In 1984, a Mainer cast the first-ever vote for Joe Biden for president | #teacher | #children | #kids


By Election Day, more than 60 million people are likely to have voted for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

But back in 1984, there was only one.

Joe Biden in 1987 White House Television Office

At the Democratic National Convention that year, Mainer Keron Kerr — a 38-year-old second grade teacher from Bath — cast the first-ever vote for Biden to serve as president.

She said Monday that she always liked Biden and thought he of him as “an excellent speaker and very forward-thinking.”

Plus, Kerr said, “I always liked that smile.”

Kerr, who later served as the state Democratic chairwoman, moved to Florida two decades ago to be closer to family. She’s no longer active in party politics, but is thrilled that Biden has a shot to win the White House in next week’s election versus Republican President Donald Trump.

An uncommitted delegate at the Democratic convention in San Francisco in 1984, Kerr listened to Biden speaking in one of the many routine slots showcasing party luminaries and decided on the spot the Delaware senator deserved her backing.

“I don’t even know if I’m allowed to vote for him,” she told the Associated Press at the time.

Maine delegates announcing their votes at the 1984 Democratic National Convention. C-Span

When Maine announced her vote for Biden, delegates throughout the hall took note, with some laughter, as C-Span’s video of the roll call captured.

When they tallied the results at the Moscone Center, former Vice President Walter Mondale collected 1,921 votes to emerge with the party’s nomination over U.S. Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado. Biden, who didn’t seek the nomination that year, only got Kerr’s vote.

A reporter from the Wilmington newspaper in Biden’s home state tracked Kerr down to find out why she alone had unexpectedly picked him.

“Joe was my first choice,” Kerr told The News Journal. “I really think he is a future presidential candidate.”

She said she’d been flirting with the idea of backing Biden ever since she heard him talk the previous fall at the Maine Democratic Convention in Augusta, where the senator urged the party faithful to hand over the reins to a new generation of leaders, a theme Hart seized on during his strong but unsuccessful campaign.

Kerr, who served as the state party’s secretary in the mid-1980s, said she thought Biden was ready to be president. That was 36 years ago.

“He’s still forward-thinking,” she said. “He’s actually the person for today” as much as ever, Kerr said, someone who can bring people together at a time when the country is “a mess.”

Button from the Democratic National Convention in 1984.

Kerr said she’s only met Biden twice, once in Augusta and once several months after the 1984 convention.

That fall, when Kerr was working at a school in Portland as a reading coach, she got a phone call inviting her to attend a small fundraiser for U.S. Sen. George Mitchell of Maine in Biddeford. Biden would be there, she was told.

Kerr asked her principal if she could leave early and got the go-ahead.

“I went down to a little party,” she recalled, “and Joe walked in with George. They walked right over to me.”

When they reached her, she said, Biden “took my hand, got down on a knee and said ‘thank you so much.’”

In 1984, Kerr was one of two uncommitted delegates sent to the convention from Maine. The rest of the 27-person Maine delegation split evenly between Hart and Mondale.

The New York Times noted that Biden was making the rounds of every party gathering at the convention, laying the groundwork for a future presidential run.

In its coverage, The Philadelphia Inquirer said Biden lacked enthusiasm for Mondale because “he was not sure that the former vice president could be an effective enough transitional figure from the old-line to the new-line Democratic Party.”

But Biden thought Mondale’s selection of U.S. Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York as his running mate “goes a long way towards making that transition easier,” the paper quoted Biden as saying.

The AP reported during the convention that even before Kerr’s lone vote for Biden she’d had a long, strange trip in San Francisco.

First, the AP reported, she managed to get her picture taken with her favorite singer, Carol King, a moment that Kerr called “one of the highlights” of her journey.

On the opening day of the convention, she sat with her embroidery equipment on the floor of the hall so she could keep working on a sampler she was making for her soon-to-be-married sister. But the next day, security personnel told her she couldn’t bring sewing scissors inside.

“They decided that I was going to stab someone,” Kerr told the AP.

U.S. Sen. Joe Biden leading a hearing on Capitol Hill. Submitted photo

Kerr later served as a state coordinator for Biden when the senator ran for president in 1988. She said she was disappointed his campaign collapsed that year, clearing the way for Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis to emerge as the party’s nominee.

After that, Kerr served as her party’s chairwoman and stayed involved until she moved south.

Now she’s living in the Jimmy Buffet-themed Latitude Margaritaville Daytona Beach development.

She said it’s chock full of Republicans and Trump backers, who aren’t allowed to put signs out so it’s not as difficult for her as it might otherwise be.

Still, Kerr said, she has neighbors who skirt the rules by putting Trump signs and cutouts in their garages. And one couple has a Trump sign on the back of their golf cart.

Kerr said she’s not sure how Florida will go, but she’s confident about Maine and hopeful the country as a whole will see what she sees in Biden.

Though she couldn’t vote for Biden at the 1988 convention, she remembered a few women from the Biden-backing Delaware delegation looked for her in the crowd.

Kerr said they liked her stand four years earlier so they gave her a little pewter pin to indicate she was one of them. She still is.


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