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Florida Democrats have top-notch lodging, big numbers in Charlotte

Will Saunders, of Longwood, near Orlando, is greeted by Larry Gaddy of Charlotte, N.C., Monday night in downtown Charlotte. A state delegate for two years, this is Saunders first time being a national convention delegate. “Had to get out my Florida orange,” he said. Saunders said he was in the Air Force then he worked in the postal service for 25 years, retiring in 2007.

KATHLEEN FLYNN l Times

Will Saunders, of Longwood, near Orlando, is greeted by Larry Gaddy of Charlotte, N.C., Monday night in downtown Charlotte. A state delegate for two years, this is Saunders first time being a national convention delegate. “Had to get out my Florida orange,” he said. Saunders said he was in the Air Force then he worked in the postal service for 25 years, retiring in 2007.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Florida Republicans may not want to read this story.

As the Democratic National Convention begins this week, Florida Democrats are staying in one of Charlotte's best hotels, the Marriott City Center, a mere five-minute walk from where the festivities will take place.

"This is going to be the most wonderful experience for me," said Elena McCullough, a 51-year-old from Wesley Chapel. "I am so excited to be surrounded by all these enthusiastic people from all across the United States."

Aside from top-notch lodging, the size of the Florida delegation swelled this year to 363 — which includes 300 voting delegates, the highest number ever.

"It underscores just how Florida is going to be one of the most important states in this year's elections," said Brannon Jordan, communications director for the Florida Democratic Party. "And the party wants Florida delegates to feel appreciated. It's a good motivator for them to work hard after the convention, to go back home and get energized about this election."

By contrast, Florida Republicans were exiled last week as punishment for holding their 2012 primary earlier than the GOP allowed. The delegation was cut in half — to 50 voting delegates — and they were banished to the Innisbrook Golf and Spa Resort, about 30 miles from the convention in downtown Tampa.

The punishment felt worse, however, when several bus drivers got lost or were late. The delays caused delegates to miss parts of the convention. On one trip back, a bus driver mistakenly took some delegates to the Seminole Hard Rock Casino. They didn't get back until well after 3 a.m.

During the last two days, organizers provided more buses for the delegates and no other problems were reported.

But Democrats took note. They issued a news release of their accommodations after reports of the GOP's bus delays were published. And as delegates know, no price is too high for proximity to power.

"I'm not sure I'm happy about paying $482 a night to stay here," said Evelyn Fox, a Gainesville resident. "But there's something to be said for convenience. It's worth it."

Florida Democrats have top-notch lodging, big numbers in Charlotte 09/03/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 6:18pm]
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