Spat To Liven Up Convention Eikenberry Won’t Let Buchanan In, But Candidate Will Be There In Spirit
The biggest controversy for Spokane Republicans attending their state convention was going to be the high cost of meeting in Bellevue.
Instead, delegates have a fight on their hands - the one between state Chairman Ken Eikenberry and Pat Buchanan that likely will keep the presidential candidate from addressing the convention Friday.
It is an unexpected - and unnecessary - argument, say Spokane Republicans in both the Buchanan and Bob Dole camps.
“Even the more moderate Republicans are more than a little upset at Eikenberry for the way he’s handled it,” said Charlotte Karling, chairwoman of the Spokane County GOP and a Dole delegate to the state convention.
“At the very least, it was politically imprudent,” said Jim Robinson, a delegate and coordinator for the Buchanan campaign in Spokane. “At the very worst, it was an arrogant display.”
Eikenberry told Buchanan he could address the delegates only if he pledged not to criticize Dole, to endorse the presumed nominee and to shut down phone-bank calls and campaign mailings to the state. The Buchanan campaign refused, saying Eikenberry has no right to dictate terms to a GOP candidate.
Asking Buchanan to abide by Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment - “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican” - was reasonable, said Rich Munson, the Spokane County chairman for Dole.
Republicans at all levels want Dole to get on with his campaign against President Clinton, Munson said, and avoid distractions. But this matter could have been handled better, he added.
After a flurry of interviews and faxes, both the state Republican headquarters and the Buchanan campaign say they are finished talking. Neither seems likely to budge before the convention begins today.
The state GOP sent out Wednesday a schedule of convention speakers and events. Elizabeth Dole and former Cabinet member Jack Kemp are on it.
Buchanan invited all delegates and alternates to a Friday breakfast at a Bellevue hotel a few blocks from the convention center. While party officials will be preparing to open the meeting, Buchanan will be making a speech - likely one that will denounce Eikenberry.
Delegates who return from the breakfast to catch the convention’s opening might hear a rebuttal from Eikenberry, who will have the microphone as the convention’s temporary chairman.
Once the convention begins, Buchanan delegates could try to embarrass Eikenberry by suspending the rules and forcing a vote on a resolution to have their candidate address the convention.
Bruce Hawkins, state chairman for the Buchanan campaign, acknowledged that by themselves, the Buchanan delegates don’t have enough votes to pass that resolution.
That won’t necessarily keep some Buchanan supporters from trying, he said.
The argument has also derailed plans to come up with a “unity slate” for delegates to the national convention, Hawkins said. Disagreements over who would be on the slate are what prompted Eikenberry’s ultimatum, sources in the Dole campaign said.
Unity was a major goal of the convention, which was shaping up as a relatively sedate affair aimed at showcasing candidates. Delegates were trying to avoid a repeat of the 1992 convention, which adopted a platform that denounced, among other things, witchcraft being taught in schools.
The biggest controversy this year was the $100 or more per night that some delegates had to spend for hotel rooms, and the cost of lunches and dinners in the upscale Seattle suburb.
Delegates were grumbling about a clause in the contract with Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Convention Center requires them to have food from the concession stands or licensed vendors.
“It’s justified grumbling,” party spokesman Todd Myers said. “We’re regretting that clause now.”
Republicans are hoping the convention will generate enough heat to energize the campaigns, but not so much as to incinerate their candidates’ chances. All thoughts of a tranquil affair are gone.
“Fear not,” predicted Robinson. “It will not be too sedate.”