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Posted: September 1, 2012 8:14 p.m.

Local GOP sent two to convention

While Paul Ryan attacked President Barack Obama's record, Mitt Romney shared his history and talking points for a brighter future and director Clint Eastwood interviewed an empty chair, two Newton County residents eagerly listened from the audience of the Republican National Convention.

The Newton County Republican Party received the honor this year of sending two representatives to the convention in Tampa, Fla., including delegate Tim Fleming, a county commissioner, and alternate delegate Linda Park, a devoted member of the local GOP.

What else happens at a convention?
Fleming said it was the first time the party has sent two official representatives to the Republican convention, where 2,286 delegates not only listen to impassioned speeches by party leaders and officially nominate the presidential and vice presidential candidates, but also adopt the party's rules and platform for the next four years.

The party's 2012 platform can be found at GOP.com and contains the usual mix of ambitious goals, including job creation, promoting small business ownership, offering tax relief, altering the tax code, balancing the budget, expanding homeownership and making American workers more globally and technologically competitive, among others.

One piece of party business that was important to Fleming and many of his fellow delegates was protecting the current delegate election process. A rule change would have allowed future presidential nominees to select delegates, but Fleming and a majority of delegates supported the current process which Fleming said allows for more "grass-roots" representation.

As it stands now, each congressional district gets three delegates and alternate delegates, with the delegates being chosen based on the amount of work they put in promoting the party, helping candidates campaign and fundraising. First, the local GOP selects delegates to send to the district conventions; then, a committee at the district level interview candidates and chooses the delegates to send to the national convention. The process works similarly for the Democratic Party.

Newton County received two delegates out of around 60 candidates, Fleming said.

"A trip to the national convention is a reward for people who have worked hard for the party; those who have given their blood, sweat and tears for candidates at the local or state level - the people in the trenches," Fleming said. "There are money people who write the checks, but that doesn't do it (alone). You have to have the boots on the ground. Those are the people chosen to go to that national convention; it's a reward for years and years of hard work."

For Park, the trip was the culmination of more than 20 years of service to the local party, including serving as an officer several times. She's campaigned for many years for John Douglas, who was recently elected as a county commissioner, but has also served as a board of education representative and a state senator.

But, what about the speeches?
"The experience was amazing. My favorite part were the speakers," Park said. "I loved Anne Romney and thought she did a stellar job in presenting the case for our nominee along with Mitt Romney himself who also did a stellar job. I liked the VP pick too; I just believe our slate the best."

Of course, Fleming and Park loved the speeches, which are designed to fire up each party's respective bases every four years.

"My favorite points in the convention were Gov. Chris Christie and Congressman Ryan's speeches; when they spoke it really energized the crowd and they delivered good messages," Fleming said. "Condoleezza Rice was strong too. She is a great asset to the ticket and will be a strong asset to Gov. Romney on the campaign trail and into the future if he gets elected."
The one speech that was questioned widely in the press also confused Fleming.

"The one speaker I didn't care for was Clint Eastwood. It was a very bizarre and odd segment. I don't think he delivered the message he was supposed to deliver," Fleming said.

The candidates got a good view as Georgia's delegation, which was the fourth largest there, sat only 10 rows back. In addition to the delegates, several state leaders attended, including Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, House Speaker David Ralston, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Agriculture Secretary Gary Black and even Newt Gingrich and wife Callista.

"The coolest person I got to shake hands with was Gov. Huckabee. I met him at one of our events after the convention one night. There was a band playing, and got up on stage and played with the band; he played bass guitar for five or six songs. He rocked out, rolled his sleeves up and had a good time," Fleming said. "What you see on TV is what you get with him... He loves to play the guitar, and he's pretty good at it. The Democrats have Bill Clinton to play the saxophone, we have Gov. Huckabee to play the bass."

Now that the convention is over, the party takes on the large task of defeating an incumbent president.

"My favorite part was just the excitement of the convention. Everybody coming together and unifying behind the Romney-Ryan ticket," Fleming said. "But now that all the partying is done, it's time for us to come back home and for all the delegates and alternates to get to work and make sure get the ticket elected. Getting signs up, holding events for them, raising money and getting the message out every American."

As for the Democrats, their convention begins Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C.

 

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