Written by John McCreadie
Two historic conventions, two state delegates from Auburn, one intense passion for their candidates
If you think your vote doesn’t count or that Washington D.C politicians aren’t listening, two Auburn women might just change your mind.
Meet Christa Darlington, a Democratic mother of two, who jumped into the Obama-Biden pool headfirst and with no previous political involvement; and Ann Whitley, a dyed-in-the-wool conservative and long-time employee of the California Republican Party who has been struck with McCain-Palin fever. Both women live in Auburn, both were honored to be delegates at their respective conventions for the first time, and both share an unshakeable fervor for their party candidates.
They also share the rare opportunity of being chosen as voting members of the California delegations (a once-in-four-years, invitation-only, that a select few in Placer County politics get to experience).
Whitley’s application was culled from hundreds in the Northern California area, not to mention beating out many applicants in Republican-dominated Placer County, including party insiders, donors and a slew of veterans, all of whom were interested in becoming delegates.
“It’s one of the highest honors you can receive when you are involved with the party,” says Whitley, who believes her selection was a reward for many years of dedicated service. She was the only voting delegate from Placer County to attend the Republican National Convention (RNC), she says.
Political newcomer Darlington’s selection also was compelling, having beat out (among others) long-time party activist Paula Treat, during a delegate caucus election for the privilege of being a delegate at the Democratic National Convention (DNC).
“I am proud to have been able to garner enough votes to compete with a political veteran like Paula,” says Darlington. “I had no idea what I was capable of before I started believing in Barack.”
The 36-year-old Darlington founded the local grassroots effort “Sierra Foothills for Obama” shortly after reading Sen. Barack Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope” and seeing him speak at an event in San Francisco. She had never actively participated in politics prior to that. She even traveled to an Obama campaign stop in Medford, OR to volunteer for the senator, and found herself helping load up the Obama family luggage for travel to its next stop. She even got to meet the senator in person.
The DNC began Aug. 25 in Denver, CO amid a cloud of uncertainty, fueled by ongoing media reports of potential party disunity, as Obama delegates came together with Sen. Hillary Clinton delegates for the first time. Darlington reports that during the first day, “unity breakfast” tension was high as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others attempted to bring the two camps together.
“There was a lot of stress not knowing what was going to happen,” says Darlington. “There was not a lot of applause for the speakers.”
That tension soon gave way to a highly charged convention. “The sheer magnitude of the event was amazing,” she says. “I have never been in a place where I’ve seen all the news crews, never mind all those political leaders and celebrities, in one place.”
Darlington surprisingly found herself assigned to sit near the front of the stage platform (in “the inner circle” as she says) for Obama’s historic acceptance speech at Invesco Stadium, a mere nine seats away from young Sasha Obama, and eight seats away from Speaker Pelosi. “It was mind-blowing,” she says.
On the Republican side, 65-year-old Whitley is no neophyte to politics. She serves as the Director of Membership for the California Republican Party, a position she has held for 16 years. Her dedication to the party also includes four years of service as an elected member of the Los Angeles County Central Committee. She moved to the Auburn area three years ago and is responsible for opening a campaign headquarters in Downtown Auburn.
The RNC began one week after the democratic convention in Saint Paul, MN on Sept. 1, under a different cloud of uncertainty: Hurricane Gustav which had slammed into the Louisiana coast. Whitley recalls meeting a delegate from Baton Rouge who was in angst on whether to return home. In the end, she didn’t have to, reports Whitley, who says Sen. John McCain instead flew her family to Minnesota as part of the RNC’s effort to aid hurricane victims that day.
Still, the highlight of the convention for Whitley, who also is a member of the South Placer Republican Women Federated, was the historic acceptance speech by vice presidential candidate and Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, “The Republican women were thrilled about Sarah,” she says.
Whitley says it was an experience of a lifetime, especially the balloon drop. “I have watched the conventions ever since I can remember and it’s always been something I wanted to do— to be a delegate,” she says. “It’s been one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve ever had.”
For both women, the conventions supercharged their spirits and campaign efforts. “You can’t wait to start working,” says Whitley. “You come home with a renewed sense of how important this election really is.”
Darlington couldn’t agree more. On her return from the convention, she immediately hit the ground locally recruiting volunteers, sending out newsletters and leading Camp Obama workshops. With two small children and a full-time job with Placer County, she works 16-hour days to fit it all in, giving a nod to her “very supportive” husband.
“I want my children to have a future,” she says. “This American democratic form of government is the best thing going. I’m proof that anyone can make an impact if they want to.”
Terrorist Protesters and a Clueless Hunter
Keeping convention goers safe was a big part of both conventions.
Republican Delegate Ann Whitley reports busses, which moved delegates to and from the convention center, each had an armed guard onboard to protect convention attendees.
“The only low point of the convention were the terrorists,” says Whitley. “I refuse to call them protesters.” She heard tales of demonstrators on overpasses — presumably protesting Bush Administration actions and policies — dumping sand on the roofs of their busses as they passed. They also tried to block delegates from getting to the convention, says Whitley.
In Denver, Democratic Delegate Christa Darlington says abortion protesters demonstrating against a woman’s right to choose were in force around the convention center. Also, the hotel she was staying at went into lockdown apparently after a vacationing hunter brought his rifle case into the lobby, but was quickly greeted by a pile of Secret Service agents.
In Search of “Fake” Newscasters
The two California delegates from Auburn reported both convention halls were filled with news media from around the world. “They were everywhere,” reports Republican Delegate Ann Whitley. “You couldn’t move without running into reporters.”
While Christa Darlington, a California delegate for the Democratic Party, noted the convention floor was packed with news reporters, she spent time during the convention seeking out the “fake” news team from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
“I searched for their ‘fake’ news team while other delegates came back with pictures (of them),” she says. “But I did manage to bump into (Congressman) Dennis Kucinich an awful lot. He sat three seats down from me.”
She finally caught up with fake newsman Aasif Mandvi. “(He’s) no Jon Oliver, but he is on my short list of funniest correspondents,” she says.
Whitley notes taking time to check out the Fox News broadcast booth, which was near her seat, and even got a picture with Fox commentator Brian Wilson, who also is a vice president and Washington D.C. bureau chief for the network.
Subscribe to this comment's feed
smaller | bigger
Subscribe via email (Registered users only)
I have read and agree to the Terms of Usage.
Write the displayed characters
© 2007-2011 auburnbuzz.com All Rights Reserved.