So, our last piece of this little serialized account of Nebraska’s convention process ended with Ron Paul’s call to our delegates this past Friday night (July 13), and with our formation of “the slate.”
A bit of a discussion about the “slate creation” process here. First, we wanted to make sure that everyone who we put on the Paul slate was absolutely, positively committed to going to Tampa, if elected. We found that we had a good number of folks who were willing to go as delegates, but not as alternates, so that stymied some of our slate creation efforts.
Second, we were also trying to create a geographically and demographically diverse slate. We didn’t want just us “old folks” on the slate, nor did we want just the “young guns”—we thought that diversity would make us stronger in the long run.
Third, we knew, going in, that we didn’t have a majority of the delegates to the state convention. 40% was about the best number we could come up with, if EVERYONE showed up, and voted for the slate. We knew that if the other side was organized and cohesive, that we were in trouble—by the same token, we knew that if they WEREN’T organized, that we had a pretty good chance of capturing a sizable chunk of the delegates. Much would depend on how well the “establishment” dug in.
Fourth, we DID make some “deals” with other people—some who were committed to Romney. Our goal in doing that was to try and get them to bring some people over to our slate and boost our numbers a bit. Coalition building seemed to be our best opportunity, if the Romney forces were organized.
Fifth (related to #1) we only put people on the slate who we knew were fully qualified to serve. Nebraska’s party rules call for the Letter of Intent to run to be filed before the County Conventions in May, and then a Notice of Commitment to be filed in early July. We knew who had told us that they had filed those forms, but we managed to get a list a few days before the convention, from the state party, of all who would be on the ballot for national convention delegates. Unfortunately, the list that we got apparently wasn’t completely accurate, and a few of our folks showed up on the ballot, who we hadn’t put on the slate because we thought that the Party hadn’t gotten their forms (and didn’t have them listed as qualified).
To come up with our slates, we had asked our known delegates to fill out a brief questionnaire via a web form we created. Then we started double checking with the state party’s names. Because we knew that we didn’t have the majority of the delegates, we couldn’t do what the governor ended up doing—creating a single slate, which was put on the ballot—for delegates and alternates. We had a hierarchy of folks who we wanted to get to the top of our list, based on how much they’d helped us, and how able they were to go.
Our first priority was our Congressional District candidates. But we needed to leave room on our At-Large slate to see to it that if they weren’t elected, that we could slide them over to the At-large slate. More on all of that later.
Registration for our convention began at 7 a.m. We attempted to gather our forces for a 6:30 tailgating breakfast of donuts and juice, and a little bit more discussion and pep talk. We handed out special pins (see photo below) which would help us to identify one another.
Once registered, we organized by Congressional District, and seated ourselves in that manner. We had a text messaging system set up, so I was able to send out “flash” messages to everyone who had signed up—almost 2/3 of our delegates. We’d handed the “final” slates out, which included 7 Ron Paul supporters and 2 “friendly” Romney folks on the Congressional District slate, and 15 or 16 RP supporters and a few “friendlies” on the At-Large slate. And we had some others—spouses or “maybe willing to attend” folks on the Alternate slate that we’d put together.
We made sure that there was room for “failed candidates” at the CD level, to be moved to at-large, because we had a limited number of people who were willing and able to go to National under any circumstances. In one or two instances, we stuck one spouse on the Delegate list, and one on the Alternate list. We didn’t have 64 people who we could have plugged in to ALL of the Delegate and Alternate positions—we had about 35 people who had various levels of commitment to attend, if need be.
The first round of voting—for Congressional District Candidates: we managed to get two delegates elected from the 2nd Congressional District (the Omaha area, which you’ll recall from an earlier installment had a lot of success in the County conventions). The 3rd Delegate from that district was one who we made the strategic decision to support, even though he was a Romney supporter. He is an icon in the GOP in the 2nd District, and it was obvious that he wasn’t going to win if we didn’t support him. After a brief phone conversation, and consultation with a few others, it made sense to have him generally on our side. If we’d replaced him with a pure Ron Paul supporter, we would have gotten one more delegate, but it wouldn’t have made any difference in the final results in terms of the “majority/plurality state” issue—and again, since our efforts were not just for the delegates, but to improve the standing of the RLC, this seemed a sign of goodwill for the long term. We’ll see how that plays out.
We slid our unsuccessful Paul delegates into the at-large slate (we’d fortunately left enough room for all of us), and had at the second round before lunch. The results were even more dismal. The Governor’s slate held together, and Romney people continued to get elected.
After lunch we had CD alternate votes, and, since our hopes were pretty well dashed, we looked to building alliances for later. We elected one Ron Paul supporter as an alternate, and 2 friendly non-slate Romney supporters as 2nd CD alternates. None of our folks got elected anywhere else, in either the CD or At-large alternate races.
Some (mostly outside of the state) criticized us because we did not demand a hand count of the delegate votes. I suppose we could have pushed for that, but it seemed pretty pointless, and something that would have likely drug things on longer, and caused irritation amongst those with whom we will be working with in the future. We did run some test votes—just to see how strong the organization of the “other side” was. One was a credentials committee challenge. We lost on voice vote, called for division, and went with standing votes. The numbers showed about 38% to 62%, not in our favor. Both “our folks” and the Romney folks had vote clues available—people raising signs suggesting “vote yes” or “vote no”.
A second vote, on a rule which we challenged, turned out similarly, about 42% to 58%. It was pretty clear after those votes that our 40% estimate of power was pretty darned close.
Delegate votes (in the at-large) showed that the slates were holding. The spread between the Paul slate and the Romney slate votes were very close to that 40-60 split. Could we—hypothetically—have been cheated by the voting machines? I suppose so. Do I think we were? No.
Platform-wise, we’d had two members on the platform committee (including myself). We made some suggestions, got most of what we wanted, and declared it a success.
In the end, the RLC-associated folks (mostly Paul folks), comported themselves with great dignity and grace—even though we were all disappointed in the delegate results. Our folks left eager to stay involved, and happy with the place we’d earned at the table. There’s no denying that some on the other side were hostile, and will remain so. But many of the “regulars” who were there—even though they voted with the Governor’s slate—treated us cordially, and in the end, the State Chair took a moment to thank the new folks for showing up, and the “liberty caucus folks” were given a standing ovation.
Afterwards, I had the chance to talk to those of our folks who weren’t otherwise occupied by the State Central Committee that was taking place (a goodly number of our folks now sit on the State Central Committee). There was disappointment, yes. But no regret in what we had done, and no sign that they were ready to give up the fight.
This post has gotten long…so the last one will deal with some of the lessons learned, and prognostications for the future of the liberty movement in Nebraska, and some reflections on the liberty movement nationwide.