Democratic convention prepares for ’12 vote

County party chooses 82 delegates, 35 resolutions

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Nearly 200 Democrats met Saturday at Hudson’s Bay High School for the 2012 Clark County Democratic Convention, where they worked to shape resolutions regarding tolls on the Columbia River Crossing, coal trains and the military draft.

Clark County Democrats elected 82 delegates from that pool to go to both the 3rd Congressional District caucus and the Democrats’ state convention, where delegates to the Democrats’ national convention will be selected.

The group also heard speeches from Clark County candidates.

County convention organizers said they were pleased with the turnout, especially because there was no decision to be made about the party’s presidential nominee -- it will be President Barack Obama.

Janet Andrews was one of the delegates chosen Saturday, and she said this will be her first Democratic state convention. Andrews, a teacher, has lived in Clark County for more than 30 years, but it wasn’t until the 2008 presidential election that she decided to attend the Democratic precinct caucuses.

“I think it was really just Barack Obama” who inspired her to get involved in politics, she said. Attending the precinct caucus in 2008 “was an awakening to how our system is run.”

She went door-to-door to advocate for the election of Obama, and she expects she’ll do the same this year to make sure he’s reelected. She also said she’s excited to go further in the Democratic conventions this year.

Positions on issues

After picking delegates, convention participants also approved 35 resolutions, which will be sent to the state convention.

One resolution would encourage state Democrats to support replacing the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River, and also support affordable tolls on the bridge and improvements for vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit. The resolution did not specifically endorse or oppose light rail as part of the CRC project.

Speaking in support of the CRC resolution and the bridge’s capacity for diverse modes of transportation, Laurie Lebowsky said: “Not all of us drive. I want everybody to be able to get to work. I want everybody to be able to get to school.”

Those speaking against the CRC resolution mentioned concerns over the roughly $3.5 billion price tag.

Convention participants also debated a resolution to support reinstating selective service laws, meaning a military draft would replace the country’s volunteer army. The resolution failed, but supporters said reinstating the draft would cause more people to think about and speak out against the price of war.

State Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, spoke in support of the resolution. She said she views military involvement as a public service, and that “everybody needs to pay attention and be a part of it. It’s all of our responsibility.”

Most of the resolutions up for discussion on Saturday came from the Democratic precinct caucuses that took place April 15, when Democrats elected about 400 delegates to attend Saturday’s event.

Coal trains were another hot topic during the county convention. Participants raised concerns about a resolution that the state’s Democratic Party oppose any increase of trains shipping coal through the state. Twenty or more daily coal trains could be added to local rail traffic if U.S. coal exports soar to meet demand in China and other countries.

The coal train resolution, which passed, states that “shipping coal by trains presents too big a risk” to the Columbia River Gorge area, because coal particles from the trains can impact air quality, and also that burning coal contributes to global climate change.

Opponents to the coal train resolution said that asking the Democratic Party to vote against an increase in coal shipments would be equivalent to asking them to vote against job creation, because those increased shipments will mean job opportunities.

Campaigning

The county convention was also an opportunity for Clark County candidates to drum up support for their campaigns. Democratic candidates for Clark County Commissioner positions spoke, as did state Reps. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver and Wylie, who are seeking re-election.

Moeller focused his speech on the gubernatorial race, and his criticisms of GOP candidate Rob McKenna appeared to energize the crowd. Moeller said McKenna has opposed universal health care, and that the candidate has been disrespectful when asked about his stance on abortion rights.

“Are we going to let Rob McKenna speak for us?” Moeller asked the audience, receiving a resounding “no” in response.

State Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, asked the crowd to support his challenge against state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver. “Together, we’re going to replace Don Benton,” Probst said.

Democrats running for two representative positions in the 17th District, Jim Gizzi and Monica Stonier, also spoke, as did Annette Cleveland, who is running for the state Senate seat being vacated by Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver.

Pridemore, who is running for state auditor, told the convention about his strong Democratic values, and his management and finance experience. The audience gave him a standing ovation.

“It’s a position I feel strongly, if not uniquely, qualified for,” Pridemore said. “We can make government better.”

Stevie Mathieu: http://facebook.com/reportermathieu; http://twitter.com/col_politics; stevie.mathieu@columbian.com; 360-735-4523.