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Page loves his freedom to bolt across floor

Page loves his freedom to bolt across floor

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Montana man helps with minor, but important, tasks

LOS ANGELES - Zigzagging through the cheering masses on the Democratic National Convention floor with total freedom, 69-year-old Lloyd Bender of Helena knows he has discovered the "secret" to enjoying the chaos of speech nights.

Don't go as a delegate, Bender says. Go as a page.

"Most people don't know that as a page, I can go anywhere I want to go on the floor," said Bender, who is a guest of the Montana delegation and is the senior page of the convention. "No one else can do that. It gives me the chance to meet people from all over the country and to visit friends. I also get to meet famous people."

The fun of wandering the convention floor is not cheap for Bender, who was also a page in 1996.

Just like the delegates, pages must pay for their plane ticket and their hotel rooms.

The Montana page's days are spent helping the delegation by performing minor tasks: a quick run to the art store at midnight, a dash to the post office as 5 p.m. draws near.

Often, Bender is the "Cinderella" of the Montana delegation, missing parties while he is out running errands.

He says he doesn't mind.

"I do it because now that I'm retired, I feel like I need to take the opportunity to give back to the process," Bender said. He was an economist and policy analyst.

Bob Ream, state chairman of the Democratic Party, said Bender is just as important to the party as any delegate.

"He is so dedicated," Ream said. "He does it out of pure commitment to the party."

At night, Bender is allowed to wade through the convention crowds to deliver messages from members of his delegation to others. Delegates must remain with their home states.

Besides making several stops to delegations to say hello to friends this week, Bender also made sure to spend some time standing near former President Carter.

Tuesday, the page made a point to meet "60 Minutes" star Ed Bradley.

The only thing Bender misses out on is the chance to cast a vote. He does not lament it.

"The votes no longer play a significant role in deciding who gets the party's nomination anyway," he said. "It is a lot of effort and a very stressful situation. I kind of like what I'm doing."

The Montana page said he will probably retire after this convention. His reason: too much excitement.

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