While Hillary Clinton holds a major lead over Bernie Sanders in the battle for Democratic delegates, one Rock Island man isn’t ready to give up on the Vermont senator.
“I knew about him before the campaign, and I wanted him to run, but I honestly didn’t think he was going to,” Dylan Parker, the 27-year-old diesel mechanic said. “It’s an uphill battle, but it always has been for Bernie — he’s not done yet.”
Fast forward, the father of two garnered enough signatures to earn a spot on the slate as a delegate in the Illinois primary, and he received more than 25,000 votes on March 15. He is one of three elected delegates pledged to Sanders who will represent Illinois' 17th Congressional District at the Democratic National Convention in July.
But the trip to Philadelphia is a pricey one, said Parker, who created a GoFundMe page to help cover expenses during his stay.
Area hotels will house 6,000 delegates over the course of the convention July 25-28, and 57 state delegations were assigned to 26 hotels in and around Philadelphia.
The Democratic Convention National Committee assigned Illinois delegates to the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Philadelphia, which is completely booked during the convention, according to its website.
Parker said he has a responsibility, regardless of the outcome, to the people who elected him and Sanders, “who is energizing us to participate in politics."
In Illinois, Clinton received 79 delegates to Sanders' 77, which adds to her overall total of 2,165, as of Monday. Sanders, meanwhile, had 1,357 delegates, as of Monday. Democratic candidates need 2,382 to win the party's presidential bid.
Former U.S. Rep. Phil Hare of Rock Island and Christine Winick of Galesburg, the Knox County Democratic chairman, also were elected to pledge for Sanders.
Hare, who said the "ridiculous" going rate for a single room at their hotel is $715 per night, called Parker’s page “awesome.”
“I should’ve thought of that,” said Hare, whose “very good friends” with Sanders. “You’ve got to have a lot of money to go to these things."
Three elected delegates pledged to Clinton from Illinois' 17th Congressional District also will attend the convention.
Parker, who serves as the vice president of Rock Island's Broadway Historic District Association and several other volunteer civic organizations, grew up in Davenport and graduated from St. Ambrose University before moving to the Illinois Quad-Cities.
“I’m not the type of person people assume get into politics, but people need to understand that politics shouldn't — and doesn't have to be — something for people with money,” he said. “I’m a diesel mechanic going to a national convention.”
Parker, who primarily repairs exhaust systems at the dealership he works for, also credited Sanders’ plan to combat climate change for motivating him to lobby for the 74-year-old.
“That’s my bread and butter — making sure our air is clean — so it’s nice to see a politician that’s actually doing more than just giving lip service to that,” he said.
Parker’s wife, Tia, said she and her husband plan to take their two children to the four-day event as well.
“It’s a great opportunity for our kids to learn how to be involved,” she said. “He’s always been supportive of what I’ve done, and I want to be there to support him.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Parker raised $927 of his $5,000 goal, which he plans to put toward airfare, hotel room and dining costs.
While he's not required to stay at the designated hotel for Illinois delegates, he wants to work close to the action.
"I don't know and I don't care what people in New York, California or Iowa want, but there's people in Illinois' 17th Congressional District who wanted Bernie Sanders, and they matter," he said. "Unless all of us participate, how is it going to benefit us?"