Marion Ray has been to many Democratic National Conventions in her lifetime, and even though it has been 24 years since she last served as a delegate, she can still recall the “spirited” atmosphere as the party came together.
The 69-year-old Jonesboro-area resident (she lives right on the county line, in Henry County) was a delegate at the 1984 convention in San Francisco, when Walter Mondale was the party nominee, and at the 1988 convention in Atlanta, when Michael Dukakis got the nod.
She also went to other cities when her husband, Democratic National Committee Member Richard Ray, was a delegate. But, since she was not a delegate, she could not be on the convention floor during those gatherings.
Still, Marion Ray said she has always enjoyed herself at nominating conventions. “Conventions are so spirited,” she said. “It’s a such a patriotic event to witness, and it’s so important, because it’s the first time [during the presidential election year] that you get so many members of the party together. It’s just unbelievable to get to go.”
She will get another chance to be on the floor for a national convention in September, however. She and four other residents from the Clayton and Henry areas, were selected at local party elections on April 21 to be among 72 delegates from Georgia congressional districts, at this year’s Democratic National Convention.
The national gathering — where President Barack Obama is expected to be formally named the party’s 2012 presidential nominee — is set to be held Sept. 3-7, in Charlotte, N.C.
The Democratic Party of Georgia has announced that Ray, along with State Sens. Gail Davenport and Donzella James (who is from the Fulton County side of College Park), Clayton County Democratic Party President Kevin Thomas, and Hampton resident, Maurice Madden, will be national delegates this year.
Davenport, James, Madden and Thomas were among seven people chosen to represent the Thirteenth Congressional District. Marion Ray was chosen to be a delegate from the Third Congressional District. Party leaders said 400 people had applied to fill the 72 available delegate positions.
“Being a delegate at a national convention is an honor,” said Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman Mike Berlon, in a written statement. “It costs a significant amount of time to take on this task, and we’re grateful for the loyal Georgia citizens who were candidates for this historic event.”
The delegates will cast votes to select the national party’s nominee for president. That decision will be a procedural move this year since Obama, as the sitting president who is seeking re-election, is not facing opposition for the nomination. It is the first time since 1996 — when then-President Bill Clinton sought re-election — that the Democratic party has been in this situation.
Davenport said the 2008 Democratic convention, in Denver, was special because — with then-U.S. Senator Obama as the party’s nominee ––– it “really was about hope and change.” She added that it was also significant because Obama made his acceptance speech a the convention on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech.
“It’s really a totally different feeling this time around,” said Davenport, who previously attended Democratic National Conventions as a delegate in 1988, 2004 and 2008. “President Obama had a lot of issues to deal with, such as the economy, when he took office. He’s still done a good job, and now we have to do our part to get him re-elected.” She added that she feels “honored” to be chosen again to be a delegate.
Ray said she is looking forward to the convention. She explained that her husband, Richard Ray, will also serve as a national delegate, as a member of the Democratic National Committee. Although they have each been delegates to several conventions on their own, she said this will be the first time they have been delegates at the same time. “I’m just really excited about this,” she said.
Davenport said a key to moving from the convention in September, to an election victory in November, will be how well the party does at building excitement among members of its base. “I think the national Democratic party will have to do a good job at energizing the base,” she said.
The Democratic Party of Georgia announced that it is scheduled to hold additional delegate elections on May 12, to select 14 public leaders and elected officials to be delegates, and on May 19, to choose 24 at-large delegates and nine alternates. President Jimmy Carter, as a former holder of the office of president, will also be a voting delegate for Georgia at the convention, according to the state party.
Go online, to www.georgiademocrat.org, to see a full list of delegates chosen to represent each of Georgia’s congressional districts.