VANCOUVER, WA — More than 1,000 Clark County Republicans gathered on Saturday in an emotionally charged convention at the Vancouver Hilton to elect delegates to represent various legislative districts at the GOP State Convention in late May.
Delegates at the State Convention will vote on national delegates to represent Washington state at the GOP National Convention this coming August.
Saturday’s event was to finish business that began on March 3 at the local caucus events, which sent a majority of Romney delegates to the County Convention. Party organizers were again overwhelmed by the turnout, which resulted in hundreds of people waiting in line for hours and a delay to convene the proceedings.
Irregularities began before the event even started, said Romney delegate Rick Russell.
“Some lines are checking ID, while others don’t,” he said. “It seems like anyone can get in here if they get in the right line. They let some people in ahead of others. Some delegates are complaining because their name isn’t on the approved list, and they get turned away. They aren’t checking people in correctly. It’s a total train wreck.”
Dozens of people walked around unsure of where to go and what line to wait in. Emotions were running high before 9 am, and that was before the opening gavel.
The story continues after the jump (just below the photos):
|GOP delegates gathered at the Clark County GOP Convention
at the Vancouver Hilton.
|Delegates spent nearly 12 hours at the convention, which
was beset with delays and rule confusion.
Once started, GOP candidates or surrogates from every level spoke on themes of party unity, limited government, taxes, health care, beating the opposition and taking back the White House in November.
U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera spoke on party unity and “how debates are good.”
In her speech, the Congresswoman criticized President Obama’s spending and took him to task on increasing debts. She believes the current debates between factions of the party will eventually make the party stronger and are essential to a free society.
Earlier in the week, organizers from the Romney, Santorum and Gingrich campaigns had agreed on a “Unity Slate” that included 18thDistrict delegates who pledged to vote for the eventual party nominee. That Unity Slate plan was put on ice by an official Santorum representative, who said the campaign was not part of this agreement. He instead asked supporters to unite behind an Open Convention Slate.
Tensions started to rise at that moment.
Camas resident Susie Huckvale was worried that when the convention divided into individual districts that the Unity Slate plan would fail.
“I don’t feel good about this,” she said. “I smell a rat. The Santorum people are up to something. I think they’re colluding with the Ron Paul people, and double-crossing the Romney delegation.”
When the convention broke into legislative districts, Lacamas Magazine covered the 18th District’s proceedings. The convention was already 90 minutes late and confusion reigned as Mary Graham, the 18th District Legislative Caucus Chair, convened her district’s meeting.
The district meeting’s primary job was to elect 32 delegates to represent the 18th district at the State Convention. Initially, 134 delegates were slated but that soon ballooned to more than 170 as people could nominate themselves.
Katja Delavar, a Ron Paul supporter, consistently interrupted the proceedings by challenging rules and motions, much to the exasperation of many around her. One delegate asked to stop talking and emotions ran high. She and her husband, Mike, a former Washougal city councilman, left their seats and went to the back of the large room.
“I find that woman to be very disruptive and annoying,” said Huckvale.
Once nominations were closed, it was a requirement to allow the delegates 30 seconds to make a personal statement. Delegates attempted to amend this rule and allow no time for personal statements. Again, emotions ran high. The rule stood and the audience listened to the delegates make their case.
Delavar challenged nearly every motion or rule by speaking up or going to the district board at the front of the room.
“Who is this person?” said Huckvale. “She’s all over the place and she’s delaying everything – and look how wrong she is most of the time.”
One member of Precinct 960 is going to investigate why a lower numbered alternate from the caucus was in attendance as a delegate.
“Our entire delegation was here,” he said. “And he wasn’t on our list. Something fishy is going on.”
He plans to take photos of the alternate on Monday to the Clark County GOP and show them evidence of fraud.
The proceedings were delayed another hour as delegates waited on alternate voting to fill in delegate absences. Once that was done, the voting could begin.
The credentials representative reported that 213 delegates from the 18th District were credentialed and allowed to vote.
Instructions were vague and sometimes contradictory as ballots were handed out, and several delegates noted there were no safeguards.
“Nobody is watching how many ballots each delegates receives,” said Cynthia Haddock. “People could take more than one ballot and nobody would notice.”
Santorum and Romney delegates kept raising concerns to officials, only to continue to get brushed off.
“It’s not a perfect system,” said official Brent Boger, multiple times to multiple delegates. “We’re doing the best we can.”
One responded: “This whole thing is flawed. You’re not getting away with this.”
One anonymous delegate reported she received two ballots that were stuck together.
“It was hard to punch through the chads and then I noticed two were stuck together, so I returned one,” she said. “A dishonest person can easily commit fraud.”
Whispers of concern ran rampant as voting for 32 state delegates began. Charges of fraud were audible as one Ron Paul supporter wearing a cowboy hat was seen and videotaped holding four ballots.
It wasn’t a pretty sight.
Votes were counted using a voting machine and party official Mike Gaston announced the first round was complete. “We have 12 winners out of 284 ballots cast,” Gaston said.
Seventy-one ballots were in question. Delavar immediately ran around the convention hallway claiming a break down of the system. “How can that be?” she yelled out. “We only credentialed 213.”
She then returned to her supporters.
Delegates were aghast and concerned about time limits as it neared 4:30 pm. The event was supposed to adjourn at 6 pm and the voting was nowhere near completion.
“We had a credentials report that said there were 213 credentialed voting delegates from the 18th Legislative District,” said Boger. “We think the 284 number is correct … but we cannot verify that, so we’re going to count everyone in the room … and if we are fairly close to 284 we can just accept that number.”
A worn down and exhausted delegation agreed to the proposal, but once again questioned the integrity of the entire process. Most kept looking at their watches wondering if there was enough time to complete the voting.
Once a manual count of delegates was completed, the original numbers stood, but that left 20 open slots, since nominees were required to receive 50 percent plus one in order to be seated at the State Convention. The first round of elected delegates were Santorum supporters.
“It looks likes the Santorum delegates betrayed the Romney people and colluded with Ron Paul supporters,” said Haddock. “I feel disillusioned.”
A second round of voting began but had to be scrapped because GOP rules require delegates with less than 10 percent in the first round to be dropped from voting in the second round.
Tension and frustration filled the hall.
Romney delegates were shut out completely in the second round as Paul delegates ran away with it. After the third round, Romney delegates realized they had been double-crossed by the Santorum people.
“It’s clear what happened,” said Doug Thurston. “The two other campaigns combined forces to shut the Romney people out.”
He said the disproportion of Ron Paul supporters to the Romney delegates didn’t make sense given the way the caucus turned out.
“Romney clearly won on caucus day,” Thurston said. “And there weren’t this many Ron Paul people that won. Something bad happened.”
Huckvale thinks fraud was rampant all day long.
“The Santorum people double-crossed us,” she said. “And the number of delegates compared to what was credentialed wreaks of fraud. Romney won the caucus and had a clear majority of delegates from the county to win this!”
In the end, only Santorum and Paul delegates were elected from the 18th District.
Delegate Kristy Wasson was saddened by anti-Mormon remarks by Ron Paul supporters. She said one delegate was making fun of Mormons, and then said he was only joking. Another reported several Ron Paul supporters make anti-Mormon comments. Mitt Romney is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I am at peace tonight,” said Delavar to her Ron Paul supporters. “I can happily lay my head on my pillow tonight for what we did. We wiped out the Romney people and our voice was heard.”
One of the supporters said they wouldn’t support Mitt Romney if he got the nomination. He said they hoped for a brokered convention and would embrace presidential candidate Gary Johnson.
Observers were dismayed by the day’s proceedings.
“There was a 30 percent discrepancy between the credentialed delegates and the number of people voting – that’s significant,” said Thurston. “Ballots were handed out and nobody was double checking – one guy had four ballots in his hand. There were no checks and balances in this system.”
Officials were overwhelmed by the process and kept brushing off complaints.
“The system today has been flawed,” said Romney delegate Joseph Burt. “Today we have had a lot of discrepancy, a lot of problems, complete disorganization. The chairman did not have the agenda until this morning. This has been a flawed system and I’m certain there will be challenges.”
Most delegates spent nearly 12 hours at the Hilton, and by 6 pm at least a dozen gave up and went home. The event ended just after 8 pm.
“That’s what the Ron Paul people do,” said Burt. “They delay, delay, delay, cause panic, cause confusion and get people to leave early so they can inflate their numbers. And today, it worked.”