Monday, Sept. 3, 2012 | 12:52 p.m.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If the Republican National Convention had a mantra, it was “We Built It,” a slogan coined to spite President Barack Obama for telling business owners in July that “you didn’t build that.”
Democrats have been furious with Republicans for taking those comments, intended to be about public infrastructure, not private enterprise, out of context. So it seemed fitting that the Nevada delegation’s first organized activity of the Democratic National Convention was to build something.
“We’re all about building it. Barack Obama’s been building it since he was first elected. And rebuilding it. And we’re going to continue to build,” said Nevada delegation leader Roberta Lange.
Nevada’s delegates joined teams from other states late Monday morning to paint walls and hammer nails into a modular home intended for a yet-to-be-named military veteran in suburban Charlotte.
The timing of the building-focused service project was simply serendipitous; corporate sponsors Sears, Craftsman, Bank of America and Champion Home Builders, and nonprofits Heroes at Home and Rebuilding Together have been coordinating with the Democratic and Republican parties for months to orchestrate the home-building project. One half of the 1,670-square-foot home was constructed at the RNC; the remainder will be completed at the DNC.
But while the spirit of the project was service, the specter of politics was inescapable.
Each state got 45 minutes to work on the structure — meaning Nevada’s team of about 40 volunteers wielded its tools and tape in two 20-minute shifts.
“I’d rather go for an hour and work and say I did something for these people,” said Nevada delegate Richard Collins, shrugging at the limited schedule.
More than one paint roller-wielding volunteer appeared to be going over a wall that had been well-covered with previous coats, and it appeared that most of the structural building work had been done well in advance of the volunteers’ arrival.
“I only hammered one nail,” said Nevada delegate Linda Cavazos, who said that partially was due to the fact that her husband, Bob Cavazos, an alternate delegate and an experienced electrician, had dominated their workspace.
“We have way too many volunteers for the amount of work we can easily and safely do in the home,” Matt DeFerranti, senior director of federal affairs at Rebuilding Together, said to the Nevada crew.
But it wasn’t just 40 volunteers trying to squeeze with their paintbrushes and ladders into the 800-square-foot site. Local television crews also were out in full force, do-si-doing with volunteers as they took turns, and took pictures of themselves, at work.
One Charlotte NBC affiliate reporter asked members of the Nevada delegation whether they realized they were participating in a bipartisan effort, as last week, Republican delegates were working on the same project.
For Nevada, the project actually wasn’t a bipartisan effort. Rebuilding Together staffers confirmed that the Nevada Republican delegation had not participated in the project in Tampa, Fla.
But Nevada’s Democratic delegates didn’t quibble on that point. They simply nodded yes, as alternate delegate Elizabeth Foyt added, “But the Democrats are finishing the job.”