Dot's Dems see history from the front row
State Reps. Marty Walsh, Linda Dorcena Forry, Gloria Fox and Willie Mae Allen were among the delegates who traveled to Denver for last week's Democratic National Convention. The four are shown above inside Invesco Field at Mile High during the final night of the convention.
The Rockies' mountain range. The Pepsi Center, crawling with Secret Service agents and other law enforcement agencies. And, of course, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama accepting the Democratic Party's nomination as their 2008 candidate. Members of the Boston delegation last week saw that and more as a contingent was present in Denver for the Democratic National Convention.
Rep. Marty Walsh's only regret? Missing U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy's speech to a throng of supporters on Monday night. His hair thin from treatment to combat the tumor he was diagnosed with, Kennedy brought delegates within the Massachusetts delegation, among others, to tears.
"I have come here tonight to stand with you to change America, to restore its future, to rise to its best ideals, and to elect Barack Obama president of the United States," Kennedy said.
"I think the visit by Sen. Kennedy was a moment to behold," said state Rep. Willie Mae Allen, who attended as a delegate. It was Allen's ninth consecutive convention, beginning with President Jimmy Carter's 1976 nomination in New York City. "That was overwhelming."
Allen, whose first cousin is U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, the House's majority whip and a South Carolina Democrat, said she spent time with the South Carolina delegation. She praised Michelle Obama, the senator's wife, for her speech.
"Her speech brought tears to everyone's eyes," Allen said.
Allen said the one in Denver was different from the previous eight.
"That was a very emotional journey," she told the Dorchester Reporter, considering what Obama and others said in an attempt to unify the party and hit back against the Republican ticket.
"It was emotionally draining, to tell you the truth," Allen said.
Michelle Obama, the wife of the presumptive Democratic presidential nomine, sought to connect with voters who aren't familiar with her or her family. The Illinois senator is the "same man I fell in love with 19 years ago,"Michelle Obama told a packed crowd at the Pepsi Center. She pointed to her father, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, raising her on the South Side of Chicago. Her husband was raised by grandparents "who were working class folks just like my parents, and by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills just like we did," she said.
The next convention, wherever it is held, will be hard to top, local delegates agree.
"It's hard to explain what Thursday was," Walsh said in reference to Obama's speech at INVESCO Field. Over 80,000 people attended the speech, held not far from the Pepsi Center, where most of the convention took place.
"It was patriotic, it was democratic, it was American," Walsh, a one-time Hillary Clinton supporter, said.
Walsh said the atmosphere of the speech reminded him of the brief time after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, when American flags flew on cars and on houses, and individuals were polite to each other.
"Thursday night was very, very close to that," Walsh said. "After hearing him, what's the reason you don't like this guy? He answered all those questions."
In his speech, Obama, who lost Massachusetts to Clinton in the February primary, said, "I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington. But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring."
U.S. Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has consistently raised questions over whether Obama is fit for office. In Denver, Republicans, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, held a press conference stressing the phrase "A Mile High, An Inch Deep," referring to the height of Denver, the capital of Colorado, as well as Obama's alleged experience.
After convention duties were over, delegates partied at local bars, and on the last night of the convention, Massachusetts politicians gathered at Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, to celebrate Obama's speech and their time in Denver.
Stacey Monahan, a Dorchester resident and executive director of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, put in 15 to 16 hour days to set up the trip for the delegation, and was up in Denver a week before the convention got underway.
"I think everyone in the delegation had a good time," she said, pointing to the daily breakfast served to delegates that included guest speakers Clyburn, former presidential nominee George McGovern, former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, and Al Franken, the former Saturday Night Live funnyman now angling for a Senate seat in Minnesota.
"It was a good unifying trip for people," Monahan said, referring to the roll call vote that the Obama campaign agreed to for Hillary Clinton supporters to show their strength.
The Massachusetts delegation's vote was among the few razor-thin tallies on the convention floor, with 65 votes for Obama and 52 votes for Hillary Clinton.
Gov. Deval Patrick waved off a question on the closeness of the state's vote.
"The vote that counted was the vote by acclamation," he said, referring to the vote Clinton called for once the tally reached New York state. "This is a unified party."
Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, a committed Obama delegate, said the vote indicated there still appeared to be some division between Clinton and Obama loyalists.
"Folks might still be a little disappointed," she said shortly after the roll call inside the Pepsi Center.
Back in Boston, City Council President Maureen Feeney, a strong supporter of Clinton's who served as acting mayor while Mayor Thomas Menino was in Colorado, said the New York senator "took our breath away."
"It wasn't about her, it was about the Democratic Party," Feeney said in a phone interview with the State House News Service while at the Brookline home of a Clinton fundraiser, along with several other supporters for a watch party.
Feeney acknowledged the difficulty in getting some Clinton backers to switch over to the Obama campaign.
"For some people, that's going to take more time than others. I understand the importance of electing a Democrat," she said. "She left no question as to her commitment to Barack Obama."
State House News Service contributed to this report.