Hopeful National Delegate Tackles Second Challenge: The County Convention

Second in a series: With the excitement of a close race between Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama and the convenience of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, many state Democrats want to become delegates to the national convention. Colorado Confidential is following the trek of one delegate hopeful from Glenwood Springs, Nick Isenberg, as he negotiates the delegate selection process. Read Part I here about how Isenberg has not let his disabilities hold him back from his delegate quest. PhotobucketNick Isenberg, 65, has profound hearing loss and is blind in one eye. Although he carries a special amplifier to hear, his friends still speak loudly and talk toward him so he can catch most of the conversation.

Isenberg has spent a lifetime advocating for civil rights, in particular for the rights of the disabled, which led him to the political organization Democrats with Disabilities Initiative. Partly because of its state chapter’s effort, the Colorado Democratic Party delegate selection plan includes four disabled delegate slots to the national convention. Isenberg hopes he will be chosen to represent the needs of the disabled at the national convention level.

To qualify, the first thing Isenberg had to do is become a delegate to the county convention.

“In the past our caucus chairman would have to ask, ‘Who wants to be a delegate to the county convention?’ We seldom had enough people volunteer to fill all of the delegate and alternate slots,” Isenberg explained. “This year a bunch of people raised their hands.” Among the supporters for Sen. Barack Obama, whom Isenberg decided to endorse, he was suddenly concerned he would not be chosen as a delegate.

“Luckily a friend quickly nominated me, and someone, possibly my wife, seconded my nomination. I was the first person designated as a delegate within a few seconds. It all happened so fast I almost didn’t realizing what was going on,” Isenberg recalled.

Now he is preparing for the Garfield County Democratic convention and assembly convening in Rifle Saturday. In order to move up to the next level in the national delegate selection, he must be a delegate to the Third Congressional District and state conventions.

“I have prepared a one-page brochure which I’ll pass out Saturday at the county convention to the delegates supporting Obama,” Isenberg said. “I also have been lobbying other delegates to the county convention, people who really know and appreciate what I have done for local Democrats and candidates from this area. I think I’m the only person actively campaigning for a delegate seat to the state convention.”

The state party designated 48 delegates and 48 alternates (with a 50-percent split between women and men) from Garfield County to the CD 3 and state conventions. Those delegates and alternates will have to pay their own way for two days in Colorado Springs, where the state Democratic Party Convention and Assembly will be held in May.

Democrats vying for a national convention seat have two avenues to pursue – through their congressional convention and through the state convention. (Refer to the delegate chart here There are only about 55 open seats to the national convention from the entire state, so competition will be fierce.

“I’ve taken nothing for granted,” Isenberg said. “But I’m not too worried about making it as far as Colorado Springs, so I don’t want to overkill or use all my resources up unnecessarily at the county level.”

Isenberg’s disabilities have affected his quest somewhat. “I had my usual hearing problems at the caucus, although I sat in the very front so I could hear the chairman and used my pocket talker, a small amplifier I carry with me,” Isenberg noted. “It helped, but I still had some trouble understanding the chair and lots of trouble understanding everyone else, especially women, since I have a high-frequency hearing loss.”

He’s concerned that when he goes to the next level vying for a delegate seat, he will have trouble speaking before the huge CD3 and state assemblies.

“A problem I always have when speaking in a group or public speaking is knowing how loud I’m talking. Even though I sound plenty loud to me through my hearing aids, I frequently am not speaking loud enough for others to hear me well,” Isenberg said. “If I turn my hearing aids down too much, I yell, which also isn’t cool. So I’ll have to remember to ask people if if I speaking at an appropriate volume. Then I hope I can understand what they tell me.”

Isenberg added his vision disability hasn’t been a problem so far because he hasn’t had too much to read and very little paperwork to do.

Looking ahead to the state convention delegate process, Isenberg is putting together his campaign plan. He will have to convince hundreds, if not thousands, of delegates from across the congressional district and the state to support his national delegate quest. Fortunately Isenberg will have help. “I am getting ideas and support from other members of the Democrats with Disabilities who have been national delegates in the past. I’m not discouraged — yet.”

On Sunday Colorado Confidential will follow up with Isenberg after his county convention. Did he make it to the state convention?

Photo: Nick Isenberg works on a video.

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Leslie Robinson

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