalty to the Democratic Party. As a Bernie voter in the primary, May said she’s sympathetic but said this November’s election is too important.
“When Bernie gave his delegation to (Clinton), a lot of Bernie people were upset; two North Carolina delegates walked out, half of California walked out,” May said. “I said it in every interview, we have to be a united party. To be a united party, we have to see the whole picture. If we don’t have the Senate, if we don’t have Congress, if we don’t have the White House, we’re in trouble. I’m always going to be burning for Bernie. But these people saying they’re going to go to the Green Party or Libertarians, were they Democrats to start with? You cannot change things if you’re not sitting at the table.”
North Carolina had 107 delegates at the DNC, with 60 won by Clinton and 47 by Sanders in the March primary. The state also had 13 superdelegates, with all but one supporting Clinton.
Throughout the four-day convention, May, a transgender woman, said North Carolina’s House Bill 2 was a frequent topic of conversation once people learned she was from the Tar Heel State.
“It was a big issue wherever I went,” May said. “As soon as they heard I was a trans woman from North Carolina, (HB2) was the first thing out of the reporter’s mouth. It’s an embarrassment to say we have a governor in the statehouse who is not in touch with the people. But HB2 opened the door for a lot of interviews where I could talk about veterans rights and a living wage and a quality education.”
The evening speeches were how most home viewers experienced the convention, with prime time filled with two Obamas, a former president, a current vice president and Clinton herself. May said the best speech of all may have come from North Carolina’s own the Rev. William Barber. The state’s NAACP president delivered a fiery, sermon-like speech calling on those in the convention hall to “revive the heart of our democracy.”
“The room was electrified when Rev. Barber got up to speak,” May said. “You could feel it. I got goosebumps.”
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson