Georgians wait out rain as GOP convention begins

by: Bryan Leavoy Updated:


TAMPA, Fla. - Tropical Storm Isaac passed over the Republican National Convention to the relief of thousands of delegates, including dozens of Georgians forced to make alternate plans for the first day of the political event.

Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus banged a gavel and quickly called the 2012 convention to order, then just as quickly ordered a recess until Tuesday in front of a mostly empty convention hall.

Delegates who braved lingering clouds and an occasional downpour will get down to the business at hand -- nominating Mitt Romney for president -- on Tuesday.

Across town at an airport hotel, the Georgia delegation met behind closed doors for the second consecutive morning to discuss party matters.

A Channel 2 photographer and producer, along with a reporter from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, were politely asked to remain outside the banquet hall as Georgians inside posted photos and quotes from the speakers on Twitter.

Speakers included Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens and Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz.

Georgia political leaders emerged from the event energized but also keeping an eye on Isaac as it bears down on the Gulf Coast.

"Fortunately, it appears the weather is going to work out very well for us here in Tampa. Obviously, our hearts go out to those other states that could bear the brunt of what the hurricane will bring," Cagle said.

"We are praying for the people in harm's way. If it hits there (New Orleans) hard, and they need help, Republicans do what they always do. We may pick a day to go over and help them. We certainly will take up a donation for them," said Georgia GOP Chairwoman Sue Everhart.

Cagle said Georgia delegates are ready to unite behind Romney and Paul Ryan on Tuesday when they are officially nominated.

"Right now, everyone is united. They're focused on where the goal is, and that's to win in November," Cagle said. "As we build up to tomorrow and then the following days, that's what the excitement is all about."

Everhart is prepared to pledge Georgia's delegates to Romney on Tuesday, but there appeared to be a few holdouts who are now casting their support behind Ron Paul, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jim Galloway reported.

A rule change to be debated on Tuesday at the convention would eliminate such possible splits by giving the nominee the power to essentially choose the delegates to the convention starting in 2016. The change is not welcomed by some Georgians, including Julianne Thompson, a national delegate.

"We have always believed that our Party is the one who best represents what it means to be an American…freedom! With your current attempt at this rules change, you are essentially striking the first blow that chips away at that freedom, and you disenfranchise the very people that turned the tide for the GOP in 2010," Thompson wrote in a letter obtained by Channel 2's Lori Geary.

The letter and some division across states could lead to an interesting first full day of the convention.

Channel 2 Action News producers inside the convention hall on Monday reported hearing a short outburst and cheering from Paul supporters shortly after the session ended.

Still, Georgia leaders in Tampa remain optimistic the party will unite and move forward.

"The overarching theme is it's time to pull together and support Mitt Romney. He's the person that can turn the country around," Cagle said. "Politics is never about the past, it's about the future."

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