It may not be the star-studded bonanza Democrats threw in Denver last week, but the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. this week is just as thrilling and momentous an occasion for New Mexico's delegates.
Santa Fe sent six of New Mexico's 32 delegates to Minnesota (three voting delegates, three alternates). They are reporting back to SFR that, with the first female GOP running mate, Republicans are raring to go, despite an air of solemnity in the wake of Hurricane Gustav's landfall on the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
"It's amazing!" alternate delegate Joanne Morrissey tells SFR via cell phone from the convention floor on Labor Day. "There's a huge screen with the red, white and blue of the American flag flying right in front of us. There are the ubiquitous balloons that are always at conventions above our heads. All you can see are people with smiling faces and McCain-Palin buttons. People are being interviewed all over the place. It's just a very exciting time."
As residents of a crucial swing state, in what's likely to be a nail-biter of an election, New Mexicans are getting the red carpet treatment from the Grand Old Party. Sam Winder, New Mexico's representative on the Republican Party's platform committee, for example, was able to get a clause worked into the draft that welcomes other languages, while still maintaining English as the nation's official language, FOX News reported. Best of all-New Mexico has great seats.
"I was wondering what's good about being a ‘swing state,'" delegate Barbara Damron of Santa Fe tells SFR. "And-by George!-we're just right up front!"
New Mexico's delegation departed with the news that Republican presumptive nominee US Sen. John McCain had tapped the governor from Alaska and mother of five, Sarah Palin, to be his running mate. Getting to know the relatively unknown vice presidential nominee will be one of the highlights of the convention, the delegates tell SFR.
"We're a nation that is so blessed with a mixture of people and if you look at the breakdown between men and women, there's a heck of a lot of women and we do outnumber the men," Morrissey says. "It's not just that the Republicans are getting a taste now. We're taking a big bite out of it."
But there is consternation over Gustav and its forthcoming siblings, Hurricane Hanna and Hurricane Ike, which are expected to make landfall toward the end of the convention.
So far, McCain is holding true to the promise he made earlier this year in New Orleans: "Never again, never again, will a disaster of this nature be handled in the disgraceful way it was handled." McCain ordered the early events cut short and many of the Gulf Coast delegates-most noticeably, GOP wunderkind Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana-flown home.
(However, it should be noted that when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the US, Pres. George W Bush was busy delivering a birthday cake to McCain in Arizona.)
"People aren't making a total festival out of it," Barbara Damron, whose husband JR Damron is also a delegate, says. "There are many references to what's going on with Gustav. It's a combination of optimism and excitement as well as sending our thoughts and prayers to all the Gulf Coast."
Even though the floor meetings have been cut in half, Santa Fe's delegates are making the most of their rained-on parade.
"There aren't as many Republicans [in Santa Fe] as we would like," JR Damron says with a chuckle. "But being around like-minded people and talking about the issues is really exciting."
So, who is Santa Fe's RNC delegation?
Barbara and JR Damron
The Damrons are one of the GOP power couples in Santa Fe. JR Damron challenged Gov. Bill Richardson in the 2006 gubernatorial race and is the treasurer for the Republican Party of Santa Fe County. Barbara Damron is a leading Republican, most concerned with health care policies. Barbara Damron sits on the executive committee of the New Mexico Cancer Council and was formerly on the St. Vincent Regional Medical Center's governing board. She previously told the Santa Fe New Mexican she was pressured to resign because hospital officials were afraid the Roundhouse would cut the hospital's funding if she remained on the board.
Former assistant counsel to Rudy Giuliani when he was mayor of New York City, Martinez is the secretary for the Republican Party of New Mexico. She made news in 2006 when she led the charge in an Inspection of Public Records lawsuit against the state Taxation & Revenue Department for withholding the names of immigrants who had received driver's licenses. Martinez had planned to compare the licenses to voter registration rolls to determine whether Democratic operatives were engaged in voter fraud.
Bankruptcy lawyer, former state senator and perennial candidate, Davis has run for Congress, US Senate and Lieutenant governor, each time unsuccessfully. In 1999, Davis signed a letter to then-Texas Gov. George W Bush encouraging him to run for president. This year, Davis is a contributor to US Rep. Steve Pearce's bid for the Senate.
President and chief operating officer of the investment firm Firemark Advisors, Morrissey also is the president of Federated Republican Women of Santa Fe. Although she is a Republican delegate, US Federal Elections Commission filings show Morrissey contributed the maximum $2,300 to Gov. Bill Richardson's campaign for president in March 2007. This is her second convention, but her first as an official delegate. Her husband, Mike, is vice chairman of the Republican Party of Santa Fe County.
Before moving to Santa Fe, Ryan was the executive secretary of the Independent Pool and Spa Service Association for more than 20 years.
For more election coverage check out SFR's blog, Swingstateofmind.com.