A moderate at a Republican convention

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So today I attended the 2012 Snohomish County Republican Convention.  And yes, I think I really was the most moderate one there (of the people I met, anyway).  And I ended up as the whip.  Go figure.

It’s a long story.  Maybe a couple people will read it all the way through, maybe not.  🙂

So a month ago, I decided to attend my precinct caucus to participate in deciding the Republican nominee for President.  Since Washington’s caucuses were earlier this year, and the race is dragging on longer, this is the first time my presidential vote actually had a chance to count for something.  And I have an opinion to express: Romney is a decent candidate (as was Huntsman), but the other three remaining ones are way too extreme to get my vote.  I haven’t made up my mind who I’ll vote for in November, but I thought I’d do my part to make sure we had the best choices possible.  So I made plans to show up on that Saturday morning for my local causes.

When I arrived, it was a pooled caucus at Everett High School, meaning all of the local precincts were together at different tables in the cafeteria.  As it turns out, there were only three others from my caucus who showed up: Julie Lingerfelt, her husband, and their son.  Our precinct had 2 delegates and 2 alternates to fill, so despite the fact that all three of them were Ron Paul supporters and I was for Romney, we didn’t even vote on it: Julie and I were unanimously elected delegates, and her husband and son the alternates, to the County convention today.

Lesson one: 50% of politics is just showing up.

Now, being slightly CDO myself (that’s like OCD, but alphabetized, like it should be) I wasn’t going to just show up at the caucus, sit back, and do nothing.  No, I decided to read the proposed Snohomish County Republican Platform, and then further decided to revise it to something I could agree with.  Remember, I’m a moderate here.   So I did.  Now, a plan was taking shape in my head that maybe I could do my own little part to help moderate the Snohomish County Republican Party a bit, and get them more to the point where they’d get more support from independents and moderates like me.

So, after I revised the platform, I then decided to send it to the GOP’s 38th Legislative District chair for feedback.  I did get some good feedback, with advice on getting any amendments I wanted to propose to the County GOP office in advance.  So, having caught the bug, I thought I’d drive down there and see what the process was.  I talked to a couple ladies at the county GOP office, who had some additional info on the process, but more importantly, got me in touch with Bob Williams, the Platform Committee chair.  Having learned by this point that there were going to be over a thousand delegates at the convention, I narrowed down my list to about a dozen amendments that I thought might actually get support, and sent those to him.  Bob gave me some very good feedback, helping me eliminate some of them that didn’t really substantively change anything, and modify those that weren’t going to get consensus.  The end result was a short list of four amendments, which I sent over as motions to be added to the agenda for the Platform discussion.

Now, having done all this (and exchanged a few more emails), Bob apparently recognized that I had a bit of passion or something (that’s my CDO, remember), and got my name over to Natalie Lavering, who was helping him coordinate the Romney campaign.  Next thing I know, she’s asking me if I could be a floor leader for the Romney campaign for my 38th Legislative District.  (The way it works is the County convention breaks into about 8 caucuses, one for each legislative district in the county.)  She also invited me to a floor leaders’ meeting with the Romney campaign that evening. This stuff can move fast.

So, here I am, going to my first convention ever, and I’m supposed to be one of the floor leaders.  Ok, that seems doable.  Certainly there’ll be other people there who know what to do, right?  We talked strategy and tactics at the floor leaders’ meeting that evening, which basically boiled down to this:  The Romney campaign was, at the time, cooperating with both the Santorum and Gingrich campaigns to put forward a Unity slate of candidates, which would give proportional representation to Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich delegates according to the number of delegates each one had won at the precinct caucuses.  (The way the voting works at these conventions is you have to have a majority (50%+) to get anyone elected a delegate in the first three rounds of voting, after which it drops to a plurality vote.  So if you can get more than half of the caucus to agree on which of the 23 delegates they’re going to vote for, your slate wins.)

Now, as it turns out, the 38th LD that I live in is one of the less traditionally Republican in Snohomish county (representing urban Everett etc.), so it turns out that the Ron Paul folks had a plurality of the declared delegates in our LD, unlike in any other district in the county.  Romney was behind by only a couple delegates, and neither had a majority, but if you added up the Paul and Santorum delegations, along with their undecideds, they did.  And as we were wrapping up the meeting, there were already rumors that the Santorum national leadership was coming in to override the deal the local Santorum leadership had made with the Romney and Gingrich campaigns.  I still don’t know all the details, but suffice it to say that’s exactly what happened, and it sounds like it got ugly within the Santorum camp for a bit.  At least in our LD, there were some local leadership who wanted to stick with their party, and stayed on the Unity slate, and others who sided with the national leadership to do some sort of alliance with the Ron Paul folks (in the interest of denying Romney a majority and pushing for a brokered convention).

But, I didn’t know all the details of that yet when I showed up early on a Saturday morning for the caucus.  All I knew was that I was supposed to get myself signed in, and report to the Romney table, where I’d get some stickers, a floor leaders’ cap, and this Unity slate they kept talking about.

So that’s what I did.  But Kurt, our poor LD chair, was getting overwhelmed checking in all 178 delegates, plus alternates, so I offered to come back and help him after I got checked in.  Even with additional help, that took until after 9am when the convention and speeches started, and meant that I got a late start on collecting the 5 signatures I was supposed to get for each of my 4 platform amendments and turn in to the Secretary by 9:30.  But, I went ahead and got them signed, and caught her once she finally stepped down from the dais for a minute to hand them over.

So, I was finally back on track.  And now we just had to wait for the folks checking everyone’s credentials to finish their work and come give their report, which meant more speeches.  McKenna’s was pretty good: I agree with a lot of what he has to say.  But a lot of the others were typical red meat conservative stuff, which I found myself laughing at more than applauding to.  Anyway, I finally got myself seated with my LD before the speeches finished.  Once they did, and the Credentials Committee gave their report, we finally got down to the first order of business: selecting the permanent Chair for the rest of the convention.  I knew it was important that we make sure we didn’t have someone with the goal of delaying the convention, so I figured this was important, and made sure I knew whom to vote for.  It turns out, though, that this was the part of the main convention that delayed us the most, because the initial voice vote was declared before it was unambiguous, so we had to go to a show of hands.  But then the three people who counted the hands couldn’t agree on the count, with counts ranging from 590 to over 800, with 622 required for a majority.  So then we had to all stand up and count ourselves off as we sat down.  Someone obviously didn’t know how to count, because we got to 640 and stopped while there were obviously still over a hundred people standing.  Anyway, with that finally out of the way, we got do the discussion of the rules.  There were a couple motions, both defeated, regarding nominations and candidate speeches.  And then, FINALLY, we got to adjourn to our LD caucuses, and more importantly, get lunch.  (I think it was well after 1pm at this point).

Over lunch, the Romney campaign finally distributed the Unity slates.  There was a Delegate slate and an Alternate slate, and I had no idea who was who on it (except that I had made the cut for the delegate slate, woohoo!).  After a few minutes to get (but not finish eating) our lunch, we got started on the real business, the 38th Legislative District Caucus.  We had another contested vote for the chair of the LD caucus, but went straight to stand-up-and-count-off, and got through it pretty quickly.  Kurt got elected as permanent Chair, but with only a plurality (there were probably some people still doing lunch or something).  So we finally had ourselves a caucus and could get down to the business of nominating delegates, letting them give their 30s speeches, and voting on them.

Now back when we got our call to the convention, there was a paper included where any interested delegate or alternate could get their name added to the pre-printed ballot for delegates to the State convention.  I had done so, but once I started really looking through our Unity slate, it turns out there were a lot of names on the slate of people who hadn’t.  That was a bit concerning, but I knew we got to do floor nominations, so we got down to the business of nominating everyone on our Delegate slate from the floor.  As we did so, we discovered that there were four of our 23 who had refused nomination, or for some other reason didn’t end up as candidates.  So, we had to figure out who to vote for, in addition to our remaining 19 (who, remember, were Gingrich and even a couple Santorum delegates in addition to Romney).  So we all gave and listened to everyone’s 30s speeches, and tried to figure that out for ourselves.

And then, finally, we got to the first ballot.  All the declared Romney supporters knew they were supposed to vote the slate, and I think most of them did, but we didn’t have the numbers to get anyone through on the first ballot, and in fact the non-Unity camp managed to get 4 (turns out they were all for Santorum).  So, after this, I finally realized that we needed to be coordinating better.  I had thought someone else would be coordinating things, but apparently not.  So, having seen the Paul camp run off to the back of the room to huddle, I called over all the Unity supporters to the side of the room and attempted to get everyone on the same page.

I don’t remember what all was said, but I think we managed it, because on the 2nd ballot only one more (Santorum) go through, and no one advanced on the 3rd ballot.  Turns out I was worried about the wrong thing, though, because I thought we’d lose more than that on each ballot (remember the numbers were against us), so I was trying to figure out who we’d eliminate (as a group) if we didn’t have enough slots.  But it turns out the 3rd ballot was important for another reason: they eliminated everyone except the top 36 candidates (to fill the 18 remaining slots), which meant if we hadn’t been coordinated, we wouldn’t have had enough of our folks to vote for on the 4th and final ballot.  The 4th ballot runs by different rules: it only requires a plurality, and the remaining slots are filled by the top vote-getters all the way down.  We voted our slate and ended up with 6 of the 18 remaining slots.  The ones of ours who won were the long-time well-known Republicans on our slate: no big surprise there.  Newbies like me didn’t make it through, and given the numbers we had, I wasn’t really expecting to be elected a delegate.  Turns out there were about 11 Paul supporters elected delegates, the 5 Santorum ones, the 6 from our slate, and maybe one more Gingrich delegate.

I was still hoping to be an alternate in Tacoma, and knew at least some alternates would be seated as delegates there, so we reconvened yet another Unity caucus meeting and decided as a group who we’d nominate and vote for as alternates if they didn’t win as delegates.  (Because of the timing, the only time we had to caucus and strategize was actually after each vote, but *before* the results came back from the vote-counters.  So each time we were planning our next move without knowing the results of the last one.)  Our delegates did a pretty good job coordinating, but unfortunately it was getting late, and I think we were losing people.  (The Paul camp is more organized, and better at sticking things out.)  In any event, we only managed to get one alternate elected in the first round and two in the second round.  And none of them were very highly ranked, which means they’re less likely to get promoted to delegates in Tacoma.  And no, I wasn’t one of the three.

Now, by this time, it was after 8pm, and there were some LDs that were moving a lot more slowly than we did.  So it was clear we weren’t going to get to the platform after all, and that they’d have to reconvene us all at a later date and try to get a 40% quorum.  Which means I haven’t (yet?) had a chance to present or discuss my 4 platform amendments, which was one of my main goals in being there.  But as often happens, life is much more interesting when it doesn’t go as you had planned.  Our caucus was a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too.

So, that’s how I, the most moderate person (I know of) from the least conservative legislative district in the county, ended up as the whip for the Romney campaign at our LD caucus.  (And if you’re not familiar enough with political jargon to understand why that’s ironic, the whip, in a legislative body, is the legislator who rounds up the votes for their party.  They’re usually one of the most partisan legislators that party has.)

So: Lesson two: apparently the other 50% of politics is just speaking up.

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20 Responses to “A moderate at a Republican convention”

  1. Kevin Says:

    Well, I read the whole thing, but probably only understood about half of it. Sounds like a complicated process, quite a zoo!

  2. Eric Says:

    Ah, the fine art of sausage making.
    I admire the way you are taking out the spoiled ideas that have hung around too long and giving the conservative plate such a bad taste.

  3. Gina Reed Says:

    Good for you leading the charge and getting involved. I am not , however, surprised that a Moderate, like yourself would be leading the charge for Romney nor I am surprised that you supported the UNITY slate.
    BTW, I am the Pierce County Cooridnator for Santorum. I came an assisted my fellow County Coordinator, Mark Buse (in your district). It wasn’t the Santorum campaign locally or nationally that pushed the UNITY Slate…it was a couple rogue party people “working for the Santorum campaign” (who by the way have given $1400 to Romney in the past. Hello, Mr. Paggon) who were to busy pushing their own agenda rather than putting the Santorum campaign first. BTW, did you hear about Clark County….sweet, Romney 5 out of 94. The Paul, Gingrich, Santorum slate does make since because Romney is the supposed front runner. We are planning on chipping away at his delegate lead and are being very successful. Oh, those three rogue Santorum “leaders”…..two of the three of stepped down. Waiting to hear word about the third.
    To be unified, people must have the same goal. Santorum and Romney do not have the same goal. We do have the same goal with the Paul people….stop Romney from getting 1144. That is the focus of the Santorum Campaign.

    • scottleibrand Says:

      Gina: thanks for the perspective.

    • Garry Says:

      Gina

      You would be more credible if your facts were more accurate.

      Rick Santorum endorsed Mitt Rmney in the 2008 campaign because, as Bill Buckley’s election rule goes, he was the most conservative candidate in the race who could be elected. My contributions to Romney were all made in 2007 and 2008 for the same reason.

      My contributions in the 2011-2012 election cycle have been made exclusively to Rick Santorum.

      I am reminded of a line in a Chubby Checker song song that goes “…she talks about people she don’t even know…”

      Garry

    • Gina Reed Says:

      Santorum felt that Mitt was less moderate than McCain. It is too bad more people did not stand behind Mike Huckabee. I have never and will never support Romney.
      Your Contributions to Santorum????? Like undermining the goal of the National Campaign? Some contribution. Actions speak louder than words and money, Mr. Paggon.
      It is obvious that people like you have too much to lose to do the right thing…..it is obvious that people like you have to compromise in order to protect positions of power. The people are waking up and frankly, it is about time! See you at State.

  4. Mark Says:

    An interesting perspective to see from a liberal opposition blog post. It would be great to know why you believe what you were being told by the Romney camp, the originators of the scheme to trick other local campaign leaders into unauthorized endorsement of a win for their candidate. If you had asked, I could have explained the entire subversive process which the local Romney mafia had tried to use to thwart the will of the GOP majority to hand 54% of our convention delegates to Romney while locking out all the legit long-time conservatives who happen to support Ron Paul this time around out of sheer frustration with dirty backroom plotting and scheming. Once the truth of the matter reached them, most Santorum and Gingrich supporters recognized the Romney ‘unity’ scam too.

  5. Bob Williams Says:

    A couple of notes to clarify the comments. I am the Snohomish Co chair for the Romney campaign. Scott is an example of the appeal Romney has to all factions of the party. Mark Buse whom Gina references was one of the ones to “agree” to the unity slate. He then proceed to pretend to work with us while stabbing us in the back. I am a solid libertarian leaning conservative, but Mark sent out e-mails accusing me of not being a “true conservative”. Why, because I don’t support Santorum? He has no other basis for such a claim, nor for the claim we in the Romney campaign were using deception to lure delegates to support our slate. In fact, even though we were double crossed by the Santorum campaign, we continued to put Santorum delegates on our slate in keeping with our original agreement.

    At this stage of the primary, all Santorum is doing is to increase Obama’s chance of being re-elected. I used to like him, but he has proven himself to be a small petty person.

    • Dick Beninya Says:

      Bobby,

      You can define yourself however you want. I have only seen you twice. The first time was being thrown out of a Ron Paul meeting by a 5 foot- nothing lady (in Marysville) and the second was on Saturday where you directed your Obamny-bots to hand out your bogus “Unity Slate”. It also said “true Republicans” on it. Hmm? Well, if being a smug little man with no integrity is a “true Republican” , then you fit the bill. See ya in T town little fella. From a “true Conservative”

    • Gina Reed Says:

      Bob are you afraid of the process? Let it play out…or is that too risky for you? Or your candidate of choice? If Romney is the supposed front runner why is he having such a hard time getting the numbers? Maybe because people have a hard time stomaching him….he has the $$, years of building an organization, yet, he cannot capture the hearts and minds of MOST Republicans. After all this….I would rather spend my time with Ron Paul supporters anytime. Actually, it has been a pleasure doing business with them….and cannot wait to watch our partnership grow over the next few weeks and onto State.

  6. Rob Barrans Says:

    Scott,

    One of the reason so many are passionate for Santorum is that we nominated a moderate in 1976. Pres Gerald Ford was a great man. He brought our country through a dark period when the only President of the United States resigned. But Gerald Ford was a moderate and he lost. In 1996 we nominated another great American Senator Bob Dole. Bob Dole was a WWII hero and lost the use of one of his arms. He, however, was a moderate and lost. In 2008 we nominated another great American, Senator John McCain. He gave 5 1/2 years of his life serving us in a prison camp in North Viet Nam. But, again John McCain is a moderate had he lost. In 1980 the press told us Governor Ronald Reagan could not be elected because he was too conservative. Well you know the rest of the story, Ronald Reagan won two landslide elections. So conservatives can be nominated and win. That is our passion with Senator Rick Santorum. We need a conservative to beat President Obama and take our country back. Governor Mitt Romney is another great American. However, Mitt Romney governed as a moderate. He signed into law the grandfather of Obamacare, Romneycare. Mitt is right it is, according to the 10th Amendment, a states right issue. However, just because it is a states rights issue does not mean you have to support it. And before you respond, I know he had a 90% legislature that was liberal. But he could have vetod it and them override it.

    • scottleibrand Says:

      Rob: interesting points. I come at this from a different question: which Presidents were good for the country? IMO Reagan and G.H.W. Bush (another moderate) were good presidents, and McCain would’ve been a better president than G.W. Bush. I think McCain’s second run was tainted by 8 years of G.W., as well as the decision to play to the base and put Palin on the ticket.

      Another approach is to look at how much a Republican candidate looks forward, with new ideas for new challenges, and how much he looks backward, to old standbys that his base can recite by heart. That may be why I like McKenna and Romney so much: they both have fresh new ideas the country needs. McKenna, for example, is on the right side of the education issue, and has said he’ll stand by the voters’ decision on defining marriage.

  7. scottleibrand Says:

    Come on, guys. Enough with the personal attacks. I don’t want to have to start deleting comments.

  8. MarkB Says:

    It doesn’t work for Romney henchmen to say that they had the agreement of the Santorum campaign when what they really had was a local Santorum grass roots organizer witness their plotting and scheming without the approval of either state-wide leadership, or the national campaign itself.

    This was the same Romney scam being played out in other counties, so there is no excuse for the scam as it unfolded here.

    (1) The bottom line was to hand Snohomish county to Romney with a bow tied around us

    (2) a supposedly former Romney supporter handing the Santorum internal campaign operations over with gleeful Romney campaign organizers would NEVER be approved by any rational campaign management—and you can never imply that such an insanely improper action could ever be approved.

    (3) Romney leadership moles selecting local organizing chairs would be more sympathetic to selling out their own campaign for the sake of a false promise of party ‘peace’ when all that did was surrender automatic majorities to Romney that had not been earned to the supposedly open GOP delegate election process.

    (4) Running a totally fraudulent SCAM at county conventions where Romney leadership moles claim to have made ‘handshake’ deals with their Romney-mafia campaign leadership. That’s corruption beyond disgusting. It may even be criminal.

    • scottleibrand Says:

      Mark: please take your personal attacks elsewhere. I’ve left the substantive portion of your comments, but it’d probably be best to leave it there.

    • MarkB Says:

      Your blog, your rules. Sorry that the truth hurts sometimes. Sharp rebukes against scandalous injustice are considered more than appropriate in many social circles, even liberal ones.

    • scottleibrand Says:

      Mark: I left your sharp rebukes alone, but IMO calling people names rarely helps rectify scandalous injustice, so I removed those.

      I have no particular interest in the fight over who properly represents the Santorum campaign. It makes total sense to me that the Santorum strategy is to deny Romney a majority at the national convention, and I can respect that.

      In my interactions with Santorum and Paul supporters in the 38th LD caucus on Saturday, I found them all to be earnest and sincere in pushing for what they thought was best. I don’t think you and I met in person, but I look forward to doing so in future.

  9. Dick Beninya Says:

    @Scott
    You said, “Romney is a decent candidate (as was Huntsman), but the other three remaining ones are way too extreme to get my vote.”

    What do you find extreme about Dr Paul?

    • Eric Says:

      My impression of Paul is hiding his head in the sand to avoid seeing the need for a projected military presence. I believe that is a common perception of him, whether or not it is true.

  10. Marc Says:

    LOL, I’m just reading this blog post, so I guess I’m late to the party. Moderates are interesting folks, they usually advocate for efficiency of government and disapprove of the fighting between both wings… If I could just add my two cents:

    I would recommend some quick reads, the 5000 Year Leap and Liberty Defined. These books have helped solidify the philosophical truthes behind conservatism.

    I tend to think of myself as a Constitutional Conservative, I reject Libertarianism and I reject the Neo-Conservative foreign and monetary policies. You don’t have to be a kook or a wacko to see that there are better options for a civilized society than Anarchy, Constant war, or Socialism.

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