DENVER - Media outlets have been busily reporting the Democratic presidential candidates debating, posturing and in other ways showing voters why they should be the party's nominee at next year's Democratic National Convention (DNC). Meanwhile, the convention committee's Chief Executive Officer - who avoids the limelight - stays busy behind the scenes working to ensure that all will run smoothly come next August when the candidates and tens of thousands of delegates arrive in Denver for the election year gathering. Leah Daughtry, Chief Executive Officer of the Democratic National Convention Committee. Photo by Lens of Ansar.
DENVER - Media outlets have been busily reporting the Democratic presidential candidates debating, posturing and in other ways showing voters why they should be the party's nominee at next year's Democratic National Convention (DNC). Meanwhile, the convention committee's Chief Executive Officer - who avoids the limelight - stays busy behind the scenes working to ensure that all will run smoothly come next August when the candidates and tens of thousands of delegates arrive in Denver for the election year gathering.
In April, Leah Daughtry was selected by Howard Dean, Democratic National Committee Chairman, to serve as CEO. Since then she has been traveling back and forth from Washington, D.C. to Denver and many other cities attending to the duties that are part of her new role. She will move to Denver full time in October.
Now a veteran, Daughtry has been active in politics for more than twenty years. "I started as a receptionist for my congressman and I climbed through the ranks," she said during an August morning interview from her downtown office. "I don't think I'm the only one; there are thousands of African Americans who are active in Democratic Party politics all across the country," she added, mentioning Newark Mayor Cory Booker; Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, who is also a convention co-chair, and Cameron Moody, who is serving as Daughtry's Deputy CEO of Operations. She also noted that Blacks make up one third of the committee staff.
Those statistics are not surprising, considering how often it is reported that Blacks traditionally vote Democratic and have a seeming love affair with the party despite the lingering criticism that the Black vote is taken for granted - an assertion that Daughtry finds insulting and reflective of a mindset which casts Blacks as a non-thinking collective who robotically vote Democratic in a sheep-like manner.
"That makes me angry," she said. "I know what I and people I'm familiar with do when it's time to vote. We decide which candidate best represents the issues important to us. No one comes into our community and says [we] must vote Democratic."
She firmly believes that the Democratic Party puts forth candidates who best represent the issues of importance to the Black community. "If the Republican Party would change some of their legislation, perhaps they would pick up more of the vote in the African American community," she suggested before stating that she does not foresee that happening. Daughtry is also hesitant to use the phrase "Black issues," since it then follows that there are "White" and "Brown" issues as well. She chooses rather to say that there are some issues which impact Blacks more than others, but even those can be shown to be at play in other communities even if not to the same extent.
As minister of The House of the Lord Church in Washington, faith is an important part of Daughtry's life, and she anticipates "heightened involvement" from the faith community at the DNC. She said that the national party has a faith advisory council composed of religious leaders from across the country. Christians, Muslims and Jews of all sects and denominations are part of the group, which includes spiritual teachers such as Tony Campolo, Rabbi David Saperstein and Dr. Jamal Harrison-Bryant.
Coordinating all the pieces needed to put the DNC together is a challenging task, and Daughtry intends to have everything ready by noon, August 24, 2008 - a day ahead of schedule. She does not foresee disruptions from thousands of protesters, like the Recreate '68 Alliance, who plan to make their voices heard convention week,