Oct. 20, 2014
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Rep. Donna Edwards speaks at the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday.

Donna Edwards Afforded Rare Speech Opportunity at Convention

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It is fairly obvious that Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has tried to turn the Democratic National Convention into a coming-out party for a future presidential run.

But obscured in the political shadow he cast, it was also a big week for another Maryland Democrat: Rep. Donna Edwards.

Opportunities to leverage a convention are rare and difficult for an ambitious politician to execute. How this week played out for her is a window into how a convention can elevate a backbencher within a political party's hierarchy.

When Edwards came to Charlotte by car on Sunday, it was already shaping up to be an important week. But the stakes were about to get much higher. Earlier in the day, she moved up the television food chain, advancing from appearances on the cable news networks to one of her first Sunday show appearances, on ABC's "This Week."

The highlight of the week ahead was her minute-long scheduled address to the Democratic convention in Time Warner Cable Arena - along with a few other female House Democrats. Edwards had written a few biographical remarks for her Tuesday night appearance.

But during that car ride on Sunday, she received a call from Broderick Johnson of the Obama campaign, asking her to instead speak for four minutes at Bank of America Stadium at 7 p.m. Thursday. Whereas so many up-and-comers jockey for any sort of moment on the stage, Edwards flatly denied she had engaged in any lobbying.

Her overbooked schedule instantly changed. Everything now revolved around the Thursday speech. The upgrade left her thrilled but "petrified."

It was a different story four years ago, when Edwards was a brand-new Member of Congress thanks to a special election. She had just successfully ousted then-Rep. Albert Wynn in a primary, despite his having the support of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Maryland establishment.

This time around, Edwards spent the first part of the week making delegation breakfast appearances, but the speech was always on her mind.

On Tuesday, she mulled it over in a car packed with her entourage as they drove from the Maryland breakfast to speech rehearsals.

"I would say so, yes," she said, when asked if this was the largest crowd she would ever speak in front of. She then laughed from anxiety.

Her staff took jovial delight at her stage fright.

"I have no idea what I'm wearing on Thursday," she admitted moments later, adding that there would be no rushing out to a department store in the next 48 hours.

"I almost always over-pack. When I packed, I didn't know I would be speaking on Thursday. And so, whatever's in the bag is what's gonna happen."

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