(The last installment of this little story ended with the completion of our county conventions, and faced with the reality that while we probably didn’t have a majority of the votes, we did have a pretty decent sized minority. This installment is going to carry us through the month between about June 15, and up to our GOP State Convention this past Saturday, July 14. Later (maybe tomorrow), I’ll post the final installment—a discussion of the convention itself, of what went wrong, what went right, and where we in Nebraska go from here.)
So, the county conventions are done, and results start coming in. Finding the results was easy in the counties where we’d specifically organized and knew people—the big counties, especially. And the numbers in those counties alone were encouraging.
The last couple of weeks of June, I started getting emails and Facebook messages from others around the state, which oftentimes said something like this: “Dear Laura, my name is ____, and I’ve been elected as a delegate to the state convention from ____County. I’m a Ron Paul supporter, and have been trying to find out how to connect up with others.” Hmm. Maybe we were going to have even more than I thought.
We had our “secret” Facebook page for delegates, so as those new folks came to us, we did a little vetting, tried to make sure that we weren’t going to be adding people who weren’t really Paul supporters, and then included them in the communications that way. We held a pre-state convention training session, and about a third of our RLC associated delegates showed up to a small retreat center held in the middle of nowhere, close to none of our delegates, to talk about the possibilities.
In the meantime, I began getting calls from National Committeeman and Committeewoman candidates—both of our incumbents opted not to run, so those offices were wide open.
The Committeeman’s seat was originally going to go to our current State Chair. He had expressed an interest in running for that, and leaving the Chairmanship early (typically the Chair’s term is up in January or February of odd-numbered years, and elected by the State Central Committee). The Governor had endorsed him, and then tapped his own favorite candidate to be the “new” State Chair.
But, there were forces who weren’t excited about the replacement, who thought that if there was going to be a change of Chairs, that a *real* change ought to occur. I was called shortly after our Douglas County triumphs, and after it became clear that we were going to have some influence at the convention, to see if we would be interested in supporting one or another possible candidates.
Ultimately, we decided that if the State Chair’s position was open, we’d support a fellow by the name of John Orr. John is not exactly one of “us”, but he’s certainly friendly to us—and pretty close to being one of us. He’s been supportive of Tea Party groups in his part of the state, and happens to be the son of former Gov. Kay Orr. We believed that he would be friendly to us, if elected to the chairmanship, and that he would include some of our members on the State Executive Committee, much of which the chair appoints.
It was early during this period (within a week of the conclusion of our County Conventions), that the staffer from the Campaign who had been consulting with us, was pulled—apparently the campaign had decided to take people off the payroll in order to save money for the national convention…Except we had a lot of politicking to go.
The support for John Orr is where we started running into trouble. Not because it was John, but because it WASN’T the Governor’s preference. A few of us were called to a meeting with…the Governor. Face to face, 8 of us present (the Governor, the current State Chair, and one of the Governor’s aides), and 5 of the “coup.” Seriously, the blogs in Omaha started taking aim at us, and referring to our effort to try and elect John Orr as Chair as the “coup” in the GOP.
The discussion with the Governor was largely a one way conversation. He told us he wasn’t pleased with our challenging *his* candidate for State Chair, and that *he* was the head of the Party in Nebraska. We sat for an hour, then he left, and we decided to proceed as planned. About a week later, the current chair announced that he wouldn’t be running for National Committeeman, thus eliminating a race for State Chair at this point in time. The Chair said that he was withdrawing to prevent the distraction of a challenged race; I suspect that he withdrew because the Governor didn’t want to risk losing the chairmanship.
While the question of the Chair race was bubbling up, the Executive Director of the Party made an unfortunate comment to a reporter, announcing that the Party was going to “double its security” to make sure that everything was “orderly.” There were suggestions that Paul folks were “rowdy” or “anarchical”. That’s when all hell started to break loose.
The Paul folks (via the Daily Paul and elsewhere) started to look to Nebraska as “the hope” for state #5. So, in addition to the press that had started to make calls as a result of the conflict with the Governor over the State Chair’s race, I started getting calls from press about whether or not there would be contentiousness, what I thought the results would be, blah, blah.
I started to get nervous, because I knew we didn’t have a majority of the delegates. I also knew just how upset the Governor was with us (he told me he “knows what you Paul people are up to”). I tried to start playing the possibilities down, because Nebraska is a small state with a largely popular Governor, and I knew that if he got actively involved in the delegate games, that we could have a really hard time.
The irony is, the press coverage probably hurt us—at least on the delegate race, because it caused the non-Ron Paul forces to organize as well as we were (or better). In a typical year, even when there’s a “slate” for the presumptive nominee, enough people are upset about not being on the slate, that votes get splintered. If we’d gone to the convention in 2008 with the number of delegates we had this year, we would have taken almost the whole delegation. But alas, things were to be different.
The last week to ten days before the state convention was a whirlwind, during which time, I slept an average of about 4 hours per night. The talk of violence was crazy, so I sat down with NEGOP Chair Mark Fahleson, and we worked out a statement which basically said that the State Party would withdraw its plans for expanded security, and we would discourage “outsiders” (i.e. Paul people from around the country) from coming in and causing a scene, as well as trying to exert some level of moderating influence on our folks. I should note at this point that with one or two exceptions, our folks exhibited a great deal of grace and class. We knew early on that we were beat, and so we accepted it with good grace, stuck with the plan, let chips fall where they would, and then walked out with a resolve to show that we deserved a place at the table.
At this point before the convention—including yet the day before—I started getting countless phone calls, Facebook messages, and e-mails from people all over the country. Some were merely “we’re praying for you.” Others were people who were telling us the things that we “must” do, if we wanted to win. All of them were, of course, Paul supporters, who failed to realize that while the RLC forces were Paul supporters, that we had the larger goal of working within the Party, so some of their tactics would have served only to hurt our position long-term. Delaying tactics, repeated extraneous motions—even the insistence that we must ask for a hand count of all the ballots—just left us with the impression that we would be asking for trouble (of course we were willing to do that if there was even a small indication that there was cheating going on).
Likewise, most of these “helpful hints” failed to consider the political culture of Nebraska. We were treated as though we were clueless about how our state’s convention would work. Perhaps the most interesting thing (from my perspective), were the calls I got from folks who insisted that we needed to get Ron Paul to come to Nebraska for the convention. Some volunteered that they could contact Carol Paul directly, and get Ron out there for us.
My question to those who were pushing for a Paul visit (even up to the night before ) was a practical one (or two): Where would we do this? Grand Island is a town of about 50,000, in the middle of its county fair (in addition to having several conventions going on)—even if he could come, I wasn’t sure where we’d go with it. And then another question I had: to what end? The answer always seemed to go along the lines of “If people just hear Dr. Paul, they’ll make the switch.” Seriously, people thought that if Ron Paul could come and speak to delegates, that Romney people would all of a sudden have the scales fall from their eyes, and they’d vote for the Paul slate. Nope, I said, not gonna happen. Indeed, I was (and still am) convinced that if Ron Paul had shown up at our convention, that it would have made things worse rather than better.
We hired a couple of parliamentarians with money from a money bomb that was promoted on the Daily Paul. We flew them in from another state, and while they were helpful, the nature of our State Convention was such that they weren’t really needed—but since we had the money, we thought it prudent to be prepared.
The Friday morning before the convention activities started (they start on Friday evening, with the main convention taking place on Saturday), I was sitting at breakfast with what I affectionately refer to as my Little Old Ladies. Not all of them are that much older than me, but there are several of them who are well into their 80s, and one who is 90, and we have breakfast every Friday. I was telling them about the convention that would take place the next day, because all of the media coverage in the state had finally outed me as a political activist. And a “Restricted Number” phone call popped up on my cell phone. I ignored it, as I usually do those, and let it go over to voice mail. About 30 seconds later, I got a text message from my contact in the campaign: “If you get a call from a Restricted number, it’s Ron.”
Crap. I’d just ignored a call from Ron Paul. And then, a voice mail notification popped up. And guess what? It was Ron Paul! Gave me his phone number, asked me to call him back, which I did shortly thereafter, and had a perfectly delightful conversation with him. He said that he’d been hearing a lot from people who thought he should be in Nebraska. I explained to him that while we’d certainly welcome him, I wasn’t sure at this point that it would be helpful. He seemed relieved to hear that, and asked about the possibility of calling in on speaker phone for our supporters. I allowed that I thought that would be an outstanding idea, and that we had a hospitality suite and other things happening later in the evening. He left it to me and the campaign staffer to work out the details.
Friday night, I’d told all of our folks to meet at the hospitality suite at 8:50 to discuss last minute strategy. We set up a PA system outside (not enough room for everyone in the two rooms that we had), and spilled out onto the hotel lawn—probably almost 100 people there (our folks, plus a few semi-friendlies who had just shown up to enjoy some refreshments with us). I talked a little bit about what was going to happen the next day, and then was going to pass the the mic off to the staffer, who would say a few words, and then introduce Dr. Paul when he called. We had some technical difficulties, but eventually got them worked out.
Our group was ecstatic. The non Paul folks in the crowd were terribly impressed that he’d take the time to call. All in all, I think we played that one just right.
After things dissipated, some of us strategized final plans for some challenges to the credentials (the counties mentioned in an earlier post), and we put the finishing touches on our delegate slate. And then we all went to our different rooms, and tried to sleep.
The next installment tomorrow will will talk about the convention itself.