Northland GOP delegates arrive in Tampa in whirlwind, but little activityBea Kehr was expecting more out of Tropical Storm Isaac as it whizzed past Tampa and the Republican National Convention on Monday.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
Bea Kehr was expecting more out of Tropical Storm Isaac as it whizzed past Tampa and the Republican National Convention on Monday.
After the convention was delayed one day amid much pre-storm hoopla, the soon-to-be hurricane mostly missed northern Florida and was instead aiming at Louisiana.
“It was about as windy as a Minnesota snowstorm, without any snow,” said Kehr, of Duluth, a delegate to the convention.
Kehr and Kevin Erickson of Mountain Iron, who spoke to the News Tribune by phone Monday, are two of just three delegates from the 8th Congressional District to attend the national convention. Of Minnesota’s 40 delegates, 24 are picked at the eight congressional district conventions, 13 are statewide delegates and the rest are state party officials.
While this is the first national convention for both, Kehr has been active in Republican Party politics for years in Duluth (her husband ran for the state Legislature in western Duluth in 2008.) Erickson is a relative newcomer.
Kehr, who is a preschool, early child education and driver’s education teacher, said she was surprised by how much security is present in and around the convention activities.
“They’re really concerned about international security,” she said, noting major roads are closed, and police presence is everywhere she has gone.
“They won’t even let us bring an umbrella into the convention,” noted Erickson, who is staying eight blocks from the convention stadium, the Tampa Bay Times Forum, to save money. “I’m staying for two weeks for the price of one night in the convention hotel. The down side is it’s a long walk if it’s raining.”
Kehr said she has attended several convention workshops and functions, including a major event at Tropicana Field over the weekend.
“This (attending a convention) was the natural next step for me in party politics. I think it’s good for people who are involved to see how this works, to get involved and not just read about it,” said Kehr, who is also active in the National Federation of Republican Women.
Erickson has focused on the party’s important Platform Committee. He’s been in Tampa for more than a week already working on the platform, the party’s official document of ideals and philosophies that spell out party doctrine.
Erickson said he has two main concerns that pushed him to get active in party politics and serve on the committee — the first being the nation’s increasing national debt.
“We are moving toward insolvency and neither party has really been willing to address it so far,” he said.
His second issue is a true libertarian cause: He wants the federal government to treat suspected national security threats as all other criminals and provide proof of the reason for their detention, things like due process and habeas corpus. He managed to get those concerns written into the platform.
“I’m a former public defender and, while most people may not realize, the right to due process is probably one of our most basic protections of liberty,” Erickson said, noting he also has concerns over the use of military drones to conduct warfare from afar.
Erickson, who grew up in Grand Rapids, has been back on the Range since 2005 and started Cross Hill Church in Virginia in January 2010. He calls himself a “church planter” or “entrepreneurial minister” and says he’s been a conservative Republican all his life.
Erickson said he had been a supporter of Ron Paul, the Texas congressman and libertarian favorite who has been effectively kept away from the Republican convention by supporters of Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee.
Erickson said he’s upset that Paul delegates from states like Maine, Oregon and Oklahoma were replaced with Romney-supporting delegates so Paul could not be nominated, which would have given Paul a wide-open 15 minutes in front of the convention and national television. (Paul later turned down an offer to speak because his speech would have to be approved by the Romney campaign.)
“The way this has happened just wasn’t right,” Erickson said. “I’m committed to supporting the nominee (Romney), but they are making it harder for me to go home and convince my friends and Ron Paul supporters to back Romney and not some third party candidate.”
Kehr said there’s been much debate about how state delegates should be chosen and assigned, including discussion within the party of demanding binding primaries rather than nonbinding caucus straw polls. Last Friday, a convention committee approved a rule change that would require state parties to apportion convention delegates based on presidential preference votes, and it would bind those delegates to vote for their preferred candidate throughout the nomination process.
In Minnesota, for example, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum won the straw poll at last February’s precinct caucuses. But Santorum’s supporters generally did not stay active in the process, Kehr said.
“They voted in the straw poll and went home. The Ron Paul people stayed active and they really have a big presence in the Minnesota delegation” to the convention, she said. Paul supporters make up 32 of the 40 state delegates.
Kehr said that many Paul supporters are first-time activists and, while they feel slighted by the convention’s tilt to Romney, the situation is little different from conventions past as the party tries to convey unity.
“The winner really gets to control the show,” she said. “It’s always been that way. People have to realize that they have to compromise in these things.”