Praying, shopping, and debating the political scene, Washington’s 36 delegates to the Republican National Convention arrived in San Diego on Sunday ready for a gathering that promises much pomp and little controversy.
Members of the state delegation, which is overwhelmingly anti-abortion and dominated by Christian conservatives, had fretted last week that the platform committee might cede ground to abortion rights supporters or that presumptive GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole might choose an abortion rights supporter as his running mate.
But with the anti-abortion Jack Kemp as the vice presidential pick and with a solidly anti-abortion party platform drafted, peace seems to be at hand.
“Kemp was an excellent choice, and while I don’t agree with everything he stands for, he is definitely a visionary with a strong pro-family record, and he brings vitality and a message to the campaign,” said Dave Welch, the chairman of the state delegation and the executive director of the Christian Coalition of Washington state, who had been threatening to cause problems at the convention if Dole softened on the abortion issue. “This will pretty much assure a peaceful convention.”
The delegates spent the day getting to know one another and San Diego, since many of them were stranded at the Four Points Hotel by ITT Sheraton, which is in a neighborhood called Kearny Mesa about 10 miles north of downtown. Some attended a Christian Coalition reception in the afternoon, while others explored San Diego or lounged by the hotel pool.
“Kemp wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I’m happy with him, and they handled the abortion issue beautifully,” said Ted Robinson, 59, of Spanaway, who is the owner of a transportation brokerage and an alternate delegate. Robinson and his wife drove to San Diego from Spanaway in a motor home decorated with Dole signs. “I was worried there might be a big confrontation.”
Even some of Kemp’s differences with Dole won praise from some Washington residents here. For example, Harvey Coburn, a 73-year-old furniture store owner from Olympia and an alternate delegate, said he supported Kemp’s stand against denying benefits to the American-born children of illegal immigrants.
“Let’s not be so hard on these innocent children that are in this country,” Coburn said. “They can’t help it that they were born here.”
Unable to debate abortion, some of the delegates spent their time debating other issues. Sy Iffert, a 76-year-old delegate from Seattle, and Ron Talcott of Tacoma, the chairman of the Pierce County Republican Party, found themselves in the hotel lobby arguing over whether campaign finance reform has worked in Washington state and whether the business community would or should support former state Sen. Ellen Craswell, a Christian conservative, if she becomes the GOP nominee for governor.
Rep. Linda Smith spent her morning giving a pair of speeches about religion and politics during morning worship at The Neighborhood Church in Escondido. Politics imbued the service; the pastor urged worshipers to pray for the vice presidential candidate, for good treatment in the media, for quality political appointees, and about the effect of any third parties, and to pray Monday for the president, on Tuesday for Congress, Wednesday for the judiciary, Thursday for state government, Friday for county government, and Saturday for city government.
Smith told the worshipers that she had once thought of becoming a missionary, and said that instead “God put me into Congress.”
“I didn’t know where my mission would take me,” she said. She cited biblical authority for her decision not to accept political action committee contributions, saying “you don’t ask for money for access to a leader. That violates the principles of justice.
“God describes that as bribery and extortion,” she said.
Sunday night, the delegates were feted by the San Diego host committee with a reception at the San Diego Indoor Sports Club.