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Published March 31 2012

Selection for national convention contentious

BISMARCK – Anti-establishment fervor fueled delays and multiple objections at the kick-off of the 2012 state Republican convention here Saturday.

As 1,500 delegates convened to decide who would represent them at the National Republican Convention this summer, a passionate minority of the convention crowd cried foul, declaring the party’s traditional process disenfranchised their voices.

That opposition quickly led to the convention getting out of hand with continued disruptions between the rebelling delegates and the party leadership.

Several delegates who support Ron Paul and Rick Santorum perpetuated the debate, over party officials’ attempts to move forward.

Santorum won the most votes during North Dakota’s GOP presidential caucus earlier this month. Paul came in second, while Mitt Romney placed third.

North Dakota’s caucus results were not binding, but party officials maintain that the slate of delegates to the national convention would reflect the caucus vote.

But Paul and Santorum supporters alleged the party’s recommended slate of nominated delegates disproportionately favored Romney supporters.

Former NDGOP Chairman Gary Emineth, who is in charge of Santorum’s campaign in North Dakota, said Romney supporters in the party establishment “hijacked” the process.

“This is not a fair election,” he said, chastising party officials.

A selection committee of the state party met Friday and chose a slate of 25 nominees among 101 people who applied for the chance to represent the NDGOP at the national convention.

The recommended nominees were mostly state officials and high-ranking party members, including Sen. John Hoeven, Rep. Rick Berg, first lady Betsy Dalrymple and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

NDGOP National Committeewoman Sandy Boehler told delegates that’s by design.

The party’s nominees for the national delegate spots are chosen based on a weighted scale that heavily favors party-backers, donors and elected officials.

“You do want to reward the people that work tirelessly for the party,” she told the convention during the morning debate. “But I can tell you, we did not know who was for who.”

But many young delegates said that process inherently leaves them at a severe disadvantage to be chosen to go to the national convention.

Citing party rules, GOP officials pushed for a floor vote based on a pre-printed ballot of the selected 25 nominees.

Delegates were allowed to nominate others for consideration on the convention floor, but any of the new nominations could only be offered on the ballot as write-in candidates.

Feeling the scales were tipped to benefit the party’s recommended delegates, Paul and Santorum backers asked multiple times for a new ballot – one that would list all the nominees alphabetically, so no preference would be given to any one nominee.

Such objections repeatedly delayed the convention.

“Regardless of age, experience or monetary contributions, everyone has the right to have their vote count,” District 47 delegate Karen Erickstad said.

Chairman Stan Stein and other party leaders responded to the concerns, reiterating many times how they were following their own rules, the RNC’s rules and the rules of order for the convention.

Nonetheless, the debate grew hostile between Stein and others who wanted to move forward and the unwavering delegates who demanded a change in procedure, which Stein repeatedly denied.

After numerous rounds of voice votes and show-of-hand votes and more objections from upset delegates, the party moved forward with the written ballot they’d prepared.

Nonetheless, several delegates remained upset at how the process unfolded.

“This is unfair to the people who want to be (national) delegates, who otherwise would never have a chance,” District 2 delegate Palmer Keising said. “I don’t want to live in the Soviet Union, where things get done quickly that are unfair.”


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541