Evelyn Spencer and Mary Jane Aurdal are in St. Paul, Minn., today for the start of the Republican National Convention they know will differ greatly from the one they attended four years ago.
“This one is different because the White House is vacant,” said Spencer, an Everett resident making her fourth trip to a party convention and second as a delegate. “In 2004, we knew who the candidate was and we were pretty convinced we were going to win and we just had a good time.”
Aurdal, of Clinton, said, “The overall dynamic of this election is different.”
For the state’s contingent of 77 delegates and alternates, there’s no incumbent president to cheer on toward re-election in the four-day event, but there will be plenty of chances to applaud the presumptive nominee, Sen. John McCain.
There’s history to be made as Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is poised to become the first woman ever nominated to a presidential ticket of the Republican Party.
Then there’s a two-day counter convention in neighboring Minneapolis organized by backers of Rep. Ron Paul, one of the unsuccessful Republican presidential candidates. Paul will speak both days.
“This next week is going to be exciting,” said Dullain Erlich of Mill Creek, who is making her first trip to a convention. “I am going to experience it all. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of history.”
Erlich, Spencer and Aurdal are among eight delegates from Snohomish and Island counties. The others are Jason Bontrager of Snohomish, Doug Roulstone of Snohomish, Nathan Johnson of Everett, Iris Lilly of Marysville and Linda Sturza of Camano Island.
State Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser, who is a superdelegate, said he’s looking forward to the spotlight shining on Republicans after its focus last week on Democrats.
“It’s a great opportunity to steal some of the bump from the Democrats,” he said. “Even though John McCain is better known than Barack Obama, it is still a great opportunity to tell his story.”
There may be some interruptions and distractions.
Hurricane Gustav is bearing down on the Louisiana coast. The storm has already resulted in the cancellation of some events and could divert the emotion and attention of the GOP faithful from McCain’s scheduled acceptance speech.
Paul, who is not scheduled to appear at the national convention, will be addressing supporters Tuesday night in the 20,000-seat Target Center in Minneapolis. Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is among several people set to speak prior to Paul.
Delegate Doug Roulstone of Snohomish said Paul won’t be trying to upstage McCain or disturb the party’s convention.
“It’s certainly not Congressman Paul’s attempt to do that,” he said. “He has some delegates and they will be seated and I’m sure some of them will vote for Ron Paul.”