The Democratic National Convention began Monday and is scheduled to end this tonight. Just as local Republicans proclaimed enthusiasm for Mitt Romney last week, many local Democrats are expressing enthusiasm for their candidate, incumbent President Barack Obama.
Cynthia and Keith Ahlstrom, county legislator from Dunkirk, are attending the convention in Charlotte, N.C., where they were reached by phone. Although Cynthia said that she is not as political as her husband, she decided to apply to be a delegate, and is enthusiastic about her experiences so far. She is one of two delegates from Chautauqua County.
Both Ahlstroms noted the energy at the convention.
Delegates hold up signs Wednesday during Bob King, President of the UAW's speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Keith said, "The atmosphere down here is energizing. There are about 35,000 people in town for the convention. I don't know how it is usually, but this is now a democratic city."
Sounding energized herself, Cynthia noted some of the highlights for her.
One was Michelle Obama's speech. "I feel she is very sincere and can relate to the common person. She is empathetic," she said
Another was the atmosphere at the convention. Cynthia said, "The theme here is diversity; one of the first things I noticed is the diversity. Democrats don't represent a certain group, and that is evident by those who are here. ... They are focusing on the economic issues for the middle class."
Cynthia also noted the role of women. "I feel women are going to be a deciding factor in this race," she said She listened to Lilly Ledbetter speak. Ledbetter filed a fair-pay suit. While she lost the suit, her struggle was the basis for a fair pay law, the first law that Obama signed.
Cynthia sees Obama as a strong president who dealt with the tough issues. "There is no question that we are better off now than we were four years ago. .. He truly sees that the middle class American is important."
Frank Gawronski, the chairman of Dunkirk's Democratic Committee, characterized Obama as "an honest man who cares about the middle class and those less fortunate. He is right that everyone has to be involved. The rich also have to be part of the solution."
"The Republicans' goal from the beginning was that Obama would be a one-term president rather than to resolve the important issues," Gawronski said
He is concerned about the current course of events. "The attack on the union, public employees and teachers is unprecedented. These groups helped establish laws that protect all of us," he said.
Dunkirk Mayor A.J. Dolce said, "I did catch two full speeches, Mayor (Julian) Castro's and Michelle Obama's and part of Governor Patrick's speech. ... I see a lot of excitement. Conventions are meant to rally the base and the speeches accomplished that. I think we will see that tonight (Wednesday) when President Clinton speaks."
Dolce backs Obama. "He walked into a very difficult situation. I understand his frustration, not being able to make the changes he wanted. He recognizes the challenges facing the middle class and is working hard to find solutions."
Steven Keefe, mayor of Fredonia, also heard the speeches of Castro and Michelle Obama, and was looking forward to watching former President Clinton. He said, "The Democrats have great orators; people who can speak and motivate."
Keefe, who was an educator, said, "(Tuesday's speeches) were both positive in attitude, motivating, and moving forward. ... The whole idea is anyone in America with the right education can move forward. I am encouraged by this. ... Without education and the GI bill I wouldn't be where I am."
Another issue that concerned him was health care. He said, "First of all there is a major problem with health care. Anytime you can't afford to be sick, this is a problem."
He spoke of talking to someone from Canada who said no one there goes bankrupt from getting sick.
As for the economy, he said, "This is a huge issue. The economy is getting better. It is not an overnight process."
"I haven't really heard anything from the other side about a plan, except to gut Social Security and Medicare, calling them entitlements, which I don't think they are since we have paid into them, and to keep taxes low on the wealthy," he said.
Keefe said although he would like his taxes lower, "I don't complain. I appreciate what we get for what we pay."
He saw positives going forward with Obama "We are not invading a third world country for oil. We should share wealth rather than promote greed."
Legislator Thomas DeJoe of Brocton also backed Obama and gave his reasons saying, "I feel he is an open individual, straight forward. He is doing the best job he can. He understands the grassroot people, is down-to-earth and a real person."
Democrats from Dunkirk City Council provided their opinions of the convention and Obama
Dunkirk Third Ward councilman Adelino Gonzalez said, "I am very happy with Obama. He's been out there trying to do things and often getting shot down by the rich and powerful."
Councilwoman-at-large Stephanie Kiyak said, "To be quite honest, my main focus is the council. I support our president and have hope and confidence in him. I hope he continues to deal with the issues such as the housing slump, high unemployment and alternate energy sources.
"However, I really feel that change begins at the local level, and that's where I have been spending my time. I like the saying 'Be the change you wish to see in the world.'"
Kiyak also likes the notion of 'think globally and act locally.' She feels the local level is where change can be made.
Fourth Ward councilwoman, Stacy Szukala, is watching the convention, but is undecided. She said, "I watched the Republican National Convention and I am watching the Democratic National Convention. I vote for the person, not the party. Right now, I am not decided. I am continuing to watch and listen."
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