Chaos over Paul cuts short gathering
After a super-majority of Ron Paul supporters captured control of the Republican state convention Saturday, state party officials abruptly canceled the event without electing delegates to the national convention.
Early in the day, state delegates supporting Paul's continued pursuit of the Republican nomination voted through a rules change that forced the state party to abandon its preset ballot of potential national convention delegates and open up the race to the rest of the state delegates.
The vote followed a rousing speech by Paul of Texas, who said his presidential campaign will continue as long as he has support.
But as the convention continued into the evening, chairman Bob Beers said the party's contract for the hall at the Peppermill Resort Casino had expired and the event would be rescheduled.
"Due to a rules change that left us on an overtime basis, we will recess the convention until a date that we are going to announce next week," Beers told a shocked crowd, which stood silent for a few seconds before erupting in boos.
As Beers was escorted out of the building, a short-lived effort to rescue the convention was launched by party activist Mike Weber. Although several hundred Paul supporters stayed, they weren't strong enough to make a quorum to continue the convention.
Throughout the confusion, hecklers battled for the attention of delegates who supported U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
"McCain supporters leave!" one man shouted.
"McCain supporters stay!" a woman answered.
"We're supposed to be on the same team!" another woman shouted.
In a written statement, party chairwoman Sue Lowden said the vote to allow self-nominations doubled the number of people competing for 31 spots to the national convention. That overwhelmed the party's capacity to process the votes.
"Unfortunately, with the rule changes implemented this morning, we did not have time to complete the process," she said. "Our contract for the meeting space had expired, as had our budget, and ballots were unable to be physically produced by the nominations committee. We had to temporarily recess the convention."
Heading to Vegas?
She is exploring whether to move the convention to Las Vegas to take advantage of reduced costs for the Cox Pavilion, which Clark County Democrats used for their convention do-over.
Beers denied the decision was meant to undermine Paul's efforts to win national convention delegates from Nevada.
"I don't see how it does," Beers said as he raced out of the building. "We've given Ron Paul's guy a list of the credentialed delegates and a list of the nominees for national delegates."
Votes that had been cast to elect nine of the 31 delegates were sealed in envelopes and locked in a safety deposit box, a party official said.
But Paul supporter Chloie Leavitt, of Overton, left angry.
"I do blame Bob Beers," she said. "But not only Bob Beers. This was an organized effort to promote the agenda of a few people, the party leaders, over we the people."
Although he is the presumptive nominee, McCain came in third in the Nevada caucuses, the first step in nominating delegates to the county, state and national conventions. That left him with few natural supporters at the state event.
Despite a Paul majority in delegates, McCain will win Nevada support at the national convention, said Ryan Erwin, a Republican consultant from Las Vegas who supports McCain.
"This is still a McCain convention," Erwin said, adding that enthusiasm for Paul's speech was for his message, not necessarily his candidacy. "There are parts of his message that the entire Republican base likes.
"But at the end of the day, part of the job of being a national delegate is to do what is best for the party in November. And that means supporting the party's nominee."
Paul, who came in second in the Nevada caucuses, actively worked to ensure his supporters attended both the county and state conventions.
His contingent came to the state convention prepared for battle. They had a row of printers to print ballots for their supporters to the national convention. They set up a communications network using text messages to cell phones to make sure everyone voted correctly on motions that would benefit their effort. And they scoured the rules for opportunities to level the playing field.
"On the one side you have a candidate with principles, on the other side you have Tammany Hall," said Kelly Edinger, a Reno Paul supporter. "I'm in it for Ron Paul. I still believe he can win."
Earlier in the day, former Gov. Mitt Romney, who won the Nevada Caucuses, delivered a speech calling for a unified backing of McCain.
"I know Americans are going to choose a great patriot, a man who has been tested and proven," he said to loud cheers.
But Paul's 10-minute speech drove the crowd of 1,200 delegates into frenzied applause. They interrupted him repeatedly with standing ovations.
Acknowledging that he likely won't win the nomination, Paul said his presidential campaign will continue as long as he has supporters.
"Our campaign has continued, is doing well and improving, even though we know exactly what the numbers are," Paul said. "But the message is worthwhile. Your vote can really count if you vote for limitation of government power and spending."
Some longtime party activists complained about what they called a disruptive influence on the proceedings. Others thought it pointless since McCain has enough delegates nationally to secure the nomination.
"McCain won fair and square," Boulder City delegate Daniel Hancock said to thunderous boos and cat calls. "So, at this point we are electing delegates not to fight out the nomination in Minneapolis, but probably rewarding people loyal to the party.
"We need to strike a compromise between perfect democracy and getting things done."
After Paul supporters displayed their strength by forcing a rules change with two-thirds of the vote, Bill Brainard, of Sparks, said he had no doubt they would elect most of the delegates to the national convention.
"We will be marginalized (at the national convention)," Brainard said. "We will be marginalized because we're a bunch of kooks. Am I concerned? Yeah."
Paul spokesman Jeff Greenspan said the walkout was a first in his 21-year career in politics.
"I've seen factions walk out, I've never seen a party walk out," he said. "I've never even heard of that."
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