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Democrats choose diverse slate of five to represent Congressional District 11 at National Convention

April 30, 2024 at 12:52:44 AM

Lucy Dillon


Democratic voters from Congressional District 11 elected a diverse five-member slate to send to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago on April 20, 2024, at the West Orange Recreation Center in Winter Garden.

Lucy Dillon/VoxPopuli

Democratic voters in Congressional District 11 went to the polls Saturday in Orange, Sumter and Polk Counties to select five delegates — two women and three men —  to attend the Democratic National Convention. Voting in Orange County took place 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the West Orange Recreation Center in Historic East Winter Garden and drew 112 voters. They used paper ballots to cast their votes. Early voting was offered for the first time for this delegate election and was held April 18.

The Florida Democratic Party announced late Saturday afternoon that the five-person slate, composed of Reginald “Reggie” McGill, Amy Blackmon, Dylan Hellebrand, Meisheng “Echo” King and Ashok “Ash” Marwah, had beaten seven other candidates to win the election.

Blackmon received 196 votes, McGill, 182; Marwah, 162; Hellebrand, 149; King, 140. Those five will head to the convention in Chicago in August.

Blackmon is the communications chair for the Orange County Democratic Party. McGill, whose resume spans 40 years of public service, has chaired the Valencia College Black Advisory Committee and worked as the director for Constituent Services for the City of Orlando. Marwah, an entrepreneur, ran unsuccessfully for House District 52 during the midterms. Hellebrand, who volunteered on both Joe Biden and Anna V. Eskamani’s campaigns, works in retail. An immigration attorney, King is president and co-founder of the Florida Asian American Justice Alliance.

All are from Orange County, except Marwah who is from Sumter County.

“Being a delegate means you represent the interest and preference of the voters of your district,” Hellebrand, who lived in Ocoee for 24 years before moving to Oakland last August,  said in a phone interview. Hellebrand advocates for the LGBTQ+ community and said “every election is important for me.” He said part of a delegate's job is to represent all members of the community, including those in marginalized and underrepresented groups. He became a delegate to promote civic engagement and “make sure voters’ voices are heard through the convention.”

Delegates play a substantial part  in politics yet their role is not well understood outside of political circles.

“So many people don’t even know delegates exist,” said Hellebrand. “I think it is so important for people to understand their local politics as well as national politics.”

Each political party has delegates, and registered voters affiliated with a party — Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian – can select delegates for their party. The number of Democratic voters in a district determines the number of delegates a district will have, according to Samuel Vilchez Santiago, chair of the Orange County Democratic Party.

People with similar community goals can also come together to create slates of delegate candidates, like the one formed by McGill, Blackmon, Hellebrand, King and Marwah. Their slate was formed to nominate President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for another term, explained Dr. Jim Moyer, community advocate and chair of Ocoee’s Human Relations Diversity Board, who turned out Saturday to support King. Moyer is hoping to be elected by the district delegates as one of Florida’s 49 at-large delegates. That election takes place June 1.

Since the Florida Democratic Party declared Biden the winner of the Florida Primary, all Florida delegates are pledged to support Biden at the convention.

Once chosen, delegates meet with party leaders, vote on the party rules and platform and assist in nominating the presidential candidate. For Hellebrand, this fulfills a childhood dream.

“President Joe Biden has been a political hero of mine for as long as I can remember,” he said.

McGill described the delegate’s role as one where “people from all over the country have an opportunity to be heard.” As a Biden delegate for CD-10 in 2020, McGill understands the duties and responsibilities. “We work to represent everyone — not just one group,” he said. “It is critical to have a representative slate of candidates.”

This year, their slate is a diverse mix of women and men, Black, Brown and White, gay and straight.

Delegates also work to involve people in the district in the political process. Hellebrand said this involves attending meetings for Democratic groups, networking with members of the community and explaining the delegate process to voters.

Blackmon, for whom serving as a delegate is akin to having a front row seat to history, said many voters don’t understand that every vote matters. “It’s not just about the presidential election,” she said. “Local politics has the most impact on our day-to-day lives.” She added that many people don’t know their representatives or congresspeople, even though they make direct decisions that affect them and their surrounding area. Her goal, along with other candidates, is to amplify the importance of every single vote and election.

This becomes particularly important since all vote-by-mail requests were purged after the 2022 election. Requests to vote by mail must now be made for each federal election cycle. Many voters may not be aware that their mail ballot requests have expired and must be renewed.

Hellebrand is also pushing the message that every vote counts. He explained that he tries to draw younger voters into the political action. “Knowing that voting for delegates can affect the outcome of an election is important,” he said.

Blackmon believes that people do care about politics but that competing priorities, like work and family life, are vying for their attention. Plus, an element of political fatigue has settled in. She thinks people are “turning the volume down and taking a step back” from politics” because they’re “disillusioned with the process.”

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