Choosing GOP convention delegates in North Carolina

On Wednesday evening, I was a delegate at the convention of the 11th Congressional District of North Carolina.  The convention convened at 6 pm and lasted until the maintenance staff of the public high school complex closed down the auditorium at 10 pm.

The first major political meetings I attended were in Minnesota in 1978.  Since then I have been at local, county, regional and state convention in both Illinois and North Carolina. I also was an unpaid volunteer to the Illinois delegation at the 1988 Republican National Convention.  Wednesday night was perhaps the most ill organized political meeting I have ever attended.

Here is some background.  In geographic terms, NC-11 is not only one of the larger Congressional districts east of the Mississippi in terms of total square miles, it is also one of the hardest to traverse.  Consisting of the Southwest corner of the state, the district contains several ranges of mountains with peaks exceeding 6,000 feet in elevation.  While I-26 skims the eastern border of the district from north to south and I-40 cuts across from east to west, many of the other highways are often only safe at speeds well below the posted 55 mph limit.  You can't get there from here is the order of the day for many trips from point A to B, as what looks like ten miles on a map turns out to be 30 miles as the roads circles the summit of a peak or follows the valley of a winding river.   

The convention was originally announced for one location off I-26 to be held on a Saturday afternoon.  That was then changed to a different location, closer to the intersection of the two interstates. That was soon changed again to the following Wednesday night. A nighttime convention was a huge problem for many delegates.  The 6 pm start time meant that those who were in the more distant counties and employed would have to leave work early. Also, since most Evangelical churches have Wednesday evening services, delegates active in their churches faced a scheduling conflict.  In addition, the two hour or longer hour drive back home for delegates from the more remote counties meant that they would have a short night's sleep before having to go to work the nest day.  To add to the annoyance factor, there were no signs anywhere on the sprawling campus pointing to the location of the auditorium and the most convenient parking. 

Once inside, the lack of organization again reared its head. In all prior conventions I have attended, since the delegates are known well in advance, the name badges of delegates are pre-printed in large black typeface, as is the name of the county the delegate represents. The convention rules usually make the inclusion of the county name a requirement on the name badges. The name tags at this convention were hand printed in ballpoint, not even a marking pen, as one registered and didn't include the county.  These tags could barely be read from three feet away under the lighting conditions inside the auditorium.  The seating sections were also messed up.  Many counties had far fewer seats in their designated section than they had delegates show up, while there was a large area for guests at the back.  Several chairmen moved their county sign to the back in order to have room for their delegates to sit together.

Despite these problem's attendance was good compared to prior conventions, with 249 delegates present -- at least initially. But in prior years the convention had been more of a pep rally as there was no business of importance to be considered. What was distressing was how several of the more distant counties had far less then half their delegates attend. Nor can one blame those delegates. Many of those in attendance didn't get home until past midnight.

Soon after the opening gavel the convention ground to a halt even before any important business could begin when a small group of some of the youngest delegates present mounted an organized challenge of the rules committee report.  Two young women in particular proposed dozens of changes from the floor and seemed to constantly be waving around Roberts Rule of Order.  From what I could tell, none of the changes they wanted to make were material. Nor did they seem to have an agenda other then that of self-importance.  They did serve the cause of party unity, however. The Cruz and the Trump delegates quickly united in open dislike of this massive waste of time.

As to the real order of business, the election of three delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention, it ran smoothly once it finally did get underway. The names of those who had submitted their nominations in advance where read and there was a handout with the short bio of each. There were nominations from the floor. Then all delegates present had one minute in which to introduce themselves, followed by the voting.  There was room on the paper ballot form to add the names of the nominees from the floor.  There were more than enough delegates nominated for both Trump and Cruz to fill a complete slate, with a smattering of nominees for other candidates.

The Cruz people once again proved well organized.  The only solicitations I had received in advance were from delegates for Cruz.  At a table set up outside the auditorium, the Crux campaign had a pre-printed list of five people vetted in advance on their commitment to the candidate and his issues, as well as the all important concern of whether these people were both reliable and had the means to spend a week at a national political convention. Between travel, hotel, meals and registration fees, it can cost thousands, plus there is the issue of time off work for many.  All five names were also known across the district. When there was a floor nomination of our Congressman, Mark Meadows, the Cruz people quickly also made sure everyone knew the Cruz campaign heartily approved of Meadows.  They also convinced some superfluous delegate nominees for Crux to withdraw so as to not dilute the Cruz vote.

In comparison, the Trump delegates near me had to take their own notes on which Trump nominees they liked best with no guidance as to whether the campaign had vetted anyone or how reliable any of them night be.

Organization counts a great deal in life. The Trump delegate elected was a county party chairman, originally from New York, who is widely known across the District. He also was hands-down the best public speaker among the Trump nominees.  The two Cruz delegates are Congressman Mark Meadows, who was not present, and his aide, 25-year-old Clay McCreary. Of all the delegate nominees, McCreary was by far the most active in his outreach to convention attendees. He sent e-mails and worked the phones for days before the convention. Then he greeted all who approached the doors of the auditorium and asked for their vote. The alternate for Trump is a well known realtor whose business is located in a summer mountain enclave for wealthy Georgians, Floridians and residents of coastal Carolina.  She has long been active in local politics. She also was an effective speaker.  The two Crux alternates are the party chairmen of a large country and the founder of the Asheville Tea Party.

It was a long night, and many there did not get home until well after midnight.

On Wednesday evening, I was a delegate at the convention of the 11th Congressional District of North Carolina.  The convention convened at 6 pm and lasted until the maintenance staff of the public high school complex closed down the auditorium at 10 pm.

The first major political meetings I attended were in Minnesota in 1978.  Since then I have been at local, county, regional and state convention in both Illinois and North Carolina. I also was an unpaid volunteer to the Illinois delegation at the 1988 Republican National Convention.  Wednesday night was perhaps the most ill organized political meeting I have ever attended.

Here is some background.  In geographic terms, NC-11 is not only one of the larger Congressional districts east of the Mississippi in terms of total square miles, it is also one of the hardest to traverse.  Consisting of the Southwest corner of the state, the district contains several ranges of mountains with peaks exceeding 6,000 feet in elevation.  While I-26 skims the eastern border of the district from north to south and I-40 cuts across from east to west, many of the other highways are often only safe at speeds well below the posted 55 mph limit.  You can't get there from here is the order of the day for many trips from point A to B, as what looks like ten miles on a map turns out to be 30 miles as the roads circles the summit of a peak or follows the valley of a winding river.   

The convention was originally announced for one location off I-26 to be held on a Saturday afternoon.  That was then changed to a different location, closer to the intersection of the two interstates. That was soon changed again to the following Wednesday night. A nighttime convention was a huge problem for many delegates.  The 6 pm start time meant that those who were in the more distant counties and employed would have to leave work early. Also, since most Evangelical churches have Wednesday evening services, delegates active in their churches faced a scheduling conflict.  In addition, the two hour or longer hour drive back home for delegates from the more remote counties meant that they would have a short night's sleep before having to go to work the nest day.  To add to the annoyance factor, there were no signs anywhere on the sprawling campus pointing to the location of the auditorium and the most convenient parking. 

Once inside, the lack of organization again reared its head. In all prior conventions I have attended, since the delegates are known well in advance, the name badges of delegates are pre-printed in large black typeface, as is the name of the county the delegate represents. The convention rules usually make the inclusion of the county name a requirement on the name badges. The name tags at this convention were hand printed in ballpoint, not even a marking pen, as one registered and didn't include the county.  These tags could barely be read from three feet away under the lighting conditions inside the auditorium.  The seating sections were also messed up.  Many counties had far fewer seats in their designated section than they had delegates show up, while there was a large area for guests at the back.  Several chairmen moved their county sign to the back in order to have room for their delegates to sit together.

Despite these problem's attendance was good compared to prior conventions, with 249 delegates present -- at least initially. But in prior years the convention had been more of a pep rally as there was no business of importance to be considered. What was distressing was how several of the more distant counties had far less then half their delegates attend. Nor can one blame those delegates. Many of those in attendance didn't get home until past midnight.

Soon after the opening gavel the convention ground to a halt even before any important business could begin when a small group of some of the youngest delegates present mounted an organized challenge of the rules committee report.  Two young women in particular proposed dozens of changes from the floor and seemed to constantly be waving around Roberts Rule of Order.  From what I could tell, none of the changes they wanted to make were material. Nor did they seem to have an agenda other then that of self-importance.  They did serve the cause of party unity, however. The Cruz and the Trump delegates quickly united in open dislike of this massive waste of time.

As to the real order of business, the election of three delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention, it ran smoothly once it finally did get underway. The names of those who had submitted their nominations in advance where read and there was a handout with the short bio of each. There were nominations from the floor. Then all delegates present had one minute in which to introduce themselves, followed by the voting.  There was room on the paper ballot form to add the names of the nominees from the floor.  There were more than enough delegates nominated for both Trump and Cruz to fill a complete slate, with a smattering of nominees for other candidates.

The Cruz people once again proved well organized.  The only solicitations I had received in advance were from delegates for Cruz.  At a table set up outside the auditorium, the Crux campaign had a pre-printed list of five people vetted in advance on their commitment to the candidate and his issues, as well as the all important concern of whether these people were both reliable and had the means to spend a week at a national political convention. Between travel, hotel, meals and registration fees, it can cost thousands, plus there is the issue of time off work for many.  All five names were also known across the district. When there was a floor nomination of our Congressman, Mark Meadows, the Cruz people quickly also made sure everyone knew the Cruz campaign heartily approved of Meadows.  They also convinced some superfluous delegate nominees for Crux to withdraw so as to not dilute the Cruz vote.

In comparison, the Trump delegates near me had to take their own notes on which Trump nominees they liked best with no guidance as to whether the campaign had vetted anyone or how reliable any of them night be.

Organization counts a great deal in life. The Trump delegate elected was a county party chairman, originally from New York, who is widely known across the District. He also was hands-down the best public speaker among the Trump nominees.  The two Cruz delegates are Congressman Mark Meadows, who was not present, and his aide, 25-year-old Clay McCreary. Of all the delegate nominees, McCreary was by far the most active in his outreach to convention attendees. He sent e-mails and worked the phones for days before the convention. Then he greeted all who approached the doors of the auditorium and asked for their vote. The alternate for Trump is a well known realtor whose business is located in a summer mountain enclave for wealthy Georgians, Floridians and residents of coastal Carolina.  She has long been active in local politics. She also was an effective speaker.  The two Crux alternates are the party chairmen of a large country and the founder of the Asheville Tea Party.

It was a long night, and many there did not get home until well after midnight.