As you come in, it engulfs you. There are very excited delegates wearing goofy hats with bumper stickers on them or buttons from their favorite candidate. There are wide-eyed gaggles of college Republicans hoping to meet an elected official. There was also, in large numbers, first time delegates like me who did not really know what to expect.
It started as soon as I arrived. I was walking through the convention hotel trying to find where the registration desk was to get my delegate credentials. The elections for state party office were being held at the hotel, which was plastered with signs by the various candidates. There were signs stuck on the walls, signs leaning against the walls, and even signs made up as tubes so that they could stand on their own in the hallways. Young volunteers were going up to all of the delegates as they went by and were putting stickers on each delegate announcing their support for persons that were running for Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Treasurer, Secretary, and Regional Vice-Chairman.
Two gentlemen to my right were walking very purposefully and followed by a photographer. I asked them where the registration desk was and discovered I was speaking to former Senate Republican Leader, Jim Brulte, who was running for party Chairman and former California Republican Party Chairman, Michael Schroeder, who was Senator Brulte’s campaign manager. They directed me to where registration was and during that conversation I was photographed by the San Francisco Chronicle and ended up in a news story with that picture.
There seemed to be as much business happening in the hallways, clusters of earnest people speaking earnestly and seriously, as there was in the actual formal functions.
A personal highlight of the convention for me was listening to someone I consider the top Republican strategist in the country, Karl Rove. Rove talked about what California Republicans need to do to mount a comeback, telling us that “we all needed to get off our ass and get back to work”. Pretty direct advice that was hard to argue with.
As a first time delegate, it is difficult to tell who are the significant candidates and who are not. Apparently the delegates had no such trouble. Jim Brulte was elected by a vote of 990 to 115 and the Vice-Chair candidate won by a tally of 881 to 226.
I got through the three days, relatively unscathed and un-stickered. I will definitely be back for more of these.