County GOP convenes at Hilton

candidates call for reform

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

 

Plenty of attendees were sporting Mitt Romney stickers today at the Clark County GOP convention, but there were also Ron Paul supporters with stickers bearing 1,144 within a circle-backslash.

The sticker references the number of delegates needed by Romney to secure the party nomination, said Michael Delavar, who with his wife Katja, regional director for the Paul campaign, spoke to the crowd on behalf of Paul.

“Each of us is likely to believe our candidate is the best to beat (President Barack) Obama,” Michael Delavar told the crowd of more than 1,000 at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

Right now Romney leads, “but the fact that he hasn’t already secured those votes shows the debate isn’t over,” Delavar said.

He urged Paul supporters to support an open national convention.

“As of today, there’s no presumptive nominee,” Delavar said.

Representatives from the Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich campaigns blamed the media for giving the nomination to Romney, while a Romney representative referenced the “Unity Slate” stickers people were wearing to show support for any conservative except Paul.

The convention started nearly an hour behind schedule as delegates waited to register.

In all, there were 811 delegates and 215 alternate delegates who’d been elected earlier this month at caucuses.

In a straw poll taken at the March 3 caucuses, Romney finished first, while Paul came in second, Santorum placed third and Gingrich finished last.

Today, after hearing speeches from federal, state and local candidates or their representatives and taking care of some party procedural business, the groups split up into legislative districts (the 15th, 17th, 18th and 49th) to elect delegates to the state convention, which will be May 31 to June 2 in Tacoma.

In all, Clark County will send 94 delegates to Tacoma, where delegates will be elected to the national convention, scheduled for late August.

Clark County Commissioner Marc Boldt, who was told he would not be able to speak at the convention since he was sanctioned for casting votes with which the party’s executive board did not agree, did show up today and was greeted by well-wishers.

Commissioner Tom Mielke, who has two Democratic challengers, Joe Tanner and Ron Barca, said during his speech that “I’m still a God-loving, gun-toting Christian and I need your vote to go back!”

After Mielke spoke, Auditor Greg Kimsey, who was introducing candidates, made no mention that there’s a second Republican county commissioner up for re-election. Instead he introduced David Madore, CEO of U.S. Digital who is running against Boldt and Democrat Roman Battan.

“I support the fellow who just spoke here,” Madore said, referring to Mielke.

Mielke’s doing what he can, Madore said, “but right now we’re in the minority.”

The third commissioner, Steve Stuart, is a Democrat.

“Believe me, I don’t need this job,” Madore said, but he wants to serve the public.

Boldt said afterward that had he been allowed to address the crowd, he would have told them that county commissioners implement regulations handed down by the federal and state government. If people want lower fees and fewer rules, they need to get after state and federal lawmakers.

For example, one reason Boldt was sanctioned was that he and Stuart voted last year to increase the county 911 monthly excise tax from 50 cents to 70 cents. The fix was needed because commissioners decided in 2010 not to follow the state’s suggestion of increasing the monthly tax to the maximum rate of 70 cents, so the state responded by withholding $500,000 from the state 911 fund. The law says only counties that are taxing at the maximum rate can benefit from the state fund. CRESA also had $300,000 in new annual maintenance fees for the county’s computer-aided dispatch system.

Had Boldt and Stuart not supported the increase, CRESA would have laid off 10 dispatchers.

While Boldt would have made the point that county commissioners just can’t vote “no” on everything, that was a point of pride for state Rep. Paul Harris, who said his “no” button serves him well in Olympia.

He said he was criticized from some members of his party because he didn’t introduce a single bill this past session.

“I didn’t bring a bill forward because I didn’t think we needed another bill,” said Harris, who represents the 17th District. “It costs $4,000 to write a bill.”

Candidate Liz Pike, running for the 18th District, said she will be right with Harris.

“I’m going to repeal bills. I’m not going to pass bills,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler was the final candidate to speak, telling the crowd the large turnout was due to the fact that “free men and free women who want to govern themselves feel their rights are being infringed upon.”

Herrera Beutler, who will be challenged by Elizabeth Uelmen and Jon Haugen, said Democrats want to tell people what types of light bulbs and toilets to use, and she hopes the day after the Nov. 6 general election Obama will have to join the unemployment lines.

Kirby Wilbur, the state party chairman, called Obama’s administration “the most corrupt in decades.”

“I give you four words for the economy: He made it worse,” Wilbur said.

This story will be updated.