Convention gets rowdy as delegate voting starts

ST.CLOUD – Thirty-five people are asking the 2,200 delegates at the Minnesota Republican Party convention to select them as delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL.

The contest at the Minnesota convention showcases a growing divide between supporters of presidential candidate Ron Paul and the presumptive nominee Mitt Romney. Thirteen delegates slots are at stake. Both campaigns are putting forward a slate of candidates that they hope can get elected.

Clear divisions are emerging between Paul and Romney backers. Paul backers say they should back a candidate based on principles even if it’s unlikely Paul will win the GOP nomination.

“Most of you know me as the Ron Paul person,” Paul’s state chair Marianne Stebbins said. “I will vote for Romney in the general election, but we as delegates need to take every opportunity as we go through convention processes and to nomination processes to support the candidates who really do believe in smaller government.”

Chaos lit.JPGBut several Romney supporters say they’re concerned that the Paul backers could hurt Romney’s chances to win the general election. Republican Party activist John Gilmore paid for campaign literature that calleded 22 candidates for delegate who back Ron Paul the “Convention Chaos Slate.”

“The following candidates are running for National Delegate to create chaos at the National Convention in Tampa, and will help re-elect Barack Obama,” the literature said.

Several of those listed on the sheet expressed surprise. Most said they would back the endorsed candidate, but a few declined. Some others said “if he adheres to the U.S. Constitution.”

Others were mystified by the notion that they intend to cause chaos.

“As a professional wrestler, I’d like to challenge that guy to a cage match,” said James McKinney, a former professional wrestler and dance instructor.

Many in the crowd booed when Kenn Cobb said that they had to unify behind Romney.

“We only get one nominee for president,” Cobb told the crowd. “That’s why it’s time that tea party Republicans, pro-life Republicans, 2nd Amendment Republicans, main street Republicans, free market Republicans, Ronald Reagan Republicans and yes, Ron Paul Republicans come together to support our nominee who will be Mitt Romney.”

Republican Party Chair Pat Shortridge tried to unify the delegates by calling the Conservative Chaos Slate “offensive.

“I don’t think they’ll embarrass us in Tampa,” Shortridge told the audience. “If they get elected, I think they’ll do a fine job. Vote for whatever slate you want to vote for.”

The crowd applauded when the audience suspended the rules to allow someone to speak on Chris Tiedeman’s behalf. Tiedeman was severely injured in a car accident in March.

“Chris started walking this week and he’ll be ready to go in August in Tampa,” Tiedeman’s friend Luke Hellier said.

Delegates are now voting…