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Seattle Times Political Caucus

The Seattle Times Political Caucus is an online community aimed at adding diverse voices to our coverage of politics. How we'll use the Caucus will evolve over time. But the idea is to create a conversation with people of various backgrounds and political beliefs. As the election season unfolds, we'll ask participants to weigh in on key political questions and then post their comments here.

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August 27, 2008 11:21 AM

Sunburned and weary, a DNC volunteer relishes her work

Posted by Richard Wagoner

This post is by Carey Christensen of Stanwood, who is volunteering at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Christensen is a member of The Seattle Times Political Caucus. She'll file occasional dispatches about her experiences at the convention.

By Carey Christensen

This morning in Denver I find myself bloodied, burned, sore and weary, and I wasn't anywhere near a protest. The blisters and sunburn are courtesy of 10 hours on my feet under the blazing Denver sun on behalf of the DNC Transportation Special Services team.

Yesterday I joined fellow volunteers and delegates on the downtown shuttle to the Pepsi Center, a 30-minute wait for a 15-minute, six-block ride that got us close enough to walk another six blocks to the perimeter entrance. The trek continued, through security (remove ALL those campaign buttons), around the CNN Grill, until we finally glimpsed our destination, the Pepsi Center. But, no, we kept going, past the arena and the media center until, thankfully, we arrived at Parking Lot F, our Special Services home. It was a journey that left everyone gasping and grasping for water and sandwiches as soon as we found the shade of the volunteer tent, not yet expending a minute doing anything resembling work.

Within minutes, transportation workers were whisked on golf carts to serve as greeters at all of the arena entrances. I was deposited at the one serving both delegates and media, and our group quickly coalesced into a cheerleading gauntlet, greeting everyone (including a bemused James Carville and Donna Brazile), with cheering, clapping, and a hearty "Welcome to Denver!" and "Obama (fist) bumps" were given to anyone sporting one of his buttons (there were lot's of Obama buttons). Outward displays of support for Hillary were less apparent. The DNC has made it clear that this is Obama's party, and those delegates who still support Hillary tend to speak in whispers.

As the convention began, we took a short break before getting a new assignment: parking the cars of the "electeds" - members of Congress and governors arriving for the primetime speeches. The VIP's were deposited at the arena entrance, carefully shielded by a white tent; their cars (mostly black SUV hybrids) were then deposited in our lot by their drivers. This is as close as I got to any politician: moving cars used by Madeline Albright, Walter Mondale and our own Patty Murray (her assigned volunteer driver "loved" Senator Murray, and thoroughly enjoyed ferrying her to many meetings during day). The Secret Service with Jimmy Carter's motorcade told us they would park anywhere they liked. We were chastised by the "parking professionals" not to let it happen again. Right. We'll let you tell that to the guy in the suit with the shades and the State Patrol posse.

The setting sun relieved the heat, the traffic subsided, and I was stuck in a parking lot between the glittering arena that held all of the excitement, and the tent holding off-duty volunteers and the big screen TV showing all of that excitement. Every once in a while I'd hear a big cheer, wonder who was speaking, and then return to asking arriving chauffeurs, "Lot F or Lot VF?"

No shuttle on the return trek home; I walked back to the light rail station at the Colorado Convention Center among throngs of celebrating Democrats. I crashed on the sofa at my parents' house, put up my aching feet, and settled in to catch the analysis and highlights of everything that had just happened a few feet from where I had been standing, but could not see or hear. Would I do it all again? Yep, later this week, toes bandaged and sunscreen in hand.

Carey Christensen, 50, has worked on several political campaigns and has served six years as the Washington state representative for the Parkinson's Action Network, traveling yearly to Washington, D.C., to learn and lobby. "I grew up a Republican, and cast my first vote for Gerald Ford in 1976, then for Reagan in 1980. That was the last time I pulled the lever for a Republican."

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