August 3, 2016

Hughes and Zwicker Share Reflections On Exciting Democratic Convention


CONVENTION CELEBRATIONS: This was the view for Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, delegate at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week, as Hillary Clinton was officially nominated for president and much of the dissension from earlier in the week subsided. (Photo Courtesy of Brian Hughes)

This election year, America and the world have had ample opportunity to observe democracy in action, like it or not — most recently at the Republican and Democratic Conventions.

Two local participants in the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16) shared their thoughts on the experience and the process.

“Democracy is messy,” said Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16), who was not a delegate but attended receptions and meetings on three of the four days of the Democratic Convention.

Mr. Zwicker observed the positive attitude that prevailed. “It was optimistic, uplifting, energizing,” he said. “I was happy to be there. It was empowering. There was strong energy in everybody working together to get Hillary elected.”

Remaining outside the convention hall and interacting with New Jersey delegates and others at a variety of informal sessions, Mr. Zwicker described some negative sentiment among Bernie Sanders supporters at first, but saw that mood change during the four days.

“On day one there was clearly some remaining dissension between Bernie supporters and Hillary supporters, but among the people I talked with that changed quickly,” he stated. “The division in the Democratic Party has been good for the party and has helped to point it in the right direction.”

Mr. Zwicker voiced his support and optimism for the Clinton campaign over the next three months. “It is important that Hillary Clinton continues to make her case for why she’s an outstanding candidate,” he added. “It’s a positive message. She has a wealth of experience. She is the candidate to bring the country forward, as opposed to the negative message of Donald Trump and his supporters.”

Mr. Hughes, who is no stranger to national political conventions, starting in 1964 when, at the age of 6, he went with his father, former New Jersey Governor Richard Hughes, to the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City, was also upbeat about the Philadelphia event.

“It was a good convention,” he said. “At the beginning there was a lot of disruption inside and outside the convention hall. There were people holding onto hurt feelings and the fact that they lost a close race. But by the end of the week we were leaving Philadelphia with one agenda in mind.”

Adding that there were “a lot of big speeches,” including those by Chelsea and Hillary Clinton, Mr. Hughes pointed out that President Obama’s address, “one of his last big speeches in office,” was “a big moment for him and the convention.”

As a delegate for the fifth time, Mr. Hughes noted particularly the presentation that has stirred much conflict with Donald Trump in the press during the past week. “The biggest speech for me,” Mr. Hughes said, “was a Muslim couple talking about their son who died in service to the U.S. Marine Corps. They were very very straight forward in what they said, with a lot of emotion behind it. It was about their son and about whether Donald Trump knew what was in the Constitution. It was a very poignant moment for me.”

In Philadelphia with Mr. Hughes was his 17-year-old son, who had also attended the 2008 convention in Denver. “It was an exciting time for him,” according to Mr. Hughes, who predicted, “It’s going to be a very close race — maybe not here in New Jersey, but around the country, it’s going to be very close.”

Chairman of the Princeton Republican Committee, Dudley Sipprelle, a John Kasich supporter, reported, “to my knowledge no local Republicans attended the Republican Convention. Neither of our local State legislators attended.”

Mercer County Republican Committee Chair Lisa Richford was an alternate delegate, and though she did not go to Cleveland, she commented that the Republican Convention was “much more issue-oriented than the Democratic Convention. Those were the issues I wanted to hear about and the constituents of Mercer County and the middle class wanted to hear about.”