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Stream of GOP convention planners soon to be a flood

A steady stream of Republican operatives is flowing into town, as we now are six months away from the Republican National Convention at the Xcel Energy Center Sept. 1-4.

While the John McCain mc-gains in delegates all winter mean there likely won’t be much suspense between now and then — other than the VP selection — there’s still plenty of work ahead to stage the party for 45,000.

The advance teams have taken over the 12th floor of 180 E. Fifth, the old First Trust building in downtown St. Paul’s Lowertown, across from Galtier Plaza. Up there, about 50 members of the committee on arrangements — most from out of town — are handling such tasks as arranging hotel rooms, lining up transportation, planning the decorations and dealing with the media.

About 10 or 12 new folks show up each week, with an expected total of 150 by summer. Most live in downtown St. Paul apartments and use the skyways to get to work.

These arrangers take up 40,000 square feet on the floor; most of it is still empty cubicles, but it will soon be teeming with young workers. The rest of the 12th floor is used by folks who are raising money and recruiting volunteers for the convention. Headed by former St. Paul Cos. CEO Doug Leatherdale, these folks are mostly local. Last month, they announced a discount card for the visiting delegates and press that offers 20 percent off at hundreds of local shops, hotels, restaurants and services.

Women hold top 3 organizing posts

Matt Burns, the communications director, said officials believe this is the first time that three women hold the top spots on the organizing committee. Jo Ann Davidson, former speaker of the House in the Ohio Legislature, is chair of the committee. Maria Cino, a longtime Republican Party executive who served as deputy secretary of transportation (and as acting secretary of transportation for three months in 2006) is CEO of the committee. And Michelle Raines, former assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney, is COO.

A new, improved website for the convention is now up. They’re looking for interns; you can apply online. The site includes information for bloggers and frequent updates of convention planning.

Catering to the Internet-savvy crowd, the convention organizers have named Google the “official innovation provider” for the convention, and Maria Cino made that announcement on YouTube. This isn’t your father’s GOP.

Demonstrators to have single route
Convention planners aren’t the only ones who are busy. Demonstrators now can apply for protest permits through the police department. And St. Paul Assistant Police Chief Matt Bostrom revealed last week that demonstrators who want to march will be confined to a single parade route, which hasn’t been determined yet, but will be close — but not too close — to the arena. Possibilities include from the Capitol to downtown, along Cedar or John Ireland and Kellogg, or from Harriet Island to downtown.

The city of St. Paul has its own web page for convention information.

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