The convention blame game

I covered the Clark County GOP convention Saturday, where delegates who’d been elected at caucuses failed to elect a full slate of delegates to the state convention. They also failed to elect any alternates, delegate leaders or discuss the party platform.

Brandon Vick, chairman of the GOP, told me this morning he’ll get back to me with the breakdown of delegates. He did tell me that he was not pleased with the fact that GOP executive director Mike Gaston blamed the delays on Ron Paul supporters, and said as spokesman for the party he doesn’t blame any single campaign.

Everyone who has contacted me has a different opinion of what happened, but all agree that organizers weren’t prepared to handle the large turnout at the Vancouver Hilton Washington.

Here’s a blog from a writer who sat in the 18th District proceedings and says that Rick Santorum supporters colluded with Ron Paul supporters and double-crossed Mitt Romney supporters. This weekend, The Columbian ran an Associated Press story about the Paul-Santorum alliance.

I’ve also heard from a Santorum supporter who said the Paul-Santorum alliance did nothing wrong, and Romney supporters are just whining.

Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey, who chaired the convention, said a Santorum supporter showed up at his office this morning to argue Romney supporters caused delays. He wanted to challenge the results of the convention, and Kimsey said he directed him to the state GOP.

Independent delegate Jeff Van Boxtel sent an email saying Saturday’s delays were the fault of organizers, not participants.

“I think that the majority of delegates at the convention would agree that the failure to complete voting on time was not the fault of any campaign, but rather were due to the disorganization of the entire event,” Van Boxtel wrote.

Delegate and former congressional candidate David Hedrick sent a long email, which reads, in part:

For a couple days leading up to the county convention, I was part of the “Open Convention Slate” team. This slate was only formed as a response to a so called “Unity Slate” designed by Romney supporters to transfer Paul delegate positions to Mitt Romney as he pursues the magical 1,144 delegates required to win the nomination. Of course, this slate is bad for everyone except Romney supporters because it moves Romney closer to that number. Romney’s local leadership convinced many Santorum and Gingrich supporters to join them by hoodwinking these delegates into believing that it was in the best interest of their respective candidates. They even used a recently former Santorum leader to make it appear as if the official campaign was on board. It was not and Santorum personally made this clear to his campaign via teleconference. It was a devious and depending on your perspective, seemingly brilliant political strategy by the Romney camp. This plan was sprung on Wednesday evening leaving little time for their opponents to respond. Unfortunately for the Romney folks, they woefully underestimated the Paul camps ground game. Paul supporters teamed with Santorum’s national group creating the Open Convention Slate.
You must understand that while you reference the straw poll in your story, those numbers are absolutely irrelevant to this process other than perhaps the psychological effect they create. In the end, the delegate count is all that matters. In the delegate count walking into the Clark County Convention, Paul was in first place with Romney in second, Santorum in third and Gingrich a distant fourth. With the Paul and Santorum camps united, the Open Convention Slate had a huge numerical advantage and there was absolutely nothing the Romney group could do to stop the avalanche they had inadvertently created.
On the morning of the convention, I walked the entire registration line shaking hands and talking to almost every non-Romney delegate in attendance. We had others doing the same thing. We found that about half were already on board with the Open Convention Slate because they had been informed largely by the Paul camp which put on an awesome display of the power of superior grass roots organization. For those who were still in the dark, Romney’s attempted Unity Slate ruse was exposed and the Open Convention Slate strategy was explained. By the time I was done walking that registration line, I was convinced that it was already over. The Open Convention Slate victory was going to be massive.
The Romney group could see the writing on the wall. An observant reporter should have noticed that Unity Slate supporters were given green slate forms. Open Convention Slate supporters were given yellow forms. The green forms were buried in a sea of yellow.
The convention was initially stalled by what appeared to be organizational problems and by a few people who simply made inadvertent mistakes that stalled the process. As the day wore on, it became more and more clear that some in the Romney group were attempting to gum-up-the-works and prevent delegates from being seated. They even voted in mass against extending the convention past 6pm before almost any delegates had been selected. Their strategy had turned to obstruction in an effort to prevent seats from going to their opponents.
A simple look at the vote totals would clearly indicate that every subsequent vote lead to more Paul and Santorum votes. We wanted to vote and seat more delegates because this was in our best interest. The Romney group did not want to vote precisely because it was contrary to theirs.

I’ll write a follow-up story once I get the breakdown of delegates from Vick, but you can see why I used the word “infighting” in Sunday’s story.

I’ve also been questioned about the sub-headline: “County convention breaks down in dispute.”

In my book, when there’s shouting, it’s a dispute. And when there are four specific goals for a convention and none of them are met, that’s not a success.

I was in the 18th District room when Brandon Vick adjourned the convention. He did so after a woman was trying to make a motion (since the delegates failed to name delegate leaders) to let Vick, in his power, follow the “will of the people,” and appoint the positions himself. Vick explained he couldn’t do that without checking with the other districts. “I don’t even know what the will of the people is,” he said, to which a guy muttered, “The will of the people is to go home.” Vick, with people yelling at him what to do, just decided to end the convention.

Then, rules chair Brent Boger got in a yelling match with a 49th District leader who was trying to call in the delegates for a vote. You can’t do that, Boger said, stepping up to the guy. The convention is over.
“IT’S JUST AN ADVISORY VOTE!” the guy said.
“WELL MY ADVICE TO YOU IS THAT IT IS ILLEGAL!” Boger responded.(Which I thought was a pretty awesome response, especially given that Boger is an attorney.)

Boger, quoted in my story saying the slates were trying to block each other, posted on his Facebook page Sunday that the “delays were caused by state and national party rules and the local party not being logistically prepared for handling a volume of three times the normal number of participants.”

The contentiousness, he wrote, “played a part because people cared, but it was only a minor factor.”

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