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Due to venue change, Aiken group unable to attend Democratic convention
[September 06, 2012]

Due to venue change, Aiken group unable to attend Democratic convention

Sep 06, 2012 (Aiken Standard - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Local Democratic Party officials were scrambling Wednesday to notify a contingent of 200 from Aiken County that their credentials to attend tonight's convention events in Charlotte, N.C., will not be honored.

The Democratic National Convention Committee announced on Wednesday that, due to forecasts of severe weather, today's convention events will be moved indoors from the open-air Bank of America Stadium to the Time Warner Cable Arena. Because the Time Warner Cable Arena can only accommodate approximately 21,000 people to the stadium's 74,000, officials were advising community credential holders not to plan to attend tonight's events, which includes President Barack Obama's nomination acceptance speech.

A total of 65,000 people had already activated their community credentials, including 200 from Aiken County who were to travel on chartered buses to Charlotte today to take part in the convention.

Richard Johnson, a state Democratic Party executive committeeman from Aiken, said there wasn't much party officials could do about the unfortunate situation from the convention.

"This is an act of the master," he said. "I am working on getting word to people. The buses were ready, people were expecting to come. I regret that people from all over are not going to get to see this happen. They are very disappointed." The National Weather Service is forecasting a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms for the Charlotte area today, mainly before 9 p.m.

"We have been monitoring weather forecasts closely and several reports predict thunderstorms in the area, therefore we have decided to move Thursday's proceedings to Time Warner Cable Arena to ensure the safety and security of our delegates and convention guests," said DNCC CEO Steve Kerrigan.

The Republican Party issued a statement regarding the change in venue, claiming that enthusiasm for Obama is so low, the convention has been forced to downgrade events left and right.

"First the DNC had to cancel their opening event at Charlotte Motor Speedway due to low enthusiasm, now President Obama is being forced to move his acceptance speech to a smaller venue just to avoid the embarrassment of speaking to an empty stadium," said Matt Connelly, spokesman for the Republican National Committee. "After four years of failure on the economy, it's clear that Americans are looking for actual solutions, not another speech full of empty promises." The Republican National Convention delayed its events for one day in Tampa due to the threat of Hurricane Isaac.

This was to be Willar Hightower's first opportunity to attend a Democratic National Convention. Now, he said he has only his credential as a memento.

"I was enthusiastically looking forward to it," he said. "I am very disappointed. But, I guess I have the best seat in the house (to the speech) right here in my home." Hightower represents District 8 on Aiken County Council.

DNCC officials have pledged that Obama will speak to the community credential holders via conference call today. Call information was to be emailed directly to community credential holders.

Overall, the atmosphere at the convention has been energizing despite the changes, Johnson said. He was particularly moved by first lady Michelle Obama's speech on Tuesday.

"I thought it was superb. To me, it was a human speech. She talked about personal experience, the family, the family background. All of the speeches were great. There was enough energy in that building for a while to power the City of Aiken," he said.

___ (c)2012 the Aiken Standard (Aiken, S.C.) Visit the Aiken Standard (Aiken, S.C.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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