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July 26, 2004

Local convention delegates happy to be part of process

From: Monterey County Herald, CA - Jul 26, 2004

Herald Staff Writer

Marina special-education teacher Henry Bergstresser figures he'll spend $2,000 going to Boston to see something everyone knows will happen.

Barring an asteroid collision or the like, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts will win the Democratic presidential nomination at the party's national convention, which that starts today at Boston's Fleet Center.

Despite the paucity of any real political drama, Bergstresser wouldn't miss his first visit to Boston for the world.

"I'm excited. This could be a real turning point in terms of politics," he said. "There are a lot of hot-button issues out there."

Bergstresser, a 60-year-old lifelong Democrat and activist in the local deaf community, is one of six convention delegates chosen from the party ranks in the Central Coast's 17th Congressional District.

So is Kristine Edmunds of Salinas, a 40-year-old administrator at CSU-Monterey Bay, who looks forward to meeting other delegates and being part "of the energy that is going to come home and work hard to elect John Kerry."

Unlike the party heavyweights and state elected officials among California's 553 delegates, Edmunds and Bergstresser began their road to the convention in modest fashion.

They attended a Monterey caucus of 40 Kerry supporters before the March primary election, got selected as would-be delegates and started planning for Boston when Kerry took the California vote.

"I went to the caucus and gave a speech and people voted for me," said Edmunds, who sees the convention as "an important part of our political process."

A one-time congressional aide from a political family, Edmunds remembers watching national party conventions on television when she was a child.

"I still remember that 'The people from the great state of California nominate...' I'm looking forward to being part of that," she said.

With unprecedented security measures being taken in Boston, neither delegate is worried about personal safety. And they aren't allowing the threat of terrorism to drain their spirit.

"I think Boston is going to be very safe," Edmunds said. "We have to be careful and vigilant, but I'm not going to not participate in democracy."

Bergstresser, who traces his interest in politics to his college days in Washington, D.C., is proud of the California delegation's carefully constructed diversity.

The delegation is equally divided between men and women. Ten percent of the delegates are gay and 10 percent are handicapped, Bergstresser said.

Plus, Bergstresser said, the convention will be set up to accommodate deaf delegates.

"I'm not going to miss a thing, unlike a lot of other places I go," he said.

They will miss many of the staggering number of parties, receptions, breakfasts, lunches and briefings staged during the convention, to which they've already received invitations. They'd have to be faster than light to attend all.

"There are so many overlapping. You have to decide which ones you want to go to," Bergstresser said.

"I think I will be tired after four days," Edmunds said.

The other local delegates are Thomas Petersen and Doreen McEluany from Monterey County, and Ashley Winn and Rachel Baudler of Santa Cruz County.

Bergstresser said he could have gotten some help with expenses from his teachers union. But he likes the idea of paying his own way.

"I want to be able to say, 'I did it. I was there. I helped this process along,'" he said.

Of course, both delegates sing Kerry's praises and predict the convention will give his campaign a big boost. "It's going great," Edmunds said. "I hope we can build on that momentum."

Larry Parsons can be reached at 646-4379 and

© 2004 Monterey County Herald and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.