Minnesotans vote for Paul

  • Article by: KEVIN DIAZ and BAIRD HELGESON , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: August 28, 2012 - 9:38 PM

State's delegation cast 33 votes for Rep. Paul, the largest bloc of any state.

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Minnesota delegates Melissa Valeriano and Marianne Stebbins, pledged to Ron Paul, yell "point of order" and "division" after the Republican National Committee voted to change the rules of the convention and take away their rights of the state delegation at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Florida, Tuesday, August 28, 2012.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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TAMPA, FLA. - An outnumbered but energetic GOP delegation from Minnesota cast 33 of its 40 votes Tuesday for libertarian icon Ron Paul, the Texas congressman who brought his growing populist movement to the Republican National Convention.

It was the largest bloc of Paul votes of any state at the convention, prompting wild cheers from the congressman's vocal supporters, many of whom felt slighted by new party rules that they said are designed to discourage insurgent candidacies.

"Minnesota, where we are very proud of our state Republican Party, which runs a fair convention with integrity, casts 33 votes for Ron Paul," said Minnesota delegation chair Marianne Stebbins as she announced the delegation's choices.

The delegation provided one vote for social conservative Rick Santorum and six for Mitt Romney.

"It feels great," said Paul delegate John Kossett, 56, from Vadnais Heights. "It's been a long road, and it's good to finally have the votes counted."

Taking their turn in the traditional roll call of states, Minnesota's delegates stood as an outpost in a sea of Mitt Romney delegates, who conferred 2,061 votes on the former Massachusetts governor. Paul won about 200 votes in all.

Standing beside Stebbins during the roll call was U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who joined the state GOP delegation as a Romney delegate. Bachmann, a former presidential candidate, received one vote from the Texas delegation, which was seated next to Minnesota's.

The moment culminated months of organizing that made Paul's supporters a major presence in the state GOP's endorsing conventions and one of only a handful of states with a majority of Paul delegates.

It also followed days of testy negotiations between the Republican National Committee (RNC) and Paul supporters challenging new party rules making it harder for insurgent candidacies to amass delegates in future primaries and caucuses.

They also battled over seating delegates from Maine, which like Nevada, Louisiana and Oklahoma, also had strong Paul contingents.

A tentative compromise reached on the eve of the convention was not all that some Paul organizers hoped for. "The compromise proposed by the RNC and Romney campaigns is a 'heads we win, tails you lose' offer to grassroots activists," said Stebbins, who shouted "point of order!" and "division" as the new rules were adopted.

A rules committee report outlining the deal was booed lustily by Paul supporters, some of whom chanted slogans in a rare demonstration of dissent in a modern Republican convention. Romney loyalists answered with chants of "Mitt! Mitt!" and "U.S.A.!"

Romney ended the evening with 2,061 delegate votes, to 190 for Paul.

Though Paul's Republican supporters are expected to coalesce around Romney, who will accept the nomination on Thursday, many of the congressman's backers said they simply wanted a chance to make their preferences heard.

"Let us have our moment," said Marge Beard, a Paul delegate from Plymouth. "Let us cast our vote."

Despite the hard feelings that split some state delegations, the Minnesotans appeared to hold together, with Paul backers praising Minnesota GOP party officials for not interfering with their delegate choices.

"We were fairly elected, and we upheld that," said Christi Scherber, a Richmond dairy farmer who came to Tampa to support Paul.

The Minnesota delegates were repaid personally by Paul in the opening moments of the three-day convention, when he walked the floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum and shook hands with them.

"He's been real good to us," said Scott Andersen, a Paul supporter from Bayport sporting an original Richard Nixon button.

Minnesota GOP Party Chairman Pat Shortridge, expressing sympathy for the Paul delegates' concerns, said the disagreement will not threaten the party's effort to unify behind Romney as he seeks to oust President Obama.

"It's very natural in any coalition that there are legitimate disagreements over rules, over policy, over how things should be done," Shortridge said. "People from competing wings of the party are going to have disagreements and they're going to fight it out. But in the end we're going to be together and unified."

Stebbins said she picked up one more Paul supporter than she expected: former RNC National Committeewoman Pat Anderson.

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  • In the opening moments of the three-day convention, Ron Paul walked onto the floor at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and shook hands with members of the Minnesota delegation, which cast 33 of its 40 votes for Paul.

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