Thursday, April 3, 2008

Notes from the County Convention

This past weekend I attended the Galveston County Senatorial District Convention as a delegate. It was a rather interesting and enjoyable experience. I was selected as an Alternate Delegate to the State Convention, which means that I can attend and if 38 other delegates or alternate delegates ahead of me fall ill or are otherwise occupied, I can actually vote on the party platform.

For those who have never been to District Convention, let me explain the basic format of the one I attended. This may or may not be exactly how a convention for your area would occur.

First, everyone just socialized for about an hour or so. We were supposed to sit with our precinct and I did. I met the former mayor of my city, a former city councilman, and a gentleman who had unsuccessfully run for city council. If you are ever interested in running for city council in your city let me know and I will pass on the information they told me. This socializing time was my favorite part. I am usually not an extraordinarily social person, but everyone liked to talk about politics, making conversation easy.

In college, I turned away from the party system when I experienced some very petty behavior by the people in charge of College Republicans. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that everyone at my local convention was very nice, open to conversation, and happily answered my questions. The people seemed like average folks, not a bunch of country club Republicans.

After a little wait was a series of technical matters where we had to go through the legal formalities of voting to seat the delegates and elect the convention chairperson. You quickly grow to love and hate parliamentary procedure.

From time to time, the chairperson invited an elected Republican official to come speak. My State Rep. Larry Taylor, of whose voting record I am rather pleased, gave a great speech. My State Senator Mike Jackson, of whose voting record I am often displeased, stammered through a horribly ill-prepared speech. Two Republicans, Shelley Sekula-Gibbs and Pete Olson, in a primary run-off for Dem. Congressman Nick Lampson’s current seat also gave some mildly effective campaign speeches. Pete was a little more convincing from my perspective.

The last two-thirds of the convention was a refereed debate over the party platform for Galveston County. They supplied a packet of the platforms submitted for vote, which numbered over 200. If any delegate objected to a piece of the platform, they could move to strike it or amend it, and then the directed debate would ensue. Some people who spoke were eloquent, others confusing, and still others down right amusing because they were so over the top with passion, but short on good points. They were all greeted with cheers, polite applause or occasionally boos. Boos were mostly directed at the Paulites (supporters of Ron Paul), who advocated removing some references to God from the party platform. It was all in good fun, though. I would never describe it as tense.

For the state delegate selection process, I was not privy to their decision-making, but a few things became clear. Long time party loyalists got first dibs on being a delegate. Don’t be cynical of this choice though. There is very little that they could do to find out if you really were a Republican beyond your voter registration and your word that you were a Republican. They didn’t know me from Adam, so I understand them selecting people who have spent a lot of time working for the party.

Because there were more people wanting to be delegates and alternate delegates than there were slots available, we had to be interviewed for our credentials. I was in a room of about 25 people, of which 10 were interviewees like me. Most people either gave a little bit of party experience or a personal story for why they wanted to be a delegate. I was very glad that I had mentally prepared a few notes for why they should select me, because I only had about 5 minutes after I found out that I would be interviewed at all. My only regret is that I did not prepare more on paper. I think I could have moved up the list quite a bit if I had. Don’t think that you have to be a superstar to get selected. I think that around 5 of 6 people requesting to be delegates became delegates (including alternates).

As I mentioned before, if you want to be a part of a convention in the future, just prepare a little bit to get your thoughts organized and make a simple case for why you want to be a delegate. If zillions of people happen to show up one year it’s going to be more difficult if you haven’t spent much time working for the party, so don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work out as easy as it did for me.

I’ll let you know how the state convention goes after I attend.

As always, tell me what you think.

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