BRIDGEWATER, NJ - She will be one of 1,900 delegates casting a vote for Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention next week, and will be present at the first convention set to nominate the first woman candidate for president of the United States.
And for Bridgewater resident Sandra Rhue, she is proud to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime convention.
“I am very fortunate that, in my lifetime, I have an opportunity to vote for a presidential candidate who has inspired and educated millions, and who cares deeply about our nation’s future,” she said. “But equally important, I will be present at the Democratic National Committee Convention that nominates the first woman for president of the United States of America.”
Rhue was the only Bridgewater resident to have a delegate position this year at either the Democratic or Republican national conventions.
“This is the first time I have been a delegate to the DNCC,” she said. “I ran for a delegate position in 1984 when Jesse Jackson ran for president, but Jackson didn’t win our district.”
Rhue said becoming a delegate is open to anyone in the party in the state. The process involves applying to the NJ State Democrat Committee to be a delegate, and then the national candidate selects his delegates to run.
“I was selected by the Bernie Sanders campaign team to represent him,” she said.
Rhue said she was then required to gather signatures, and she collected more than 100 names from registered democrats in delegate district 13 so she could appear on the June primary ballot.
“After the June primary, the official delegates were selected based on several criteria, but mainly apportioned by the number of votes received by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in the Delegate District,” she said. “In DD 13, I was selected along with one other Bernie Sanders delegate and one Clinton delegate.”
“The platform that will be submitted at the Democratic National Convention for my vote in Philadelphia is the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party,” she added. “It is the delegates’ job to push and fight to transform these words into law. I go to this convention not just as a delegate for Bernie Sanders, I go to bear witness to this platform.”
A resident of Bridgewater for 30 years, Rhue said she grew up in South Carolina during the days of segregation and the Civil Rights Movement.
“I was acutely aware of racial injustices and discrimination,” she said. “Since my high school days, I fought for equality. I never thought of it as politics, all I knew was that things had to change, and I wanted to be a part of the process and make a difference in people’s lives.”
When she moved to New Jersey, Rhue said, she volunteered on the mayoral campaigns of Kenneth Gibson in Newark and William S. Hart in East Orange. When she moved to New Brunswick, she won Democratic committeewoman for her district.
“I worked on many social causes while servicing on the board of trustees of the New Brunswick Civic League,” she said. “Now, I am active in the Bridgewater Democratic Party.”
Rhue said she was drawn to the Democratic party because her core values were more in sync with them.
“Today, Democrats are still focused on improving the lives of women, children and minorities by increasing the minimum wages, lowering the cost of education and closing the income gap,” she said. “I believe that America will be stronger when everyone gets a fair shot at meaningful employment, plays by the same rules and has equal access to education, information and other public resources. That is why I am a Democrat.”
To prepare for the convention, which is being held July 25 through July 29 in Philadelphia, delegates have been having pre-convention meetings and conference calls, Rhue said. In addition, she said, she is reviewing DNC rules and focusing on issues she will want to address at women and black caucus meetings.
“My goal is to have fun while attending meetings, receptions, breakfasts and parties,” she said. “I would like to get a lot of selfies with President and Mrs. Obama, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and other politicians. I would like to network with other delegates with similar beliefs to discuss how we can continue the progressive changes to transform America.”
Rhue said she is looking forward to meeting delegates from other parts of the country to collaborate on change and discuss current issues of important to women and the African-American community, including disparities in the justice system, voter protection, African American polling data and more.
“This is my first time going to a DNC convention,” she said. “I don’t exactly know what to expect. But it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will not forget.”
“Now, more than ever, our country needs a political revolution,” she added. “After the convention, we must get involved in the local, state and national elections to work toward these changes.”