Today, I attended my first State Republican Convention. I have to say that it was really pretty cool. I was not sure what to except as I had not been to one before but had been to a number of Baptist Conventions and Church Business Meetings. I did not know whether it would be a long day full of parliamentary procedures or more like a big pep rally. It turned out to be the later instead of the former and the surprise keynote speaker definitely left me cheering.
The Convention was at the Embassy Suites in Little Rock in a mid-size convention hall. I signed in, got my nametag, said hello to some friends, and settled into my seat with my delegation from Saline County. However, my convention experience actually began several weeks back. At our July County GOP meeting, our state Platform Committee distributed copies of their initial draft of our 2008 Party Platform. As I read through it, I noticed that much of the pro-life language in the Platform had been removed, such as our support for the overturn of Roe v. Wade and our support for a Federal Human Life Amendment. After some phone and email conversations with several of our state’s pro-life leaders as well as members of the Platform Committee, we were able to restore this language. I even got to attend the state Platform Committee meeting yesterday as they made this change. As I settled into my seat, I was glad to see this strong Pro-life Plank in our Party Platform and took satisfaction in my small role. I also was thankful to see that our system works. I had a concern, expressed this through the proper channels, and was able to have this concern addressed. What a Country! What a Party!
The meeting began with prayer and the pledge of allegiance with a local Boy Scout Troop doing a great job presenting our colors. This was followed by election of our Convention Chair and Convention Secretary. We approved our party rules with some minor changes and heard from different speakers representing different groups in our party such as my friend Doyle Webb who is chairing our Arkansas Victory 2008.
Next came the highlight of the convention for me and I think most of the delegates; our surprise keynote speaker was our former Governor Mike Huckabee! I don’t think anyone knew about this ahead of time, probably because he was not sure if his schedule would allow for it. If I had known, I would have brought my video recorder in from the car. As always, he was able to excite the room like no one else. His speech focused on our core principals that we believe as Republicans. He discussed how our moral beliefs are not a separate part of our Republican principals but rather the foundation on which they are based. If you have heard his speech at the Iowa Convention, it was very similar. I worked hard for Gov. Huckabee during the Presidential Primary and this was my first chance to see him since then so it was a real delight for me. As Gov. Huckabee left a room full of cheering fired up Republicans, I could not help but think what a tremendous asset he is to our Party and what he asset he would make to our Party’s ticket as our Vice President.
The meeting continued with brief speeches from the different state legislative candidates from around the state. We are fortunate in my home county of Saline to have several wonderful candidates. Rep. Dan Greenberg is an incumbent state representative from the north part of our county and is unopposed. David McCoy in Benton and Ann Clemmer in Bryant are running for two open seats in the state house. Both of these seats were held by Democrats and both Mr. McCoy and Mrs. Clemmer have a very good chance of winning their races and retaking this seats.
After all the candidates spoke, we elected our slate of Arkansas electors to the Electoral College which interestingly enough includes Gov. Huckabee. I hope that Elector Huckabee gets to cast his ballot both for John McCain for President and for himself as Vice President! We then moved on to our Party Platform. Before bringing our actual Platform, the Platform Committee allowed for discussion of Arkansas Referred Amendment 2, which proposes to change our state legislative session from meeting every other year to meeting every year. There were compelling and passionate arguments made by Sen. Kim Hendren and Rep. Dan Greenberg against the Amendment as well as Sen. Bill Pritchard, Rep. Donna Hutchinson, and Rep. Mark Martin in favor of the Amendment. Although both sides made good arguments in the end, I decided to vote against supporting the Amendment as I felt that the less our legislatures meet, the less chance they will have to expand our government and further raise our taxes. However, the measure did end up passing by a vote of 111 in favor and 77 against. The Platform Committee then presented our Party Platform, which passed without any discussion.
The Convention closed with some final closing remarks from our former U.S. Representative Asa Hutchinson. It was a really great experience to be a part of it. If you are not involved in your local Republican Party, I highly encourage you to do so. This is an important election not only for our President but for our local representatives as well. Go research and find a local candidate who represents your views and ask them how you can help. If you don’t know who to help, let me know and I will help connect you with someone. Don’t sit this one out it! Get involved and make a difference!