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Dispute over Ron Paul delegates may go into overtime

Upon further review, we have unconstitutional motion on GOP, Number Six. The motion was out of bounds. The ball goes over to Ron Paul supporters. Instant replay comes to the GOP. Read more… By Craig Westover 

Ron Paul
Ron Paul

Upon further review, we have unconstitutional motion on GOP, Number Six. The motion was out of bounds. The ball goes over to Ron Paul supporters. Instant replay comes to the GOP.

But as the sports cliché goes, the outcome of a game shouldn’t turn on a single play, and for the GOP and continuing controversy between supporters of the Texas representative and supporters of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee Arizona Sen. John McCain, the clock is still running.

In a letter last week to delegates and alternates of the Minnesota Sixth District Republicans, Chairman Mark Swanson put to rest a controversial motion passed at the April 5 Sixth District convention. At the convention, Paul captured two of three delegates and the three alternates spots elected to attend the national GOP convention Sept. 1-4 in St. Paul. The motion bound delegates (and alternates) to their public statements before the Sixth District nominating committee indicating they would support McCain for the GOP presidential nomination.

Many delegates, like Sixth District vice chair Andy Aplikowski, who offered the motion, felt that Paul supporters were less than forthright in their answers and were elected under false pretenses.

In the cadence of an NFL referee, Swanson wrote: “After consultation with our party leadership and a review of the appropriate documents, we have come to the conclusion that the motion does not pass constitutional muster … Delegates (and alternates) are not bound to vote for any particular candidate.”

Instant replay got it right … maybe.

Larger issues at stake

Although delegates (and alternates) to the GOP national convention are not legally bound to any specific candidate, ethical issues and questions about the representative role of national delegates still simmer in the Sixth.

“The purpose of the motion and the reason I supported it was an integrity issue,” said Swanson. “I expect the delegates that represent me to act with integrity, that they mean what they say. The delegates elected were less than fully honest.

“The question [whether the delegate candidate would support John McCain] was clear,” Swanson said. “It meant you were going to the convention to support John McCain.”

Everyone loves a food fight, and tossing ethical tomatoes back and forth has been the media focus of what many perceive as conflict between GOP leadership and the party’s grassroots activists. State coordinator for the Ron Paul campaign, Marianne Stebbins, perceives the conflict as struggle over party power. Swanson disagrees, saying, “To characterize the controversy as grassroots versus party leadership is inaccurate.” To do so obscures the important question of representation that is at stake.

“The delegates should represent the people of the Sixth District,” said Swanson. “It is not up to the leadership to pick the delegates. Party leadership creates the election process. In the Sixth District, we created a very open process. Over 90 people got to stand up and make a speech and expound on their principles. Not party leadership, but the grassroots people at the convention select the delegates to represent them.”

Isn’t that what happened in the Sixth District? Not exactly, according to Swanson.

A plurality is not a majority
Although Swanson is not prepared to release the exact vote totals for elected delegates and alternates from the Sixth District, he did say that delegates to the national convention were elected with plurality vote totals. In other words, while individual Paul delegates garnered higher vote totals than other delegate nominees, in aggregate more votes at the convention were cast for McCain supporters.

“It is the right of the Paul people to be organized,” said Swanson. But, he noted, national delegates also “have an obligation to represent the sense of the district at the convention.”

“To debate whether anyone but John McCain is going to get the GOP nomination is a waste of time,” said Swanson, but he agrees “to debate what principles are written into the platform is a worthwhile activity. The platform is what the grassroots stands for – they decide what should be in the platform.”

Swanson holds more conservative positions than McCain. He was an early supporter of the conservative Fred Thompson, former senator from Tennessee. When Thompson dropped out of the race, he supported Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts. Now he supports McCain.

To those with philosophical differences with McCain, Swanson advised: “You should choose the candidate most closely aligned to your principles. Looking at Clinton and Obama, clearly McCain most closely resembles my principles.”

A Sixth District committee meeting is scheduled for April 29 to take feedback from district delegates and alternates on the controversy. “In the end, the debate [at the convention over the motion] only has served to drive a wedge between groups that should have one common goal, defeating the DFL,” Swanson wrote in his letter. “I and other party leadership hope we can move forward from this in a positive manner.”