WHEELING -- Democratic U.S. House candidates Charlie Wilson in Ohio and Sue Thorn in West Virginia won't attend this summer's Democratic National Convention, their respective campaigns said Tuesday.
While nonincumbent congressional candidates don't receive the same automatic "super delegate" status as their elected counterparts, they can attend the national gathering on their own if they so wish or seek election as a delegate, officials explained.
Thorn is a candidate in West Virginia's 1st Congressional District; and Wilson, in Ohio's 6th District.
"Occasionally they do attend," said Derek Scarbro, executive director of the West Virginia Democratic Party. "Usually, about half our 'super delegates' who are elected officials actually attend."
On Monday, West Virginia "super delegates" Sen. Joe Manchin, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-Beckley, announced they would not attend the 2012 Democratic National Convention, set for Sept. 3-6 in Charlotte, N.C. All have expressed concerns about the policies of Democratic President Barack Obama.
Erin Beck, spokeswoman for Thorn, said Thorn would have to be elected by those attending the recent state Democratic Party convention if she wished to attend the national convention as a regular delegate. She has been a supporter of Obama.
"She did not turn down any designated spot, she just didn't enter the race to be a delegate," Beck said.
Instead, Thorn has plans to campaign in the district while the convention takes place.
"She quit her job (with the West Virginia Education Association) to be a full-time candidate," Beck noted. "It is her priority to campaign at that time."
The issue of politicians supporting Obama isn't as contentious an issue in Ohio as it is in West Virginia, said J.W. Starrett, spokesman for Wilson.
"We will not be attending mainly for scheduling reasons and existing campaign events," he said. "We will be attending the Ohio State Democratic Party convention dinner in late July."
Rocky Fitzsimmons, co-chairman of the Ohio County Democratic Party, said he understands Manchin, Tomblin and Rahall must make decisions they believe are best for their campaigns.
"That said, would I like my top officials to represent West Virginia at the Democratic National Convention? Absolutely," Fitzsimmons said. "I do believe there is a strong portion of the party that supports the president, and it always will exist. I sense there is some disappointment in some pockets of the party about their decision.
"Still, others realize the unpopularity of the president - real or created by media - has created an uncomfortable environment for Democratic candidates to run. They realize the reality of the situation."
West Virginia "super delegates" who say they will be present at the Democratic National Convention are Sen. Jay Rockefeller; Secretary of State Natalie Tennant; Rob Snyder, president of the Young Democrats of America; Alice Germond, Democratic National Committee secretary; Larry Puccio, state Democratic Party chairman; Belinda Biafore, state party vice chairman; Pat Maroney, state party national committee member; and Elaine Harris, state party national committee member.
There are another eight delegates and one alternate selected from each of West Virginia's three congressional districts, for a total of 41 additional delegates. No local residents were selected by the party to fill any of the 1st District delegate slots.
State Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Glen Dale, however, was chosen by Puccio to fill one of two available appointed positions to the delegation, along with Phyllis White of Mingo County.
Female delegates selected to represent Ohio's 6th District at the national convention, meanwhile, include Belmont County residents Diane Conroy of Jacobsburg and Denise Leach of Barnesville, along with Allyson Patrice Beard from Athens County. Drusilla Ice of Bellaire was chosen female alternate.
Former Belmont County Democratic Chairman Ed Good of Shadyside was selected as one of the male delegates, as was Jefferson County resident Jeremy Eikenberry of Mount Pleasant.