Although we didn’t formalize until later, our club had its origins in the 2004 election. I remember going to the Ironworkers Hall in Mango for the first organizational gathering of John Kerry’s presidential campaign: the hall overflowed, with people waiting in a long line outside. Signing up to volunteer seemed efficient, as there were banks of computers to immediately input contact information. After a general pep rally, people were divided by precincts, and Garry Miracle stepped forward to lead those of us in the 800s, the Brandon precincts. Everyone was delighted to see that there were a bunch of us who lived in what many consider the fens and bogs of East Hillsborough County.
But the Kerry headquarters moved to West Shore, and some of us EH folks felt forgotten. Moreover, when the campaign ended in defeat, that invaluable contact info of our Democratic neighbors almost was lost. That had happened many times before, as state and national campaigns routinely closed their doors without sharing these assets with the permanent Democratic organizations. This time, Garry (and his terrific wife, Karen) rescued Kerry databases relating to East Hillsborough, and I began compiling additional databases from campaigns in which I (and my husband, Roy) had worked since 1974. We used those phone numbers and addresses to begin reaching out to others -- most of whom also had been told that there were no other Democrats in East Hillsborough.
Our first planning meeting, on a cold January night at the Valrico Recreation Center, brought us the aptly named Angie and Mike Angel – who already had the wonderful e-mail address of DemsinBrandon@aol.com! Jeff Grabel also was there, and we soon elected him as our first president. James Randolph came with a friend, and James also would be president; Don and Roz Moffett each followed. Frances White was at that first meeting, too; she’s been busy with other activities lately, but remains a good Democrat. Thus, with the Miracles and the Weatherfords, there were nine at that first meeting.
Roy made a big plywood sign that we toted on top his van to future meetings, which pointed the way to the rather obscure rec center. People found it, and within months, we had multiplied to dozens. When we made our first triumphal appearance at the Brandon 4th of July parade – along with our own Lisa Rodriguez, running for County Commission -- everyone could see that political life in East Hillsborough never would be the same!
*Written by Doris Weatherford, Historian and a Club Founding Member, August 4, 2010.
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The East Hillsborough Democratic Club was established in 2006 and is certified by the Florida Democratic Party (FDP).