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Marengo County represented at DNC

This year’s Democratic National Convention, which kicked off last night in the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo., figures to be one of the most historic events in recent political history.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama will be formally introduced as the party’s presidential nominee Thursday – the first African-American to hold that distinction.

“This is truly a historic event,” Billy Coplin, Chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee of Marengo County, said. “The last time the convention was held in a stadium of this size was when John F. Kennedy was nominated.”

Coplin, who arrived in Denver Saturday, is attending his first convention as a representative of Marengo County and will not be a voting delegate.

“Coming here is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said.

Approximately 300 Alabama Democrats will be in the state contingent in Denver, although Alabama’s official delegation includes 78 delegates, alternates and standing committee members.

According to the Alabama Democratic Party, the rest of the delegation will consist of elected officials, county chairs, college Democrats and local activists.

Democrats opened their national convention on Monday, seeking peace in the family as they pursue victory in the fall for Barack Obama and his historic quest for the White House.

An appearance by the ailing, aging Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and a primetime speech by Obama’s wife, Michelle, headlined the convention’s first night.

In excerpts released in advance, the would-be first lady said she and her husband were raised with solid American values: “that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do, that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.”

The convention’s opening gavel fell with Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton still struggling to work out the choreography for the formal roll call of the states that will make him — a 47-year-old senator bidding to become the first black president — the party nominee.

“There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is Barack Obama’s convention,” the former first lady told reporters. And yet, she said, some of her delegates “feel an obligation to the people who sent them here” and would vote for her.

As the delegates took their seats in the Pepsi Center, Obama campaigned in Iowa, the first in a string of swing states he is visiting en route to Colorado. He arranged to watch his wife’s speech on television later from Kansas City, then speak briefly to the convention via a huge TV screen.

Public opinion polls made the race with Republican John McCain a close one, unexpectedly so given a widespread desire for change in an era of economic uncertainty, continuing conflict in Iraq and poor approval ratings for GOP President Bush.

Obama delivers his acceptance speech on Thursday at a football stadium, before a crowd likely to total 75,000 or more. Then he and Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, his vice presidential running mate, depart for the fall campaign.

– the Associated Press contributed to this report.