August 25th, 2008 5:33 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

DENVER NOTEBOOK: OR Delegation in Siberia, but drinks are free


There's value in being a blue state—in delivering the greatest single outpouring of support during the campaign of an eventual winner.

But, in terms of the payback, the value is not much.

At political party conventions, the national party assigns each state's delegation. And although the Democratic National Convention is in downtown Denver—which may not have captured the imagination of national food and entertainment writers as completely as Portland but has plenty to offer—the Oregon delegation is lodged 13 light rail stops and a hike southeast of the city (45 minutes, if you are lucky) at the Hyatt Regency Tech Center (obligatory atrium lobby and top-floor party spot), in an agglomeration of chain hotels and multi-lane blacktop that makes Beaverton look like Alberta Street.

At the pre-convention kickoff party held Sunday for the Oregon, Washington and Arizona delegations—all of which are anchored in the exurbs—you could find a lot of political junkies who wondered why they'd been exiled to the Colorado equivalent of Siberia. Here's a fuller explanation of the situation from delegate/blogger Stephanie Vardavas.

The conventional wisdom is that Oregon and Washington are so solidly Democratic that there's no need to lavish downtown accommodations on them. Arizona, in contrast, is a far more conservative state and has a favorite son, Sen. John McCain, playing for the other team.

Oregon Democratic Party Executive Director Trent Lutz says the explanation is a little more nuanced. "We toured all the Denver hotels last summer and made this our top choice," Lutz says. He explains that Washington, Oregon and Arizona hang together at national events. Lutz acknowledges that Oregon's real estate on the convention floor—even less prominent than Guam's—may be related to the state's solid support.

Swing states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio got the prominent placement Oregon delegates crave. Lutz says that's appropriate. "It's all about the camera shot," Lutz says. "And we're happy to take a back seat."

Much of the cocktail chatter Sunday night centered around how and when team Clinton will turn over its delegates to Obama and whether Bill and Hill are being piggish or team players by demanding two separate prime-time slots on the convention agenda. The related question of how diehard Hillary supporters in the Oregon and other delegations will react remains a hot topic.

In a meeting of the Democratic Party's rules committee earlier in the weekend, Merry Demarest, a rules committee member from Corvallis, pushed for changes that would have de-emphasized the role of party caucuses, which Demarest and other Clinton supporters think disproportionately favored Obama. Demarest's proposal did not succeed.

Obama supporters are anxious to put the schism behind the party.

"We're past that," says Portland Congressman Earl Blumenauer. "It's not an issue of great substance."

Now about how Waste Management fits into the picture: The drinks at the party last night were free, and WM, the nation's largest garbage company, had a large sponsorship banner on the wall.

<i>Keep up with all the Denver Notebook posts <a href="">here</a>.
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