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Political activists to serve as delegates at national party conventions

POSTED: April 30, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Some local people will be representing Northeast Georgia at their respective party's national conventions to be held later this year, and at least three first-time delegates are excited over the opportunity.

At separate district conventions held Saturday, Joe Diaz and Lauren Bell of Gainesville were selected as Democratic delegates and Josh Turner of Cleveland was selected as a Republican delegate.

"I think this is an exciting election for me," said Bell, 28, a Gainesville attorney selected as the 9th District's lone delegate to the Democratic National Convention for Sen. Barack Obama. "I think (Obama has) just been able to bring out the political process for a lot of younger people who aren't in the political process."

Turner, 22, chairman of the White County Republican party, shared Bell's excitement about attending his party's convention. "It's going to be a great experience and I'm looking forward to it," he said.

Turner graduates from North Georgia College and State University in August, just in time for the Republican National Convention to be held Sept. 1-4 in Minneapolis, Minn. Turner was host of this weekend's GOP convention at White County High School in Cleveland. He was selected as party chairman last year.

Diaz, a Gainesville attorney picked as a delegate for Sen. Hillary Clinton, said he and Bell worked together to get a bus full of Democrats mobilized to vote for them in the convention held Saturday in Ellijay. Like a regular election but on a smaller scale, those interested have to run for a delegate spot, he said.

"We each individually wanted to win our spots, but we also wanted to bring these delegate positions back to Gainesville," Diaz said. Both Diaz and Bell were elected by slim margins, he by 11 votes and she by only three.

Bell said she also is excited to be a delegate because of the historic potential of this year's convention. She pointed out that if Obama is selected as the party's nominee, he would give his speech on Aug. 28, the final day of the convention. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech on Aug. 28, 1963.

Diaz said he believes the cooperation between he and Bell is indicative of the national picture for the party. "I really think in the end you're going to see total unity," he said.

Elizabeth Hand of Forsyth County also was selected as a Clinton delegate. The Democratic delegate selections were made at the 9th District Democratic Party Headquarters in Ellijay. The Democratic National Convention is set for Aug. 25-28 in Denver.

The 9th District's Republican delegates at this point are committed to voting for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, according to Kevin Harris, the district party chairman.

He explained that by state law, delegates must vote for the candidate who won the district, and Huckabee won the 9th District in Georgia's Republican presidential preference primary in February.

Huckabee could decide to release his delegates to vote for other candidates, but both Turner and Harris said no announcement has been made.

Other Republican delegates selected at the party's convention Saturday were Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga and Rep. Jay Neal, R-Lafayette. Alternates picked were Betty Chambers of Hall County, Charles White of Cleveland and Leon Ellis of Forsyth County.


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