In a party where U.S. Sen. John McCain is quickly running away with the presidential nomination, many Republicans aren’t worried as much about the candidacy as they are about the future and the operation of the GOP.
Bill Bilyeu took charge as temporary chairman for the convention, consulting with the crowd as they went through a tedious agenda of explaining and clarifying rules, resolutions and platforms.
Some conventioneers were obviously exasperated by some of the more time-consuming issues; others were more interested in the convention because it gave people a better chance to speak their minds than the caucuses.
“A lot of people have given a lot of thought to the policies and rules,” Pat Phillips of Reno said. “I’m hoping people can agree. I’m intrigued by what happened after (the caucuses).”
Phillips said she felt many citizens who attended the Jan. 19 caucuses were cheated of their chance to bring ideas to the platform.
“It was chaotic,” she said. “When they (did) not have an option or could give a voice, less things were brought to the table.”
The proposed platform, submitted by Washoe County Republican chairman Thomas Dickman, included such items as “strict constructionist interpretation of the Constitution”; supporting a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between a man and a woman; supporting parents’ right to choose public, charter, private or home school for their children; support for Nevada’s right to work; making English the official language of the United States; opposing embryonic stem cell research; and mandatory parental notification for minors seeking an abortion.
From the pool of delegates selected from Washoe County’s Jan. 19 caucus, 1,200 delegates, alternates and guests came Saturday in hopes of going on to the state convention, which will also be held at the Peppermill on April 26.
The process left room for equal numbers of spirited and confused faces in the crowd.
Gov. Jim Gibbons began the morning with an address in the new Tuscan Ballroom.
“I’m so proud of the work you’re doing (in Washoe County),” Gibbons said. “But the stakes are far too high to relax and believe our work is done.”
Gibbons noted that the Jan. 19 caucuses created an all-time high interest in the upcoming election, especially among the young voter crowd.
“Our job today is to capitalize on our future,” he said, acknowledging a group of delegates in the 18 to 30 age range.
Congressman Dean Heller also made an appearance, observing that compared to two
years ago the size of the county convention has boomed.
“Today, we have 1,200 here,” Heller said. “Two years ago, we had less than 100.”
Heller said this week in Congress, he heard Democrats propose a $683 billion tax increase and urged the Republicans to take charge in three specific areas.
“There are three things we need to keep in mind: strong families, strong governments and strong defense,” he said. “That’s what will put America forward. While our military men and women are working hard, as hard as they work they want our government representatives working just as hard.”
By about 2 p.m., it was announced that 736 delegates, no more than three per precinct, would be allowed to attend the state convention. But at the time, only 482 were elected. The nominations committee continued to allow more delegates to apply and worked to allow more alternates to serve as delegates.
The Washoe County Republican County staff heard complaints from participants on a variety of issues, from volunteers who
had willingly been involved in running the caucus believing that they could attend the precinct meetings and/or go on as state delegates to the wording of resolutions to include the families of American troops serving in foreign wars or in domestic service.
Sparks City Councilman Mike Carrigan said it was “overwhelming” to see the number of Saturday’s crowd, in spite of some of the confusion of the process.
“People are really getting into the spirit,” Carrigan said. “It’s good to see a lot involved in the process; it’s a lot of fun.”
Carrigan said he was there to support McCain.
“It’s time for us to get behind a candidate,” he said.