When President Barack Obama makes his acceptance speech at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 6, Patricia Paniccia of Monroe will be among the crowd of delegates. She has been invited to attend as a member of the Rules Committee in what will be her fifth Democratic National Convention.
Paniccia said the best things about being there are, "Getting to hear the speakers and learning what the platform is, what we're going to concentrate on, and meeting the delegates from across the country. You get to meet people from 50 states and learn about what's going on in their states, what their problems are and what's working."
Paniccia is married to Domenic Paniccia, her husband of 40 years, and the couple has four sons and three grandchildren. They moved to their Easton Road home in Monroe in January of 1978.
"We moved in with the big blizzard that closed down the state," Patricia Paniccia recalled with a smile during an interview at on Wednesday. "We literally got snowed in. That was our welcome to Monroe."
Paniccia is president of IDEA for Autism, Inc., a non-profit organization in Bridgeport serving adults with Autism.
Paniccia said she has always been Democrat.
"My father had been a Republican, but when John Kennedy was running for President, he was a Bridgeport detective and one of the guys traveling with him and providing security during his visit to Bridgeport in 1960. My father was Irish, so he went with Kennedy."
Paniccia remembers her father rushing back into the house after shoveling snow one winter to make sure his family watched Kennedy's inaugural speech on TV.
Patricia Paniccia first became active in politics while living in Bridgeport the '70s.
"When we first got married, Dom and I worked on John Mandanici's campaign for mayor, stuffing envelopes, making phone calls, going door-to-door and leaf letting — All the things you used to do," she said.
After moving to Monroe, the Paniccias joined the Democratic Town Committee on which Domenic was chairman from 1980 to 1990.
Monroe used to be in the 32nd State Senatorial District, which represented around nine towns, Patricia recalled.
"I represented them on the Democratic State Central Committee," she said. "I served with Mike Vernovai. There had to be one man and one woman. After I lost my seat, I ran for vice chair of the party. I was elected with Ed Marcus in '92. We served until 2000. In with Clinton and out with Clinton."
Paniccia said being chair and vice chair of the state party automatically makes you a member of the Democratic National Committee. She was treasurer for its Eastern Regional Caucus, then was made vice chairman.
"We founded the Monroe Federation of Democratic Women in the early '80s," she said.
Paniccia served two two-year-terms as president of the Monroe Federation of Democratic Women, the maximum one can serve.
She has served on finance committees for the campaigns of U.S. senators Christopher Dodd and Joseph Lieberman — when Lieberman was a Democrat, and for Richard Blumenthal during his first run for attorney general. Paniccia said she still helps other party candidates at election time.
Meeting Michael Jordan
Paniccia has gone to DNC conventions in 1980, '92, '96 and 2000. The first two venues were in New York City, the third was in Chicago and the last one was in Las Angeles.
When the convention was in Chicago, Paniccia said the delegates got to visit the Bulls' locker room and to meet NBA legends Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin. Then the convention in L.A. was a star-studded event featuring singers, actors and other entertainers. Paniccia remembers meeting Dick Cavett, Tony Bennett and Mary Steenburgen.
"Steenburgen stepped on my foot when we walked out," she recalled with a chuckle.
Because Lieberman was the V.P. candidate in 2000, Paniccia said Connecticut's delegation got to sit in the front row — right in front of the featured speakers.
Paniccia's husband will be going to Charlotte with her. She said part of going to the convention is the daily hunt for passes for those who aren't delegates or committee members, adding New York was always a hassle.
The President is taking a lot of heat for the nation's struggling economy, but Paniccia does not lay all of the blame at his feet.
"He's doing the best he can," she said. "Congress is not cooperating. He's put things in place to turn the economy around and all Congress does is vote no. To me, it's not an option. Stop playing politics and do what's best for the country and the people."
Paniccia believes the election between Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney is about "those who have and those who need."
"Romney, to me, seems more concerned about the wealthy and corporations," she said. "He and [U.S. Senate candidate] Linda McMahon seem to think of the middle class as people making $125,000 or more. They want to give them a tax cut. It seems like more of the financial burden keeps being shifted to those earning between $50,000 and $60,000. To me, that's the middle class."
Paniccia believes Romney wants to "get rid of Medicare and Medicaid". "That's how my clients survive," she said of her autism non-profit. "I think Democrats are more concerned with providing a safety net for those who really need one."
"To me, being a Democrat is being an everyday person, not someone from the upper crust," she said. "People who have a family trying to live on one or two salaries; who work hard to send their kids to college; who worry about health care and health insurance. Being someone who is concerned about people with disabilities. People trying to live the American Dream."