LUMBERTON — Two Robeson County Democrats are heading to Philadelphia to serve as delegates to the Democratic National Convention that kicks off Monday and continues through Thursday.
Caroline Sumpter, the mayor pro-tem of Red Springs, and Larry Townsend, a current member of the Lumbee Tribal Council, are delegates chosen from the state’s 8th Congressional District. North Carolina’s delegation to the convention includes 121 members.
Sumpter, 33, is attending her second national convention as a delegate. She was a Barack Obama delegate in 2012 when the Democrats held their convention in Charlotte. She will cast her vote for Hillary Clinton when the vote for the presidential nominee takes place.
“The most important role delegates play at the convention is to cast votes for the Democratic presidential nominee and review and approve the party’s platform,” Sumpter said. “From what I have read about our platform, it is going to be progressive and inclusive.”
Sumpter, who is the executive director of the Red Springs Chamber of Commerce, said that she developed a strong interest and became actively involved in local politics when Obama emerged as the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008. Local elections are just as important, she said, as those at the national level.
“I’m currently precinct chairman in Red Springs, and education of voters is very important,” she said. “We have to make sure to get people registered to vote. Our right to vote is precious. We have to make sure when people get to the polls they have all the information they need.”
According to Sumpter, she can see Hillary Clinton, who would follow the nation’s first black president as its first female in the Oval Office, as “the nation’s commander-and-chief.”
“History is being made,’ Sumpter said. “The Democrats are the first major party to nominate a woman for president. This is something I can share with my daughter to show her that she can become anything she wants to be. The sky is the limit.”
Sumpter said she will share her experiences by posting on her Facebook page.
Townsend is an alternate delegate to the upcoming convention. While living in Forsyth County, he served as a delegate for the first time to the 1988 Democratic Convention, when Michael Dukakis was nominated as the the party’s presidential candidate. Townsend said that he has been a delegate at every National Democratic Convention since then but three. At those three conventions his wife, Rose Marie Lowry-Townsend, was a delegate, he said.
Townsend, who lives in Pembroke, is a retired employee of Bell South. He is the only American Indian in this year’s North Carolina delegation, and has pledged to support Clinton.
“The direction that our country takes is at stake,” he said. ” All the issues and concerns, including defense, environment, economics, quality of life, veterans and American Indians, will be on the table.”
Townsend said that it was Vietnam and his work as a lobbyist in Raleigh for the Communications Workers of America after the Vietnam War that sparked his interest in politics and government.
“You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution,” he said. “Democracy is not a spectators sport. If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.”
Townsend said that Democrats are going to have to work hard to get their message across to voters if they expect to defeat Republican Donald Trump in November.
“I don’t think in the end there is going to be more than a 7-point difference separating the candidates in credible polls,” he said.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.