Delegates Speak About the Progress of the Democratic National Convention
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GWEN IFILL: Good evening, Jim. Among other things, the convention tonight will be hearing from some of the people who John Kerry defeated on his way to winning the nomination this week. So we’ve been spending some time on the floor today talking to some of the delegates who are here to support Sen. Kerry because another candidate brought them to the party.
GWEN IFILL: Were you supportive of John Kerry when you first got into this process?
RICK JOHNSON, Missouri: Well, during the primary process, I was supportive of Dick Gephardt early on. I’m now a strong supporter of John Kerry.
GWEN IFILL: Now, why did you decide to support Dick Gephardt, just because he was your local guy?
RICK JOHNSON: Well, because I had a good relationship with him. I think he would have made a great president. Because he had a tremendous amount of experience in Washington, and I think he would have done what was best for the people of the state of Missouri and for the country. So that’s why I was supporting him.
GWEN IFILL: Why did you make the shift?
RICK JOHNSON: Well, after he withdrew, then the selections obviously went down, the number of available candidates. And I support John Kerry now. John Kerry as a veteran, there is no question in my mind that John Kerry would be a great president for our veterans and for our men and women abroad.
GWEN IFILL: You know that Dick Gephardt has a reputation for being very strong with labor groups.
RICK JOHNSON: Yes.
GWEN IFILL: What would you say… how would you compare John Kerry in that?
RICK JOHNSON: Well, I think John Kerry, Sen. Kerry has been very strong on labor issues, very strong for working men and women, health care, education, the ability to collectively bargain, the ability to bargain for a safer workplace, for better wages, and those sorts of things. I don’t know that you can really compare the two. I think they’ve both been exceptionally strong on issues that affect working families and organized labor.
GWEN IFILL: Dick Gephardt has a reputation for being very strong with labor groups. Does John Kerry have that same reputation?
ROBIN WRIGHT JONES, Missouri: I don’t think he has as strong a relationship with labor. I think that it’s moving forward. I think we’re going to support him with that. But Kerry is a very charismatic man in his way, and I think his replacement for Dick is just going to be phenomenal for the party. He’s very serious, sincere and loyal. The unions that are here to support him, and we’re going to stand behind him with that.
GWEN IFILL: Now you’re supporting John Kerry?
JIM MARTIN, Maine: I am. I am supporting John Kerry and John Edwards.
GWEN IFILL: When did you decide to do that?
JIM MARTIN: When Howard Dean pulled out of the race and it became obvious that John Kerry was going to be our nominee. I had looked at John Kerry early on. And it really was between John Kerry and Howard Dean. I think, early on I think Howard Dean had the passion, and I think that helped John Kerry be a better candidate, and to get his message out as well.
GWEN IFILL: Howard Dean brought a lot of people into the party who hadn’t been involved before. In your experience in Maine, is that still true? Are they still involved?
JIM MARTIN: Absolutely. Half of our state delegation from Maine are new, first-time delegates. Most of those are from the Dean campaign and the Kucinich campaign. I think that the primary season, which was very contentious, and there was a lot of candidates, but I really think that was an advantage to us in the long haul because so many people got excited about getting involved.
Of course, George Bush has really rallied and united to make sure we worked to defeat him and he doesn’t get a second term. I have never seen anything like this in my life, how many new people are coming into the process and saying, "what can I do?"
GWEN IFILL: Did any of the excitable, excited Dean supporters decide to go home after he pulled out, do you know?
JIM MARTIN: I haven’t met a single one. Every Dean supporter I know who was active early on in the campaign is either working for democracy for America or they’re volunteering for the Kerry campaign or they’re volunteering for their local congressional candidate. They’re working on local legislative, congressional and Senate races. That’s, I think, the legacy of the Dean campaign. When his campaign finished, we didn’t stop. And he didn’t want us to stop. So we’re going to go out and do everything we can to make sure that we get a Democratic majority and we fight for those Democratic values we believe in.
GWEN IFILL: Were you one of those "Deaniacs" that we were reading about?
JACOB CRUMBINE, Vermont: Sure, I guess you could call me a Deaniac. I did everything I could to get him elected in the primary. It didn’t happen, but now I’m excited to support John Kerry.
GWEN IFILL: When it didn’t happen, were you disillusioned of put off at all?
JACOB CRUMBINE: Yeah, it’s tough. You believe in someone and a cause and you believe you’re right. It’s disappointing the majority of people didn’t see it the way we did. But I still believe that Dean and our campaign did change the way the political process was run, and will be continued.
GWEN IFILL: You decided to come here, even though your original plan was to support Dick Gephardt.
JOHN PEREZ, California: Well, a absolutely. There original plan was to support Dick Gephardt. As the campaign evolved, it was clear that John Kerry had an understanding and a commitment to economic prosperity for all people in this country, and his commitment to rebuilding our American economy is exactly what we need, especially in southern California.
GWEN IFILL: You’re from California. Do you feel like it was over before you had a chance to vote?
JOHN PEREZ: It was over. That’s the problem with the primary process. You have an overly truncated system. It doesn’t give us all an equal shot to have our voice heard. In a state as large and diverse as California, for us to be coming into the process late is frustrating. But that’s a systematic problem. It doesn’t speak to the fact that regardless of when we would have voted, Kerry would have been our candidate. His message was the message that resonates with Californians and will ultimately help him be successful in getting elected this November.
GWEN IFILL: Also on the podium tonight, as you mentioned earlier, Jim, Theresa Heinz Kerry, the blunt- talking millionaire who will give a big speech to set the stage for her husband’s acceptance speech later in the week. Jim.