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A part of history: Local Democrats hope to rub elbows at national convention
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Lauren Bell finishes packing her bags as she prepares to head for Denver to be an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention. - photo by Tom Reed

For Hall County’s two delegates to the Democratic National Convention, meeting personal heroes is high on their wish list of things they hope will happen in Denver.

For Gainesville attorney Joe Diaz, a delegate pledged to Hillary Clinton, it is the hope of meeting the New York senator.

"I have the letter she sent me when I was elected as a delegate," Diaz said. "I’d like to have a picture with her and frame the picture and the letter."

For Lauren Bell, a Barack Obama delegate, it would be a chance to meet Michelle Obama.

"We’re both attorneys, and we both are Princeton graduates," Bell said.

Brushing elbows with the politically famous is not unlikely at a political convention. The 4,440 delegates that will pack the Pepsi Center in Denver beginning Monday includes a number of faces that are often seen on the national stage.

The Democrats have planned a full agenda for their four-day meeting. The first will take place at the Pepsi Center. On Thursday, the convention moves to the 75,000-seat Invesco Field for the acceptance speech by Obama.

Diaz plans to cast his vote for Clinton at the convention.

"I have no problem with Sen. Obama, and if I’m released by Hillary, I plan to cast that for him, after I’ve cast a vote for her in the first round," Diaz said.

"I’m envisioning that there would be a round of voting that everyone would vote for whom their bound to vote for. Then, I would imagine we would have an acclamation vote after that."

He said his desire to vote for Clinton is not a vote against Obama.

"It’s solely a positive thing to her," he said. "The people in the 9th district voted for her. When I was elected for this, it was by people who voted for Hillary."

For Lauren Bell, who practices law in Atlanta, the week
leading up to the convention was filled with the dual challenges of packing for the convention and packing up to move to a new home.

Like Diaz, she has received numerous invitation to various functions taking place during the convention. "Every day I come home and there is a new invitation in the mailbox," Bell said.

Companies with ties to Georgia, such as AT&T and Georgia Power, are hosting receptions for the convention delegation. "There are three or four events every night," she said.

She has not met Obama, but is not holding out hope that she will get the chance at the convention.

"I would love to be able to meet him, but I feel there are going to be so many people that I might not get that chance," she said.

Her husband, Ashley, a Gainesville attorney who has attended previous party conventions, has briefed her on what to expect.

"We start out at 7:45 a.m. with a breakfast and meeting of the Georgia delegation and it goes on until about 2 in the morning," she said.

She considers herself a more reserved person and will not be donning funny hats or jumping up and down for Obama, although she is enthused by his chance in the November election.

The other delegate from the 9th District is Beth Hand of Forsyth County.

"I’m just excited to exercise my vote as a pledged Hillary delegate at the convention," she said. "I’m supposed to represent the voters of this district, and I guess I’ll do what they elected me to do and what the law says I have to do."

Though this will be her first experience as a delegate, it’s not Hand’s first convention.

"In 1992, I attended the convention in New York," she said. "Zell Miller was a keynote speaker in 1992, so that’s certainly going to be different.

"But this whole election cycle has been historical and so I think that’s going to be the huge difference. I think the energy will be much different and more exciting, because it’s new territory for everyone involved. That’s what is exciting for me and exciting for the country."

When she attended the convention 16 years ago, she could only watch as an observer. This time, though, Hand will be "in the middle of things."

"I think it’s going to be exciting to be in the mix, to have a voice and have a say."

Jennifer Sami of the Times regional staff contributed to this report.

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