MONDAY SEPTEMBER 1, 2008- 11:30pm
On the way to the convention, I visited with John Tyler Hammons, the youngest Mayor in America. John Tyler was elected Mayor of Muskogee three months ago. He is currently attending NSU studying Political Science. Hammons loves history and his ambition is to be at least Governor of Oklahoma. He gives out Guitar Picks with Muskogee on them. Muskogee is Oklahoma's music center. The Chamber of Commerce came up with the idea. John Tyler's political mentor is his high school history teacher Jack Harrison. When I asked John Tyler if the office of first lady of Muskogee was filled, he said it was currently vacant, but he was taking applications. John Tyler credits his mother as "the defining person in his life." Hammons is an intelligent, engaging new man with a bright future. Mature beyond his years, he has some ambitious goals for Muskogee. Write his name down- in 2028, we may be attending a convention nominating John Tyler Hammons as a Presidential nominee. See our photo above.
When we reached the Xcel Center around 1pm, the nearly two hour wait allowed me the opportunity to interview several fellow delegates, including State Representative Jack Williams from Alabama. A friend of former Oklahoma GOP State Chairman Steve Edwards, Williams is married with two kids and is attending his first convention. His sixteen year old son is a page. Jack is optimistic that 2008 will be a big year for Alabama with the goal for the GOP to take the State legislature in 2010. Williams said the Palin pick by McCain was "a home run." "It's historical and she is so energetic, it will help Republicans down ticket," Williams concluded.
David Lewis is from Alaska. He is also attending his first convention. He has two kids and lives in Eagle River, Alaska. David said he has met Governor Palin and is excited she will be on the ticket. When asked why he got involved in politics, Lewis said it was because "to understand the government, you need to get involved." David has been involved at all levels of activism- from knocking doors to putting out signs to contributing to campaigns.
Custer County Chairman Steve Millspaugh lives in Weatherford and is involved in the oil and gas industry. Steve is married and has three kids and 3 grandkids. He is attending his second convention- but his first as a delegate. "The convention is different and not what we expected, but we are making the best of a tough situation," Millspaugh said.
While Steve and I were talking a delegate from Colorado, Sharon Johnson came looking for my wife, Debbie. It seems that Sharon's sister lives in Duncan. Her name is Ryleen Driggs and she works at Gardentown. We enjoyed visiting with her and I told her I would love to get her sister involved in the Stephens County GOP.
After that, I went looking for my friend David Barton among the Texas delegation. David is the founder of Wallbuilders, an organization that promotes the fact that America was founded by Christian on Christian principles. I met Mark Klecka, a CPA from Houston. He is currently the President of the Cherry Tree Republicans (cherrytreegop.org). Mark is a University of Houston alumni and got involved in politics because of his concern about tax issues. He is excited about McCain and Palin and said the convention had been "great thus far."
I also met Stan Stanart, a delegate from Texas. Stan graduated from Oklahoma State. He is married and hsi wife is an alternate to the convention. Stan is a candidate- running for County school trustee- a partisan position in their county. When I asked Stan what motivated him to get involved in politics, he cited the influence of David Barton and Wallbuilders. Stan is the immediate past President of the Cherry Tree Republicans.
I found David and we visited briefly before the delegates and alternates were asked to take their seats for the start of the convention. David's organizations Wallbuilders does a great work and I would encourage you to research them and attend one of their events when they are in your area. The link to their web site is: http://wallbuilders.com/
My son Jeremy called me and said that from the Guest seating, he could see thousands of protesters behind a police line. See photo above. The local news channels are reporting that 250 were arrested at the protests, but we never saw them.
State Representative Gary Banz from Midwest City was interviewed on C-Span and fellow blogger Bobby Cleveland (www.thatsjustbob.blog.com) from Slaughterville along with Debbie and I were photographed by the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Bobby was wearing an Uncle Sam hat with dred locks and I must admit cast a pretty striking figure. He was very popular with the photographers, so I expect he will make the highlight reel and a few newspapers.
After the convention was called to order, and before the various committee broke out into their various meetings., RNC Chairman Mike Duncan asked every delegate, alternate and guest to donate $5 via their cell phone to the Red Cross for the victims of Gustav. He encouraged us to give at least that amount.
I serve on the Permanent Rules committee along with Phyllis Gorman of Oklahoma City, so before I went to the meeting, I traded my Delegate badge with Alternate Allie Burgin, Chairman from Garvin County, so he could get on the floor. After the meeting, I sat in the Alternate section for the remainder of the session with my friends- the Boydstuns from Mulhall, Oklahoma.
John and Alice Boydstun drove to Minneapolis. Alice is a long time activist from Payne County and she and John serve as the district committeeman and committeewoman from Payne County to the third district. Alice has been working in local politics for over twenty years. When I asked John about McCain, he replied, "I'm feeling better about him every day." "His POW experience illustrates that when the chips are in the dirt, that's when a man finds out what he is really made of," John concluded.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy from California is Chairman of the Platform committee. Our National Committeeman, Lynn Windel and National Committeewoman, Bunny Chambers represented Oklahoma on the committee. McCarthy was born in Bakersfield, CA, which endears him to a lot of Okies since many traveled to that area during the dust bowl of the 1930s. "We asked people from all walks of life for their input and we ripped out the political rhetoric in this platform," McCarthy said. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina was co-chair of the platform committee and he said, "this is the most principled platform in over a generation and this platform is a testament to the American spirit." The platform passed unanimously.
In an unannounced surprise visit, the First Lady Laura Bush and Cindy McCain appeared on stage, with Ms. Bush introducing a video of four of the five Governors from the states impacted by Gustav. Texas Governor Rick Perry was standing in front of a National Guard aircraft that was unloading evacuees from Louisiana. Perry said, "This is what we do- we take care of our citizens." Next Bob Riley from Alabama addressed the convention crowd via video. Riley's message was "I want to express my gratitude to the National Guard and when adversity comes, Americans do what is right with character, courage and sacrifice."
Florida Governor Charlie Crist said, "In America, we help our neighbors and Florida is committed to doing just that."
The final Governor to address the crowd by video was former RNC Chairman Haley Barbour. Barbour now serves as Governor of Mississippi. The blunt, candid straight shooting Barbour humbly asked for the prayer of the delegates of the convention. "We need those prayers and appreciate them," Barbour said.
Cindy McCain quoted her husband when she returned to the stage after the videos by saying, "John says that it's time we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats." McCain urged all delegates to contribute to the hurricane victims relief efforts by logging onto causegreater.com.
Shortly after five o'clock, Chairman Duncan asked for a motion to recess. We headed back to the buses about 4 blocks away. A Wisconsin delegate from the 2nd Congressional District show my red Oklahoma shirt and asked me if I knew Jack Dake from Norman. Jack is a friend and the former County Chairman of Cleveland County. One of the reasons Cleveland County is so Republican now is due to Jack's tireless efforts. Regina Schaar was the ladies name and she wanted Jack to know how he had inspired her to get involved and stay involved in politics. Regina is Vice Chairwoman for the 2nd Congressional District in the Cheesehead state- sorry Dairy State.
While standing in line for the bus to pick us up and go back to the hotel, I visited with Colorado State Senator and delegate Jack Taylor from Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Taylor has served sixteen years in the legislature and said about Sarah Palin- "She has a bright personality and she understands the oil and gas situation which I believe is critical at this point in time. Jack is termed out and only has about four months to go on his term. He jokingly said, "My wife said if I ran for the house, I would have to find another house to live in."
When we got back to the hotel and to the room, I noticed my phone was missing. My son Jeremy called it and it had fallen out of my pocket on the bus. A Minneapolis police officer rides the bus with us to the Xcel center, so he was kind enough to bring it back to the hotel.
Former 4th district Congressman JC Watts Jr. was in the lobby when I was down getting my phone. J.C. and I visited briefly- I invited him to break bread with me, but he had a previous engagement. He said his wife Frankie's brother had died unexpectedly, so I would urge you to remember that family in prayer as the funeral is later in the week. J.C. will be speaking at our Wednesday morning joint breakfast with Louisiana.
Jeremy, Debbie and I then made the decision to go to Civic Fest at the Minneapolis Convention Center. It has over 35 world class exhibits and lots of stuff to buy. I spent $100 of the Stephens County GOP's money on buttons, including one that said God created Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve. Trust me, we will get a fair return on investment- We will use the buttons to raise money to help operate the party. We also took photos in a model "Oval Office" and my swearing in ceremony as prez will be a featured item at the next SCGOP Fish Fry. I was so loud in taking the Oath of Office administered by my son, that State GOP 72 hour task force coordinator and Duncan native Carissa Darling had to make her way to the festivities from across the exhibit hall to see what was going on. Carissa said, "I recognized your voice and I had to see what was going on." The favorite thing we brought was a baby bib for my nine month old grandson that says, Liberals make me spit up.
After a quiet, relaxing family dinner with our son at Outback, we made our way back to the hotel. The hospitality room was full of about 45 delegates, alternates and guests sitting in round table fashion talking and joking. After two jokes, I was booed out of the room. Those of you that know me recognize that two of my jokes are about as many as you can take. Seriously, I needed to complete my post and I wanted to get it done before midnight.
It's been an interesting and productive day. We still are unsure of what tomorrow's convention schedule will be. I will keep you updated.