| Posted: Monday, August 6th, 2012 | Comments (0)
Republicans Battle at State Convention
By: Constitution Staff
Problems in certifying delegates, battles over rules, and a near-physical fight between two delegates turned the May 12 Oklahoma Republican State Convention at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Norman into a daylong event. And, when the hotel staff closed the convention hall to prep for another event, one contingent of delegates reconvening the convention in the hotel parking lot.
Two convention speeches drew more attention than most, one by Governor Mary Fallin, and another by former presidential candidate, Tim Pawlenty. Fallin’s speech was typical for Fallin, until she mentioned the need for all Republicans to get behind Mitt Romney, contending that Romney was now the party’s nominee. Many of the Ron Paul delegates, not quite ready to concede that just yet, began to shout, No, No. Loudly. Instead of quickly saying something positive about Congressman Paul, which would have no doubt pleased the Paul forces, and defused the situation, Fallin smirked that there must be a lot of “Obama Lovers” out there and several Paul backers began to boo.
Former Minnesota Governor TimPawlenty was allowed to address the convention after the luncheon at which he was scheduled to speak was cancelled. After ending his own race for the presidential nomination he endorsed Romney. He apparently did not hear Fallin’s earlier speech and proceeded to make the same mistake of asking the delegates to support the presumed party nominee, Mitt Romney and was also booed.
The most important mission for the state GOP Convention was the selection of delegates to attend the Republican National Convention this August in Tampa Bay, Florida To win the presidential nomination, a candidate needs the votes of 1,144 of the 2,286 delegates allocated for the convention. Oklahoma will have 43 of those delegates, with 40 being awarded to presidential contenders based on Oklahoma’s presidential preferential primary held on March 6. The remaining three delegates are party leaders including the National Committeeman, the National Committeewoman, and the chairman of the Oklahoma’s Republican Party who are not required to vote for a particular candidate.
The delegates awarded by the primary election are determined by the strength of each of the candidates in the election. Fifteen were awarded based on the vote by congressional district (three from each of Oklahoma’s five congressional districts). The remaining 25 were allocated based on the vote statewide. Mitt Romney, who finished second in the primary, is assured of having13 delegates based on those results. He won 28 percent of the statewide GOP vote. The two other candidates receiving delegates based on the primary election vote have since suspended their campaigns, but have not officially released their delegates. Rick Santorum finished first in the state’s primary with 34 percent of the vote, winning 14 delegates. Newt Gingrich finished third with 27 percent of the vote and was awarded 13 delegates. Ron Paul, who received less than 10 percent of the vote, fell short of the 15 percent required to be allocated delegates.
While the allocation of delegates is determined by the primary election, the actual people serving as delegates (except the three party leaders) are selected at District Conventions (which were held in March and April), and at the State Republican Convention. If Santorum and Gingrich eventually release their delegates, the people holding those delegate slots could vote for another candidate. Even though Ron Paul received no delegates in the primary election, Paul supporters are claiming to have won 9 of the 15 congressional district national delegate slots at the District Conventions. But, three of those are required to vote for Romney as dictated by the vote in the primary. The Paul supporters marshaled their forces in the hope of taking the 25 slots to be selected at the state convention.
After seeing how the Paul supporters dominated some of the District conventions, it is believed that the regular party establishment made efforts to encourage party regulars to attend the state convention to prevent a takeover by Paul supporters. The strength of the Paul forces was immediately evident by the large number of vehicles with Ron Paul bumper stickers in the parking lot. Based on the results of the first recorded vote at the convention, nearly 600 of the 1,476 delegates were supporters of the Texas congressman.
Problems over the credentials report led directly to most of the problems of the rest of the convention. The credentials report came up for adoption behind schedule, and was further delayed on the floor of the convention with some Paul supports complaining that they had been in the convention facility (but not in the registration line) at the time of the 9:00 A.M. cutoff and were not allowed to register. The convention approved 22 exceptions for these requests and the Credentials Committee was reconvened to update the credentials report.
By the time the credentials report was finally adopted, the proceedings were significantly behind schedule. Marc Nuttle, who was selected as convention chairman, was pressed to complete the convention by the announced 5:00 P.M. adjournment time. Nuttle revealed that he had been involved in the campaign for Ron Paul’s first election to Congress in 1976 and reassured the Paul delegates that they would be treated fairly.
Further problems with the credentials surfaced during the first recorded vote at the convention. Following approval of the credentials report, the first major item of business was the adoption of the rules for the convention. Nuttle entertained a motion to amend the convention rules to allow a a slate of delegates to the national convention submitted by the Ron Paul supporters to be considered alongside the official slate of delegates recommended by the Republican Party Executive Committee.
The official slate was put together after interviews of about 200 applicants. The selections typically go to reward long party service and financial support for the party. The official slate has historically been placed before the convention for an up or down vote, generally with no opposition from the floor. Four years ago, an alternative slate was also proposed, partly in opposition to sending a former board member of Planned Parenthood to the national convention – but he had given lots of money to the party, of course. Republican Party Chairman Matt Pinnell took to the floor to defend the official slate and oppose the rule change. “I’ll go to bat for this slate 365 days a year,” Pinnell told the convention.
During the roll call vote on the amendment to the rules it was discovered that some counties were reporting ballots cast by more delegates than had been certified in the amended credentials report. State party Vice Chairman Pam Pollard presided over the roll call vote. It was reported that the proposed rules amendment had lost 1,148 to 763. When the vote concluded, Pollard suggested that since the 83 additional ballots cast were less than the margin by which the rules amendment lost, that the convention should continue with adoption of the rules and proceed with other convention business while they resolved the problem. But, the additional votes being recorded naturally led some Paul supporters to suspect fraud. When Pollard assured the convention that they would “fix it,” voices were heard saying things like, “I bet they’re going to fix it,” with emphasis on the word fix.
Many of the delegates, especially the Paul supporters, did not accept the argument that the additional votes would not affect the outcome of the decision. Not all ballots on the convention floor counted the same. While in some counties each delegate casts a single vote, in other counties a vote cast by a delegate could be worth up to two votes, but in other counties a delegate vote might count for as little as a half-vote. For example, if a county was allocated 50 delegates at the state convention, but only 25 delegates actually showed up, each of the 25 ballots cast by those delegates could be worth two votes. But, in another county there might be twice as many delegates than were allocated for that county and those ballots would only be worth a half-vote each. If everyone showed up in another county, the ballots would be worth one a piece. So, depending on where the extra votes came from, the impact could be greater than 83 votes.
By this time the convention was so far behind schedule that the room allocated for a 1:00 P.M. luncheon featuring former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was no longer available and the luncheon was cancelled. At 2:30 P.M. the delegates were told to take 30 minutes to find lunch and return while the state party staff worked to resolve the discrepancy in the number of delegates.
Despite the suspicions of the Paul supporters, it does not appear the additional votes were the result of a conspiracy to manufacture votes to block the efforts of the Paul supporters. One of the authors of this article was a delegate from Logan County. The county was allocated 28 delegates and the amended credentials report showed the county delegation to have 10 delegates in attendance. Our county delegation did not question that number until it came time for the vote and we discovered there were 13 people wearing delegate badges and trying to cast a ballot. Since no imposters were found among the group, the question of what to do was discussed. At first the county chairman requested volunteers to abstain from voting to prevent an over-vote. But, after protests, that effort was aborted and 13 ballots were reported in the roll call.
This new problem concerning the credentials appeared to be the result of a combination of factors including new computer software, delegates who pre-registered online incorrectly, and volunteers who made errors entering data during the check-in process. David Byte who worked on credentials had this explanation for the problem:“We implemented a new system this year that manages the registration process from front to back...With the new systems and many first time volunteers working registration, there were a number of issues that were simply human error (not getting a toggle clicked to set a status of delegate).”
Byte discussed other problems that contributed to the unusually long delay in the report of the Credentials Committee, including blaming hotel staff for causing a “30 minute delay in the first resolution period when they started tearing down the registration area so they could set up the Romney hospitality suite. They pulled the power on our equipment without warning (or apology I might add) requiring us to move it, get it all fired back up and then run a database check...and then get started dealing with corrections again.”
In a post convention interview with the Oklahoma Constitution, Pollard explained that each county chairman had to report the names of potential delegates prior to the convention and those names were entered into the computer database. When the problem came up about the extra delegates, the names from registration were cross checked with the delegate list provided by the counties and all were legitimate delegates. She said that in 100% of the cases, the extra votes were caused by delegates being incorrectly recorded as “guests” rather than “delegates” in the registration process, either when pre-registering online or during check-in at the convention.
When the convention reconvened at 3:00 P.M., the delegates were assured that the ballots cast before lunch had been verified and the amendment to the rules had failed. The rules were then adopted by voice vote and the convention proceeded to vote on the official slate of delegates. When the official slate was presented for an up or down vote, the supporters of Paul insisted on a roll call vote, rather than simply accepting the slate based on the earlier vote. David Tackett in his article, “Both Sides Messed Up,” contended that, “And so whether it was standing vote or ballot, the state committee’s slate would have been approved.” Tackett and others contended that this demand for a roll call vote, as well as the scores of “point of order” requests were intended to drag out the convention, until many of the delegates left, and the Paul supporters could have their way. In fact, Tackett said that he had been told by “several of the RP delegates” that that was indeed the plan.
While the party rules require a roll call vote for the delegate positions, Convention Chairman Nuttle, probably concerned about the convention running out of time, refused to allow a roll call vote. According to Tackett, “Did the chair wrongly decide that the standing vote was OK for the slate vote? Absolutely yes. But the RP ers had a recourse, and that was to appeal the decision of the chair. They did and they lost by a vote of the delegates. At that point, the body in essence had rewritten the rule.”
There were many shouts for a point of order, and no doubt many were unnecessary, and did delay the proceedings (although not anywhere near the extent that the long delay caused by the failure to bring forth a credentials report). But, the question remains: Since the Paul supporters had clearly lost the rule vote to consider two slates, why waste everyone’s time with a second roll call vote, that would surely yield the same result?
Brady Wright, a leader in the Paul forces, responded to that issue, “ The reason why the rules require a roll-call is because it is impossible to take county apportionment into account when surveying a standing vote, and especially a voice vote. This can affect the outcome. As for using the prior rules vote as an argument not to have a roll-call on a subsequent vote, then why have a vote at all? Why not just declare the results of everything that was to follow based on that one vote?” Wright added, “We cannot assume that the composition of the crowd hours later matched the composition at the time the rules vote was taken. Nor can we assume nobody could have changed their mind in the interim.”
The next order of business was selection of a National Committeeman and the National Committeewoman. Actually, the vote for these positions was scheduled prior to the vote on the delegate slate. Pinnell made a motion to change the order of business which should have required a super majority to pass. But, the Convention Chair simply took his motion as an instruction and did it without a vote.
In the National Committeeman race, Steve Fair of Stephens County narrowly defeated Richard Engle of Canadian County. Engle had the support of the Paul backers, which probably cost him votes in a backlash against some of the tactics associated with the earlier battle over the delegate slate. But, Engle was also the victim of a smear campaign (see related article elsewhere in this issue). According to the official convention records, Fair edged out Engle, 984 to 913. After the vote for national committeeman there was a motion to make Fair’s narrow margin of victory “unanimous.” Traditionally a motion to elect someone by acclamation comes from the losing candidate, which was not the case here. The convention chair put this to a vote anyway.
No one opposed the reelection of Carolyn McLarty of Woodward County for the national committeewoman post. She was approved by an overwhelming voice vote.
Media reports suggested that the convention was marred by actual physical fights, with the presumption that this was the fault of the Ron Paul delegates. Actually, the Ron Paul delegates weren’t at fault for these “fights,” mainly because there were not actual fights. So, neither pro nor anti-Paul delegates were responsible for fights, or as the Oklahoman editorial so shamefully put it, “slugging it out.” The source of all the media hype was one incident, in which a lone septuagenarian, actually a Romney booster, struck a zealous Paul supporter in the back with a rolled up piece of paper. No one had to seek medical treatment for this so-called altercation.
By the time the convention made it past the controversial speeches, the contentious votes, and the emotional vote for the two national committeeman candidates, the five o’clock shut down time was looming. Much the business of the convention, such as the party platform, and a dispute concerning one of the District Conventions, were still left to be decided.
Delegates debated and approved a party platform amendment that instructs the state Republican Party to withhold campaign funding to any Republican candidate who accepts a contribution from the Oklahoma Public Employees Association or the Oklahoma Education Association. The amendment was proposed by state Labor Commissioner Mark Costello. The convention then adopted the platform.
The convention chair then mentioned that a dispute originally scheduled to be addressed by the convention would have to be taken care of by the state committee because it was so late in the day (almost 5:00 PM). A delegate then took the microphone to state a point of order. The point was that a party rule stated the issue had to be addressed by the convention and not by a later committee. As this discussion was in progress, the hotel staff began to roll out partitions that cut off a third of the convention floor from the rest of the convention. Tulsa County, the second largest county delegation in attendance, was among those cut off from view and hearing the podium. That portion of the room was apparently going to be used for a prom or something, and even though the meeting was still going on, they went ahead and started clearing the room. The chairman ruled that the issue would be handled by the Republican State Committee.
At this point many people were already leaving the convention hall. The chair called for a voice vote on the motion to adjourn. It was unclear. With half of what was left of the room already standing, and a third of it cut off from view, he then called for a standing vote. As the confusion continued, the lights were cut off and the remaining delegates scrambled from the room.
Nearly 400 of the Paul supporters “reconvened” the convention in the east parking lot where they elected Jake Peters to chair the continued convention. During the outdoor proceedings, the alternative slate of national delegates and alternates was elected by roll call ballot, and Engle rather than Fair was elected as national committeeman.
A few weeks later, attorneys representing the Paul supporters delivered a letter to Oklahoma GOP Chairman Matt Pinnell challenging the “the legitimacy and legality of the purported selection of at-large delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention at the May 12, 2012 Oklahoma Republican Party Convention.” The letter contends that the election of the State Republican Executive Committee’s national delegate slate is void because convention chairman Marc Nuttle failed to conduct the vote by roll call ballot as required in party rules. Instead, Nuttle called only for voice and standing votes, which do not take into account proportional weighting by county.
The challenge letter requests that the delegates and alternates elected at the outdoor convention be recognized by the Oklahoma GOP as the legitimate at-large delegation, and that national delegation credentialing be forestalled until the challenge is resolved. The letter indicates that the petitioners are prepared to take their challenge formally to the GOP national Committee on Contests.
There are no reader comments about this story
Ad Your Comment:
In The News
COMMON CORE in Oklahoma
The design and implementation of Common Core in Oklahoma Schools is underway through a “process”...
Legislation Advances Through Oklahoma Legislature
(Updated 5/14/13)With the end of the legislative session approaching at the end of May, various...
Conservative Legislation Stalls in State Senate
With the governor’s office and both houses of the Oklahoma Legislature controlled by Republicans,...
Detention and Drones and the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation
Should the president of the United States, on his own, without any due process of law as required by...
What the Oil Business Could Learn from the NRA
Watching the political and scientific debates concerning energy and the environment for the past 20...
President Obama’s Enthusiasm for Oklahoma Preschool Not Universally Shared
During his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama proposed making “high-quality...
xml_error_string() = mismatched tag
xml_get_current_line_number() = 2
xml_get_current_column_number() = 214
xml_get_current_byte_index() = 254