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Democratic National Convention: Campaign issues highlighted in Red Lake man's trip to DNC

Gary Fuller poses for a photo at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

BEMIDJI – It took two days for Gary Fuller to find a “Native Americans for Obama” campaign button in Charlotte, N.C., the host city for the Democratic National Convention this week.

He finally was able buy one from a street vendor late Tuesday morning, but the long search was a sign of something a bit more problematic. For Fuller, who is the director of the Red Lake Tribal Archives and a Minnesota delegate for the convention, Native American representation in politics is a major issue.

“I think they should be here,” he said by phone Tuesday. “It’s just a matter of showing up to meetings… raising your hand and saying, ‘We want representation.’”

Fuller is also co-chair of the Red Lake Political Education Committee, a tribal non-profit, non-partisan group that focuses on education and registering people to vote, and the affirmative action officer at the Beltrami County DFL Party. His duties there are “to try and encourage under-represented groups to get involved,” said Beltrami County DFL Chair Steven Nelson.

Ensuring equal representation is one of Fuller’s main concerns heading into the convention. But several other national issues are also likely to get attention over the next few days. 

Lorraine Cecil, a Bemidji resident and DFL activist, said while there is less emphasis on nominating a candidate, the convention can still be an opportunity to discuss issues. Among them for her is health care.

“I’ve had to learn how expensive it is,” she said. Cecil added that she hopes the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on health care reform, which was largely considered a victory for President Obama, is discussed so that more people understand the new law.

Cecil went to the national convention in 1988, which led to the nomination of Michael Dukakis. She said the convention is a great experience for those who “believe in the political process.”

Gay rights are also expected to be a focus of the convention. For the first time, the Democratic Party’s platform supports same-sex marriage.

Fuller said Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker praised the Minnesota delegation in its fight against constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage during a speech, a sign that the local battle could get some national attention.

 Should Fuller and the Minnesota delegation make it on national TV – their seats are lower level, stage right –many will likely be seen wearing their “Vote no” T-shirts.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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