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Vermont delegates ready for virtual Democratic convention

Published: Aug. 17, 2020 at 5:07 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont Democratic Party members are gearing up for the Democratic National Convention where the party is slated to elect Joe Biden as its presidential nominee. Our Calvin Cutler looks at how Vermont's delegation is adapting during the pandemic.

This week, Carolyn Dwyer would normally be on a flight to Milwaukee for the Democratic National Convention. But politics in 2020 is anything but normal.

"Convention is really no different than our lives... as they exist in the COVID era," Dwyer said.

Dwyer is one of Vermont's 24 delegates who are attending this year's virtual DNC. There, the party will vote for a platform and a nominee to take on President Trump in November.

“Conventions are a mix of doing business and doing celebrations. Obviously, we have a responsibility of nominating our president and vice presidential candidate, but it’s also a time to network with people around issues you’re concerned about or affinity groups,” Dwyer said.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders beat Joe Biden in the state's primary. That means five Vermont delegates were awarded to Biden and 11 to Sanders. Eight are unpledged.

But without the electric atmosphere of an acceptance speech in a booming auditorium filled with party faithful, this year is a lot different.

"It's that type of camaraderie we're missing out on this year and that's unfortunate," said Scott McNeil, the executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party.

McNeil says a virtual DNC could have a silver lining. He says the virtual format allows more people to participate in workshops and forums.

“This year they’re being done online and they’re not [only] open to delegates but also to the general public, as well, and our events are open to the general public. It’s a great opportunity to expand and welcome people in,” McNeil said.

McNeil also says holding the conference virtually saves big bucks for local Democratic parties. Each delegate can spend upward of $3,000 on airfare, hotels and food.

Even though this year’s convention is in uncharted waters, Dwyer remains optimistic.

"On Thursday, for instance, Senator Leahy will be hosting it but he'll also be having his friend Cory Booker joining, as well, which is exciting," she said. "Some of those things remain the same, they're just done on a different medium."

The virtual DNC runs through Thursday.

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