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Sen. Kevin Thomas takes part in first virtual DNC

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The 2020 Democratic National Convention did not include the usual fanfare, throngs of cheering crowds and delegates rubbing elbows and mingling with one another.

The convention was set to take place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where delegates would rally behind and cast their vote for Democratic presidential nominee. But to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s DNC featured a blend of pre-recorded videos, live coverage and Zoom calls highlighting speakers and performers from across the U.S. and its territories.

This was the first DNC for State Senator Kevin Thomas, of Levittown, who has represented the state’s sixth district for nearly two years after unseating 15-term incumbent Sen. Kemp Hannon in the 2018 election.

He said he was looking forward to celebrating the Democratic party with fellow delegates from across the country. However, he said that the DNC translated to the virtual platform in a “creative” and “touching” manner that inspired unity by showcasing the personalities and backgrounds of each delegate.

“I especially liked the roll call and hearing the description of each delegate’s choices,” he said. “I think that’s something that they could definitely bring back at the next DNC.”

The second day of the event included a compilation of prerecorded segments in which delegates from the country’s 57 states and territories officially cast their delegates’ votes for president. The roll call kicked off in Selma, Alabama, where Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell gave a tribute to civil rights activist and Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who died in July.

New York’s roll call, filmed with a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline, featured Scheena Iyandé Robyn Tannis, an immigrant from St. Vincent and the Grenadines and a registered nurse at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn.

“I am proud to be part of America’s fight against Covid-19,” she said. “But many health care workers don’t get paid sick leave or have enough protective equipment. I have two children with asthma and a mother who’s high risk. I worry every day about bringing this virus home to them. Joe Biden’s plan will help us take better care of your loved ones as well as our own.”

Along with State Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, she cast New York’s votes: 44 for Bernie Sanders and 277 for Joe Biden.

In addition to signing in to the virtual roll call over Zoom, Thomas spent breakfast each morning of the convention with fellow delegates through videoconference. The New York State Democratic Committee led the Zoom call, where Chairman Jay Jacobs, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and other democratic leaders delivered speeches to the delegates.

When watching the four-day event, Thomas said he was especially moved by speeches delivered by Barrack and Michelle Obama. The former First Lady spoke on the first night of the convention from her living room wearing a necklace that read, “vote.”

“Hearing them both speak again was breathtaking,” he said. “It felt like they were speaking directly to the American people.”

The takeaway from the week, Thomas said, was to hold on to hope. “We’re gonna get through this darkness phase that we’re in right now,” he said. “And I believe that Biden and Harris will unite this country.”