My Day at the Democratic Rural Conference
The Democratic Rural Conference of New York State was founded in 1996 to support and unite the rural counties of upstate New York as a single force. It was also created to assist New York Democratic candidates at all levels of government. The Democratic Rural Conference is an opportunity to meet and mix with other rural Democratic candidates and their supporters. This year’s annual spring conference was held April 27th and 28th in Corning, New York at the Radisson Hotel under the theme, “Shaping the Future.” Governor Cuomo, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, and Comptroller DiNapoli were all expected to attend Friday’s opening reception and dinner.
I was really excited that the Governor and Senators were going to attend the conference. I arrived a couple hours early as I hoped to ask at least one of them a question that I thought was important to my community in Corning: Meth labs are popping up all over our community at an alarming rate. Not only in rural settings but in short distances from our schools. What is your reaction to this? How as a legislator are you planning on to deal with this epidemic? After about an hour of waiting around to talk to someone, I ran into a friend who gave me the scoop that Governor Cuomo was not going to be attending the conference because, as rumor had it, protesters were showing up. I thought to myself that there was no way the Governor was not going to attend because of some protesters. Really? That seems pretty lame if you ask me. Besides, I had not seen anyone protesting or picketing when I arrived.
Well, a short time went by and I received a text message: “Picketers in back parking lot, if you’re interested.” Why yes I was, I thought as I grabbed my jacket and camera and headed out the door. I was wondering what they were protesting. As I walked out the back door I heard shouts of “No fracking way!” I listened for a bit and took some photos and headed back inside. I wanted to secure my spot for when Governor Cuomo made his welcoming speech. Yep, I still believed he was coming. I mean 75 or so protesters were not going to keep him from attending the conference, right?! By the end of the protest there were over 200 protesters.
I spent the next couple hours holding down my spot and listening to what everyone had to offer. What I heard was what had already been said earlier. Cuomo was not coming, most said, because of the protesters. For all we knew he could have been hunkered down in the state capital hammering out details of new legislation. All I know for sure is that the Governor was not there and the protesters were.
With all the attendees enjoying their drinks and getting ready for their dinner, I still had not seen the Senators and the Governor was a no-show. I decided to pack it in and head for home, wishing that I had spent more time with the protesters. After all, they had more action outside at their shindig than the Democrats had at theirs!