PHILADELPHIA — The Democratic National Convention was off to a rocky start Monday when Rep. Marcia L. Fudge took the stage.
The Ohio Democrat is the permanent chairwoman of the convention in Philadelphia, where supporters of presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton have clashed with disaffected supporters of her primary challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Delegates began to break out into boos and cheers as the opening prayer began the proceedings. Boos erupted when Fudge referenced Clinton, but she wasn’t having any of it.
“There are many of you in this room that do not know me,” Fudge told the raucous crowd. “Let me say to you, I intend to be fair. I want to hear the varying opinions here.”
“I am going to be respectful of you,” she said sternly. “And I want you to be respectful of me.”
Clinton supporters in the crowd erupted in cheers.
People who know Fudge said they were not surprised at her reaction to the crowd.
“You saw how she handled this room,” said Janine Boyd, an Ohio state representative from Fudge’s district. “She really does demand respect and respects everyone back.”
“As a woman and a woman of color, it’s not unfamiliar to us to have people over talk us, block our voices and interrupt us,” Boyd said.
The four-term congresswoman first entered Congress in 2008. She succeeded Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who had died suddenly just before the Democrats’ convention in Denver that year. Fudge worked as Tubbs’ chief of staff before becoming mayor of a Cleveland suburb. She began her career in a county prosecutor’s office after earning her law degree.
In Congress, Fudge rose to chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, the self-described “Conscience of Congress.” She stepped down from the position in 2014.
The current caucus chairman, Rep. G.K. Butterfield said Monday night that he was not surprised that Fudge was tapped to chair the convention.
“She’s very methodical in the way she thinks. She’s very fair,” the North Carolina Democrat said. “She is one of the most capable members of the Congressional Black Caucus for this type of assignment.”
A Sanders delegate from her state also praised Fudge for firing back at dissenters.
“It’s about having respect,” said Stephanie Howse, a state representative. “You can agree to disagree but there is a time and a place for everything.”