Eight Manatee County delegates attending the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte

MANATEE -- Manatee County sent a historic number of delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this week: seven from Florida's 13th Congressional District and one from the 11th Congressional District.

"It's the largest delegation we've ever sent to a presidential convention," said David Fernandez, interim chairman of the Manatee County Democratic Party. "The second-most was one delegate."

The 13th Congressional District is comprised of all or parts of five counties: Manatee, Sarasota, DeSoto, Hardee and Charlotte. The 11th Congressional District includes areas in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee counties.

The Democratic National Convention started Tuesday and will go through Thursday. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are scheduled to be officially nominated again

for office.

"It's incredible, there's so many of our leaders here, so many motivated people about the electoral process," Fernandez said in a phone interview Tuesday from Charlotte. "It's incredible for someone whose parents grew up in a country that doesn't have this ... to be able to witness and be part of this is a great American experience."

Fernandez's parents are from Cuba.

Local delegates will be attending various caucuses to discuss and learn how other states are encouraging people to vote, said Fernandez.

Tom Finnerty, a Bradenton resident and delegate at the Charlotte convention, said he heard a "riveting and inspiring" speech Tuesday from Newark's Mayor Cory Booker.

"There's lots of excitement and enthusiasm," Finnerty said. "If we win Florida, we'll win the elections. (Mitt) Romney cannot win the election without Florida."

He said he is confident Floridians will vote for Obama.

After the convention is over, the Manatee County delegates will hold a local meeting to talk about their experiences in Charlotte, Fernandez said.

Rita Ferrandino, chair of the Sarasota County Democratic Party -- part of the 13th Congressional District -- said three delegates from Sarasota are at the convention. The representatives attended a Florida delegation breakfast Tuesday where some guests spoke about the importance of health care affordability and job growth.

Some of the speakers had everyone standing and cheering, Ferrandino said.

Susie Copeland, a Manatee County delegate representing Florida's 11th Congressional District, said the convention has been "phenomenal" and filled with inspiring speeches already.

"I think people will leave here fired up and ready to go," Copeland said from Charlotte.

Copeland attended a women's caucus Tuesday where speakers mentioned the impact legislation has on women.

"He's not just jumping on women's issues," Copeland said of Obama. "He's been on women's issues."

The message of the Republican National Convention last week in Tampa, Copeland contended, did not reach the "99 percent of America."

"I don't think it spoke to us," she said. That "us" includes women, minorities, and seniors, Copeland added.

Copeland went to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, but this year is the first time she is attending as a delegate, she said.

"I'm almost speechless, I look around and see the diversity of our delegation," Copeland said. "I see it as an opportunity, not representing Susie Copeland, but representing my heritage, my grandparents, my great grandparents, my mom and dad ... I'm here representing my people, my party from Manatee County. I'm truly honored, I never dreamed of this in my life."

Fernandez said the local Democratic Party will be posting convention updates on social media platforms. Their text and photo updates can be found on their "Manatee County Democratic Party" Facebook page.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Miriam Valverde, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @MiriamValverde.