Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Dispute over Ron Paul delegates may go into overtime

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.”

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Marianne Stebbins on 04/23/2008 - 01:52 pm.

    My recollection is that the RP national delegates got roughly 100 votes each out of the 300 in attendance. Out of 90 candidates, that’s a pretty strong plurality.

    For the record, at least one candidate for delegate told me he was asked if he would support McCain. The candidate specified, “after the endorsement” meaning nomination, and the Nom Com guy said, “I’ll put that down as a ‘yes’.” So there was a bit of confusion over the question.

  2. Submitted by Derek Anderson on 04/24/2008 - 06:57 am.

    It sounds as though the GOP leadership thinks itself innocent of any political shenanigans. That they were never “less than fully honest” with their electorate.

    The media did a good job of hiding Ron Paul. But it seems as though it wasn’t 100% successful.

    Now RP supporters are organizing on a local level in numbers that exceed McCain supporters easily.


    Is it that McCain supporters figure that they don’t have to do anything? Maybe because the government…or someone else will take care of it?
    Sounds like a Liberal position to me.

    The GOP is full of quitters. Romney, Huckabee, 9iu11ani, Thompson etc… Rest assured that if Romney would have had a bit more support…McCain would also be a quitter.

    Is this a quality you want in a leader?

  3. Submitted by David Reilly on 04/24/2008 - 12:58 pm.

    I would think that the Republican Leadership would want to try to make the Ron Paul supporters feel welcome. It is a surprisingly large and vocal group, who if antagonized enough, may decide on voting Libertarian or even Constitutional party AFTER the national convention. If you think about the numbers of Ron Paul supporters who have actually gotten out to vote and to organize, they could easily be the spoilers in the General Election, because they are actually more interested in PRINCIPLES, not just PARTY.

    It has become sad to watch our party and system led down the wrong road by the media. Why do the media ignore and marginalize Ron Paul? Could it be that if the less aware in the party actually KNEW anything about him, they would be more likely to support him than John McCain? Is it that the number of voters turning out for Democratic primaries and caucuses makes the Republican numbers look pathetic? If the media can direct us toward a Republican candidate that really only has about a 33% belief level from the party, then it is more likely that the Democrat, whichever it may turn out to be, will win. By treating Ron Paul supporters like the “unwanted step-children” of the party, the party may just be signing their own death warrant. Why would they do this? To say that it is “for the good of the party” is an untruth, since the good of the party would be served best by making everyone who wants to be involved feel welcome. I have been voting Republican for 20 years and watching the Self Destruction happening from the head is rather disconcerting.

    I have very deep concerns about having John McCain in a position where he would actually be interacting with other heads of state, especially Asians. If you go back to his 2000 run and start researching, you will see that he still harbors an INCREDIBLE amount of rage for what was done to him. This is understandable, but considering his feelings, is he really the best person to put in a position where he could finally take his revenge? Why won’t he release his health record? Has his cancer come back? Are his lapses in memory and snaps of rage the beginning signs of Alzheimer’s? Can we afford another President who doesn’t understand the economy at even its most basic level? Are we looking to elect HIM as a reward for his “long and faithful service”? How would THAT particular thing be a qualifier? See, when I say I have some serious questions, I mean it and have thought long and hard about them, as well as done my research into them. John McCain, as a nominee scares me as much as either Clinton or Obama, if for different reasons.

    To claim for John McCain all of the delegates in the states that were won by other candidates before they dropped out is patently ridiculous. How many of those delegates designated for other candidates are BOUND? None of them. The candidate that dropped out might “suggest”, but he cannot “order” his delegates to support anyone. Heck, in Pennsylvania, Huckabee still got 11% of the vote and he has been out for close to two months. To claim that John McCain is the “crowned ” nominee is as bad as the Democrats trying to hold a coronation for Clinton almost a year ago. Instead of trying to force people to vote outside their principles, shouldn’t we be trying to come back TO those principles? Unfortunately, that is not what the Republican party is doing.

Leave a Reply