After attending the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, Bert Marley knew he wanted the 2016 convention to be different.
In L.A., Idaho delegates stayed at a hotel in a Beverly Hills neighborhood while the convention and most other delegates were downtown. Worst of all, he said, Idaho’s delegation was on the outskirts alone.
Small states get lost in a convention like this. But when we stick together, we have a voice.
Idaho Party Chairman Bert Marley
Marley, the Idaho Democratic Party state chairman, said he wanted his small state to have a voice this year. Collaborating with North Dakota Democratic Party Chair Kylie Oversen, he got his wish. Idaho stayed at the DoubleTree hotel in Valley Forge along with Utah, West Virginia, North Dakota, South Dakota and Hawaii.
“Anytime that we were negotiating with the DNC, we worked together,” said Oversen. “We collectively bargained, if you will, to elevate our voices as small states.”
“The high-caliber speakers we’ve been able to attract,” she continued, “North Dakota by itself probably wouldn’t have gotten Amy Dacey.”
Amy Dacey, CEO of the Democratic Party, wasn’t the only high-caliber speaker the small states attracted. On the final day of the convention, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley spoke at the delegation’s breakfast.
Without those other states, Marley said, they wouldn’t have been able to pull that off.
The advantages of sticking together as small states surpassed speakers and logistics. Now, these small delegations have allies. “The language that we speak is the same, even though we’re across the country,” said Oversen.
Idaho, Utah, North Dakota and South Dakota have a lot in common when it came to rural communities, their issues and public lands. Marley and Oversen hope to gain perspective from one another and the other delegations on how to approach their similar issues.
“They just get it,” Oversen said. “They are willing to be there and offer themselves to help other state parties and that’s the benefit of coming together.”
While Marley said these relationships won’t have a big impact at this year’s convention, it’s the beginning of such conversations that matters.
“To have us all here together,” Marley said. “Just those conversations and that networking is a positive start.”
Jennifer Kerrigan is a student journalist at Temple University: firstname.lastname@example.org.