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Tension Boils Over for Nevada Delegates Supporting Ron Paul

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
A Ron Paul supporter in the Nevada delegation tries to block a Mitt Romney sign while the state's vote is read at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday.

TAMPA, Fla. - Four years of frustration by Nevada supporters of Texas Rep. Ron Paul bubbled over on the floor of the Republican National Convention on Tuesday.

The former presidential candidate's ardent supporters - now the majority of the state's delegation after running a well-organized operation at the state convention in May - swatted away precedent and announced during the official roll call vote that 17 of Nevada's 28 delegates were casting their vote for Paul. Only five cast votes for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Based on the results of the Nevada caucuses in February, Romney should have received 20 of the 28 votes, but nine Paul supporters slated to vote for Romney cast their vote for Paul instead. The result was an angry confrontation between Paul delegates and Romney backers, including National Committeeman and former Gov. Bob List.

"This is what we came here to do," delegation Chairman Wayne Terhune told Roll Call on the convention floor moments after he announced the vote.

The party establishment was aware of this possibility, and the friction within the delegation was palpable on Monday morning, when the group met in Tampa for the first time.

In a shoebox-sized meeting room in one of a smorgasbord of airport hotels, there was no avoiding the division. Groggy after a long night and seated behind a banquet table in the back of the room, Republican National Committeewoman Heidi Smith, a longtime state party leader, dutifully handed out convention credentials to a steady flow of delegates stopping by on their way to the delegation's opening breakfast. These were some of the same people who helped oust Smith and List at the state party convention.

"Ron Paul people," Smith said after a couple of delegates, including Clark County GOP Chairwoman Cindy Lake, exited the room. "Did I treat her nicely?"

After 30 minutes, Smith locked up the meeting room and made her way to the delegation breakfast, where the delegates, alternate delegates and guests mostly sat with their own kind.

"It's been friction for four or five years between the folks who were there and then the folks who came in for Ron Paul," Terhune said Monday, pausing briefly as Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki walked by so he couldn't hear the interview.

The Romney backers in the delegation are largely longtime party officials, including Smith, List, Krolicki, former state party Chairwoman Sue Lowden and Patty Cafferata, a former national committeewoman, former state treasurer and the daughter of former Rep. Barbara Vucanovich.

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