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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published May 19 2012

Minnesota GOP Convention Notebook: Paul backers win delegate majority

St. Cloud, Minn. - Ron Paul supporters will dominate the Republican National Convention Minnesota delegation.

Delegates to the state convention on Saturday voted in 12 Paul delegates. When they are added to previously selected delegates, Paulites will have at least 32 of 40 Minnesota delegates to the Tampa, Fla., convention in August.

The only non-Paulite elected Saturday is U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann. She won when a Paul backer pulled out of a runoff with the former presidential candidate “out of respect for work she had done.” Paul supporters also dominate national convention alternate delegates.

While former Michigan Gov. Mitt Romney has locked up the presidential nomination, Paul says he’ll continue in the race. Even so, he has suspended traditional campaigning, focusing now on speaking to state conventions like he did in the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center on Friday night.

Paulites tend to support his libertarian ideals, such as giving Americans more personal freedom. His ideas often are at odds with traditional Republicans, although in St. Cloud there were few of the arguments that produced strong disputes at other states’ GOP conventions.

Craig Westover, one of the Paul delegates and a former state party official, said, “Republicans are not energized by accepting the lesser of two evils.” In favoring the Paulites, delegates turned down candidacies by some longtime GOP leaders such as Mike Vekich, who has helped the party in its current financial crisis.

Another longtime Republican who lost the delegate election was Chris Tiedeman, who on Saturday took his first steps after a spring car accident that killed his wife.

“It would mean the world to us if you would vote for him,” a tearful Luke Hellier told the convention.

Paul’s chief Minnesota backer, Marianne Stebbins, said she will support Romney, but said others need not: “Take the opportunity to really support candidates who really believe in small government.”

Bills seeks unity

The endorsed Republican U.S. Senate candidate visited with state convention delegates Saturday, hours after winning the Friday election, intending to find delegates who supported one of his opponents.

He wanted to seek their support, but “they are walking up to me” to say they are on his side, state Rep. Kurt Bills said.

“Lots of unity,” he said of his party.

Bills, a Rosemount High School economics teacher, said he will be able to deliver his “Economics 101” message easily to the public after doing the same thing to students for years.

Cravaack attacks

U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack received among the loudest receptions during the two-day GOP convention.

“We will either affirm what has been done, or we will take back what has been done to us,” he said of the Nov. 6 election.

“We see an administration that thinks they are above the law,” he declared. “We have seen power run amok. It is time to change that.”

Cravaack, who represents the traditionally Democratic northeastern part of the state, said current federal economic activity is sending the country in the direction of Greece, which faces deep financial problems.

He is ending his first term in the U.S. House.

Byberg dreams

U.S. House candidate Lee Byberg told the convention that the United States’ democracy is the dream of many in the world.

Growing up in Brazil, Paraguay and Norway, the accented Byberg said he understands that dream.

“I have lived the American dream for 30 years” as a businessman, he said, and decided to take on veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson after seeing him follow President Barack Obama.

“He started there, perhaps, as a good person,” Byberg said of Peterson. “But he has lost his way.”

Political advice

Republican National Committeeman Jeff Johnson compared politics with the youth football team he coaches:

“Finish the job. You haven’t tackled someone when you have your arms around them. You have tackled them when you have driven them into the ground.”

Funny times

Sure, Republicans met in St. Cloud for serious business, but sometimes they were funny, intended or not:

• A GOP leader at one point had to remind people they could not vote “yes” and “no” on the same question.

• Jen DeJournett said if she was elected a delegate to the Florida national convention, “I promise to spend my five days working, not on a chaise lounge by the pool.”

• National delegate candidate James McKinney woke up folks when he said, “I’m probably the only person in this room who was a professional wrestler,” adding that he also was a dance teacher.

• Daniel Gustafson, an alternate national convention delegate candidate, made sure Republicans did not forget Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, calling him “Governor Goofy Eyes.”

• A delegate earned boos when he said, “I would like to make a motion to reconsider the reconsideration.”

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Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.