Even though the state Republican chairman Mark Fahleson decided this week to stay in his position to prevent a Paul supporter from winning his seat, there’s still potential for fireworks at the state convention on July 14 in Grand Island.
The executive director of the state Republican Party, Jordan McGrain, told Nebraska Watchdog in addition to its usual sergeant at arms committee, the party hired additional security for the first time in convention history, to his knowledge. Party officials are preparing for potential for trouble caused by Paul supporters. The libertarian Texas Congressman quit campaigning for president in May, but his supporters have circumvented primaries and caucuses by winning delegates at conventions in Iowa, Maine, Minnesota and Louisiana with an eye toward sending as many as possible to the national convention in Tampa.
In Louisiana, Paul garnered about half the state’s delegates and chaos broke out, with several delegates arrested and the convention chairman reportedly getting thrown to the ground by police.
McGrain said Nebraska Republicans are preparing for the potential for “some pretty rowdy guests” at the convention – noting that other states experienced “all-out anarchy” at their conventions because they weren’t ready for a ruckus.
“We’re just not going to tolerate any disruptions,” McGrain said. “This is not going to be a free-for-all.”
In Nebraska, about half the delegates went to Paul supporters in Dodge and Sarpy counties, with Paul supporters claiming rules were violated in Dodge County and retreating to a rump convention in Fremont. Then the Paul-Tea Party movement appeared poised to get their candidate elected chairman of the party – over the wishes of Gov. Dave Heineman – until chairman Fahleson pre-empted that fight this week by announcing plans to stay in his position until his term ends next year.
And so ends the battle for the chairmanship, but the battle for delegates continues. It would be an embarrassment for Heineman – the first governor to endorse Romney – to have his state’s delegates vote for Paul at the national convention. Heineman has been mentioned as a contender for a Romney cabinet post.
McGrain said Romney and Paul supporters have been “burning up the phone lines” – making calls to delegates to ascertain who they’re committed to before the state convention. He accused Paul supporters of claiming to be from the state GOP or refusing to say who they are. A leader of the Paul movement said those calls are being made by the Paul campaign.
“They’re not interested in a straight-up fight,” McGrain said. “They need to float underneath the radar. It’s just kind of their M.O. (modus operandi).”
Nebraskans voted for Romney in the primary, and it is delegates’ responsibility to deliver those votes, McGrain said. He expects Paul supporters will “steal away a few delegates” at the state convention, but “nowhere near a majority.”
“We’re all cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to deliver our delegates for Mitt Rommey,” he said.
McGrain said Paul’s supporters are trying to “take by party rules what they couldn’t on election day.”
He has been warned by Republican officials in Nevada and Louisiana to be prepared for “Paulistas” to try to seize control of the convention through endless votes, amendments, re-votes and parliamentary delays aimed at wearing out establishment Republicans.
That’s why McGrain intends to make sure the agenda is “tight” and ballots counted in an orderly and efficient way, with rented ballot-counting machines. He said the battle for delegates has become a “political sideshow that’s not helpful.”
“Frankly some of the people that got involved are supportive of Ron Paul and really don’t have any interest in doing what’s right by the Republican voters of Nebraska or by the Republican Party, who overwhelmingly said on election day that Mitt Romney was their choice,” he said. “Now is clearly the time to coalesce behind our candidate.”
A leader of the Tea Party/Paul movement in Nebraska is Laura Ebke, a blogger and chairwoman of Republican Liberty Caucus, which promotes limited government and individual liberty. She has said her movement is about the heart and soul of the Republican Party, which she said will “sink into oblivion” if it doesn’t bring new people on board.
“It’s just a matter of trying to bring the party back our way a little bit,” she said today.
She said there’s dissatisfaction with the state party and her group would like to have more of a role in the GOP. She said many counties aren’t sending a delegate to the convention, which ought to worry state party officials.
Ebke was called in to a meeting with the governor recently, where Heineman “made it clear to us that he wasn’t very happy” about the group’s support for the candidate for chairman that he had not endorsed, John Orr. She said the governor said they shouldn’t challenge his authority to name a state chairman.
They were not dissuaded, however. Fahleson’s move this week solved that problem for Heineman – delaying that battle until next spring.
Ebke said she hopes the Nebraska state convention doesn’t get tumultuous, and as the “mom” of her group, she’s tried to keep people on an “even keel.” She said her group just wants to get as many Paul delegates as possible, to get his name put into nomination in Tampa in a symbolic victory.
“The last thing I want is to have a real rowdy convention,” she said. “By the same token, youthful enthusiasm could result in… ” she said, trailing off.
“I hope that the party plays fair,” she said. “We’re prepared to lose, as long as we lose fair.”
Reported by Deena Winter, [email protected]
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