In one week, seven San Luis Obispo County residents will trade the sun and cool breezes of the Central Coast for the humidity and cheesesteaks of Philadelphia.
And one is already headed there with a few celebrities.
Six local delegates and one alternate from San Luis Obispo County will represent the 24th Congressional District at the Democratic National Convention from July 25 to 28 in the City of Brotherly Love. Democratic Party caucuses to elect delegates were held in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties in May, with San Luis Obispo County candidates getting the most votes.
Mike Heyl, Cory Black and Susan Rose were chosen as delegates for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Heidi Harmon, Nick Andre and Sherri Stoddard are delegates for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Bob Canfield, an 18-year-old recent graduate of Mission College Prep, is an alternate. A Sanders delegate, Canfield was selected after the senator received more votes than Clinton in the 24th District in the June 7 primary.
Harmon said delegates made separate travel plans to Philadelphia.
“It was almost certain that I would go, so I made my plans early,” said Harmon, a community activist and 25-year San Luis Obispo County resident who ran unsuccessfully for the 35th District Assembly seat against Republican incumbent Katcho Achadjian in 2014.
Harmon chose an unconventional route to her first Democratic convention. On Sunday, she left on a cross-country road trip with a group of activists that includes actresses Shailene Woodley and Rosario Dawson and film director Josh Fox. The idea, she said, is to try to build on the political movement the Sanders campaign inspired.
“It’s called the Up to Us Ride to the DNC,” Harmon said. “We plan on traveling for a week and will be stopping in communities along the way to grow awareness and empower folks in local communities to get more involved.”
Harmon said the costs associated with attending the DNC are a burden for some delegates, particularly hotel rates of $700 to $800 per night.
“People are getting roommates and trying to make it work,” she said, “but there are a lot of people who are regular citizens and don’t have any outside moneymaking mechanisms.”
Heyl, 57, vice chairman of the San Luis Obispo Democratic Central Committee and a retired teacher, is spending much of his advance time figuring out what he will be doing during his four days at the convention.
“I’m getting information about events that will be going on,” said Heyl of San Luis Obispo. “I’m really looking forward to those. In my teachers union, they are sending me to three different events.”
For Heyl, attending the DNC this year brings his political career full circle. He attended the convention for Bill Clinton in 1996 in Chicago.
When he realized another Clinton would most likely be heading this convention, he knew he had to caucus to go again. His hard work paid off, and he received the most votes for a Clinton delegate in both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
Heyl’s experience at the 1996 convention is helping him prepare for Philadelphia. He plans to meet the other California delegates each morning for breakfast at the Marriott Hotel Philadelphia Downtown, where the California delegation is assigned. Delegates will have the opportunity to attend a variety of events throughout the week.
“Each delegate has different interests between the platforms,” Heyl said. “For example, some delegates may be a part of a veterans’ committee, while others may want to go to the women’s caucus.”
Heyl said he’s most eager to learn from other delegates.
“I’m looking forward to just being with other Democrats from around the country and hearing about what is going on in their states and their communities,” he said. “The opportunity is fantastic.”
Taylor Carson is a journalist and a student at Temple University in Philadelphia. She will be reporting on the Democratic National Convention from Philadelphia as part of a groundbreaking project allowing students to cover the event for local newspapers, TV stations and digital outlets.