Raleigh attorney and lobbyist Bruce Thompson got one of the best seats in the Wells Fargo Center Thursday at the Democratic National Convention.
Thompson scored a spot in a skybox reserved for some of Hillary Clinton’s most loyal supporters. He worked on her unsuccessful 2008 bid for the Democratic nomination, so this week’s convention nominating her for president holds special meaning for him.
“It’s not just the culmination of the primary season, but for a lot of us it’s the culmination of a decade’s work,” Thompson said shortly before Clinton was set to give her acceptance speech Thursday evening.
Thompson has a behind-the-scenes role with the Clinton campaign this year. His day job is with the firm Parker Poe, where his lobbying clients include Apple and the American Wind Energy Association. But he’s finding time to serve on the Clinton campaign’s finance committee and as a delegate and platform committee member for the DNC. He’s also a volunteer adviser who helps steer the Clinton campaign’s efforts in North Carolina.
“Most of the time I spend cheerleading for North Carolina and making sure the campaign puts a lot of resources and staff on the ground,” he said, adding that the campaign already has a far bigger operation in the key swing state than opponent Donald Trump. “I just look for as many ways as I can to pitch in.”
Thompson has also worked on campaigns for U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre. After Clinton dropped out of the 2008 race, he advised Barack Obama's campaign.
Thompson first backed Bill and Hillary Clinton as a low-level volunteer on Bill’s 1992 campaign when he was in law school. He says he’s gotten to know them personally over the past 10 or 12 years.
“They’re really amazing people,” Thompson said. “We’re fortunate as a country that both of them have dedicated their life to public service.”
Thompson said he’s gotten to see the human side of Hillary Clinton that some of her critics miss. When she campaigned in Raleigh last month, he brought along his mother to meet her.
“It struck me after I introduced them that here were two grandmothers talking about their grandchildren,” he said. “That’s one of those interactions that I wish more people got to see. It was just a very human moment. I’ve been very, very fortunate to have a number of those.”
As Clinton became the first woman to get a major party’s presidential nomination this week, Thompson said he’s been thinking of the women in his family.
“What’s going through my mind tonight is what this would have meant to both of my grandmothers, what it means to my mother, and especially what it means to my two daughters,” he said, adding that he’s excited “for my girls to be able to watch this and know that they too might be the president.”
Thompson had hoped to have witnessed this moment at the Democratic convention eight years ago, but Clinton fell short in the primaries to Obama.
“In 2008, I don’t think anybody had every seen a national campaign run like the Obama campaign,” he said. “We did not realize the level of organization that they had. We were running a campaign that worked when Bill Clinton ran for president in ’92.”
Thompson says Clinton has learned from Obama and is well prepared to take on Trump. “In the last eight years, she watched it and studied it,” he said of the Obama campaign. “She hired a lot of his people. ... They are going to go fight (Trump) in every state.”