Politics, government and public life for Southern California

California has lousy convention seats, but delegate finds the best of the worst

Keith Umemoto is attending his sixth Democratic convention

Thursday night, Barack Obama makes his case to the nation at the Democratic National Convention why he should be re-elected. Everyone in the arena wants a good look at the president. 

Keith Umemoto, originally from Los Angeles, is a convention veteran. His father took him to conventions as a child. This is his sixth convention as a delegate.

He says that experience helps him snag the good seats. 

Rule 1: Get there early.

As soon as the doors open to delegates, Umemoto is inside the arena. Today that was 1 p.m. ET.

Rule 2: Scope it out.

Umemoto says he surveys the landscape and picks his spot.

Rule 3: Make the best of a bad deal.

Umemoto says California's seats "are not as prime as Illinois or Delaware." That's because there's no Californian on the ticket and we're a reliable "blue" state.

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Unhappy Muslim delegates react to vote on Jerusalem at Democratic Convention

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Christian pilgrims carry wooden crosses along the Via Dolorosa during the Good Friday procession in Jerusalem's old city in 2011.

Wednesday night's Democratic National Convention got off to a rocky start. Convention Chairman and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa asked delegates for a voice vote on a platform amendment to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It didn't go well.

Some members of the California delegation are not pleased with the vote or the way it was handled.

Several delegates complained they weren’t told in advance about the amendment. Others said it should have required a ballot, not a voice vote. Muslim delegate Abdul Rahman of Antioch said some members of the Arab Caucus weren’t even in their seats when the vote was taken. He maintained there's no rift right now with the party or President Obama, "but we just need to do things a little better with communication."

Another Muslim delegate said because Jerusalem is significant to Christians, Jews and Muslims, it should be treated like Vatican City — as an autonomous municipality that doesn’t belong to any single country.  

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Hotel difficulties for CA delegates inspire poetry

It's been a rough week for the Blake Hotel and the California delegation.

The hotel's been undergoing remodeling for months. They didn't quite work out all the bugs before opening their doors to the convention's largest delegation. A chunk of plaster fell off the building on Friday. The city reportedly condemned a few rooms for not being up to code. Guests got stuck in an elevator. One floor had no hot water, another no cold water. One guest said there was water dripping from his ceiling. 

Californians haven't been shy about complaining. Loudly. The state party set up a special e-mail address for delegates to give feedback on their lodgings. Glad it's not me reading those complaints!

The staff has bent over backwards to try putting collective fingers in the many leaking dikes. Several I've talked to are working many, many overtime hours.

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Villaraigosa photobombs the DNC: Mayor says he'll fly back to LA ASAP if needed, but also hobnobs (photos)

Democratic National Convention: Day 1

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Mayor Villaraigosa speaks during day one of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on Sept. 4, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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First Lady Michelle Obama is embraced by Los Angeles mayor and Democratic Convention chair Antonio Villaraigosa after delivering a speech at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept. 4, 2012 on the first day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC).

Democratic National Convention: Day 1

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Cory Booker cheers as Mayor Villaraigosa speaks on day one of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on Sept. 4, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Los Angeles Mayor and Democratic Convention Chair Antonio Villaraigosa kisses Chair of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz shortly after she gaveled in the convention at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept. 4, 2012 on the first day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC).

Democratic Convention

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Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, left, is led to the podium by Los Angeles Mayor and Democratic Convention Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012.

Democratic National Convention: Day 1

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Mayor Villaraigosa approaches Cory Booker open armed for a hug during day one of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on Sept. 4, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Newark Mayor Cory Booker (R) is welcomed by Los Angeles Mayor and Democratic Convention Chair Antonio Villaraigosa (C) at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept. 4, 2012 on the first day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC).

Democratic National Convention: Day 1

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Mayor Villaraigosa speaks during day one of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on Sept. 4, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Democratic National Convention: Day 1

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DNC Chair Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (C) gives an interview during day one of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on Sept. 4, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Los Angeles Mayor and Democratic Convention Chair Antonio Villaraigosa makes a point following the gaveling open at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept. 4, 2012 on the first day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC).

Democratic National Convention: Day 1

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DNC Chair Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks during day one of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on Sept. 4, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Los Angeles Mayor and Democratic Convention Chair Antonio Villaraigosa reacts as he exits the stage at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept. 4, 2012 on the first day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC).


Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is in Charlotte all week, chairing the Democratic National Convention. But what happens if a wildfire takes a turn for the worse or some other local crisis erupts?

Villaraigosa said that if something serious happens that requires not just his attention "from afar," he'll "take the first plane out and be back." The mayor said he's on the phone every other hour, checking in with city hall and tending to L.A. government business.

He said the DNC and the Obama campaign know that if he needs to leave town to tackle a crisis in L.A., he'll do it.

Villaraigosa has been on the road quite a bit. He's made frequent trips to Washington, lobbying Congress for transportation loans. More recently, the Obama campaign has sent him to swing states such as Nevada to rally voters for the November election.

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DNC moves Obama speech inside due to rain — which could leave some out in the cold

2008 Democratic National Convention: Day 4

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Then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) reacts to the crowd on day four of the 2008 Democratic National Convention (DNC) at Invesco Field at Mile High Aug. 28, 2008 in Denver, Colorado.

Despite earlier statements by officials, the Democratic National Convention is moving President Barack Obama's Thursday night speech from an outdoor football stadium inside to the much smaller basketball arena, putting Obama in a potentially less dramatic setting — and possibly leaving many expecting to see the president's speech out in the cold.

Los Angeles Mayor and convention chairman Antonio Villaraigosa was asked earlier this week about how the weather might affect Obama's speech, which was to be delivered before more than 70,000 people in the city's football stadium. "The show must go on," Villaraigosa said.

Wednesday morning, as rain fell again, the DNC gave in. It's rained every day since I arrived on Saturday. Tuesday, delegates who mistimed their departure from their hotel arrived at the Time Warner Arena drenched from a series of downpours.

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