Clark County Convention: District 17’s missing delegates

Posted: May 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

I mentioned in a previous post that the mysterious inability to seat alternates led to most of the convention day being wasted away. The first ballot was not completed until between 5 and 6 p.m. To date, there has been no official explanation for this outrageous delay, other than that the people running the convention were overwhelmed by the number of elected delegates who actually decided to show up.  So, even though a set number of delegates is allotted to each precinct and cannot be exceeded, and therefore the total number of potential convention participants is predefined, the party always plans for far less to attend the convention, even in hotly contested presidential races.  Apparently, the record turnout at the caucuses nearly a month earlier did not provide a sufficient clue either.

In the 17th Legislative District, the alternate-seating problem was compounded by the leader of the Gingrich delegation insisting that the 17th District chair, was unfit to lead the meeting, given her status as newly-appointed head of the Santorum campaign. Ironically, if he had only stepped into the next room, he would have seen the head of the Romney campaign in Clark County leading the meeting in the 49th District. The delay caused by this challenge to the 17th chair’s authority, coupled with the alternate problem, led to the 17th LD only getting through two rounds of ballots, and only 15 of the 32 allotted delegate slots were filled. Both the Gingrich leader and the Santorum leader were elected as state delegates on the first ballot.

An attempt had been made at a third round of voting, with leaders frantically passing out ballots after reading off the names of those who were no longer eligible, but it was obvious that only the Paul/Santorum contingent was interested in voting, the Romney delegates screaming for the vote to end in an effort to limit the damage.  At just after 8 p.m., after one extension to the 6 p.m. deadline had already been passed, the vote in the 17th was ended officially by Brent Boger, the head of the rules committee.  A motion was made from the floor to extend the meeting once more, but Mr. Boger insisted that it could not be done because there was no way to reconvene as a countywide body to extend again as other districts had already gone home (this turned out to be false, the other two districts were still voting). Another motion was made to seat the last 17 delegates based on the same plurality that would have carried the day on the fourth ballot. Boger declined to hear this motion as well. The room was soon emptied. After 12 hours of waiting, the sudden end to the convention left many people in a daze and wondering when or if the delegation could be filled.

The Columbian  report the next day included this summary:

Delegates elected at party caucuses in March were unable to finish the assigned task of electing 94 delegates and 94 alternates to the state convention in Tacoma.

Instead, even after the convention was extended by two hours, they ended up with 75 delegates and no alternates.

The blame was placed on Ron Paul supporters.

No Paul supporters were involved in leadership positions at the convention. Almost to a man, the folks running the proceedings were strong Romney enthusiasts. Participants reading the article the next day flooded comments sections all over the internet objecting to the ridiculous charge. Later, a retraction to this accusation was printed by CCRP Chairman Brandon Vick on the G.O.P. website. But what about the 17 missing delegates in the 17th? Several emails to Vick regarding this issue went unanswered.  Finally, a Santorum delegate, Christian Berrigan, who had championed the Open Convention Slate during the convention, decided to file a challenge to the State asking that the 17 highest vote getters be seated as delegates. This solution was then referred to the CCRP Executive Board and endorsed by the 18th highest vote getter, State Senator Don Benton, a strong advocate of the Unity Slate.  It should be noted that Benton supported this solution despite the fact that every one of the 17 ahead of him were from the Open Convention Slate. Benton’s desire that his district not go underrepresented at the state convention is to his credit, and his argument seemed to sway the Board, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of the motion, over the objections of Chairman Vick and County Auditor Greg Kimsey, both Romney supporters.

There are still hurdles for these 17 to be seated, and the final decision will likely not be made until just before the convention starts. There is also a challenge to the entire delegation from the 18th LD that will be heard before the convention as well. If these delegates are successfully unseated, it will create a template for future establishment leaders to follow. If they find themselves losing in the delegation vote, there appears to be no rule stopping them from either miscounting in the credentials report or delaying the voting process long enough that the convention ends with nobody being elected, and the factions who would have won will apparently have no recourse. This is a travesty, and a very dangerous precedent. The moral hazard ingrained in the system must be addressed for future conventions, and the leaders who caused these delays should be replaced.

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