Dozens more friends and spouses of those folks, Mitt Romney loyalists and advisors and local media people are there as well, all looking forward to a quasi-Utahn being named Thursday night as the GOP’s presidential nominee.
For many Utah Republicans it really is an historic event.
And certainly for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints it is a national, even international, recognition of acceptance into America’s main stream.
One faithful Republican and Mormon is making her fifth trip to a national convention – and she has ties not only to Utah and local political activism, but to national conservative movements as well.
Gayle Ruzicka was first a delegate to the 1992 GOP convention in Houston, which re-nominated then President George H.W. Bush.
The main reason Ruzicka wanted to go to that convention had to do with abortion. And it appears abortion will be a topic in Tampa as well, but for a very different reason.
“There was a movement back then (in 1992) by some moderate Republicans to soften the party’s abortion plank,” Ruzicka told UtahPolicy recently.
As a founding member of the Utah Eagle Forum, Ruzicka was personally encouraged by Eagle Forum national president Phyllis Schlafly to run for a national delegate from Utah and to fight for a strong anti-abortion plank.
Ruzicka, husband Don, and several of their children have over the years been elected delegates or alternates and the large Ruzicka family has used the national GOP convention as both an educational opportunity and a family vacation.
While Don ran this year, he wasn’t elected a delegate or alternate. Husband and wife will still attend the convention together, this time taking one of their grandchildren.
In fact, who was elected this year has rankled a few long-time GOP stalwarts/officeholders who for various reasons were not selected by the Romney Utah camp to be on Romney’s official delegate/alternate slate.
There was a bit of a dust-up at the April 2012 Utah State GOP convention when Romney’s son, Josh, who lives in Utah, was allowed to address the opening of the convention in the Sandy South Towne Convention Center.
Young Romney specifically asked the delegates at that convention to vote for his dad’s official slate for the national convention.
And something like 87 percent of that 74-member slate was voted in, leaving some state convention delegates unhappy.
Several came to the microphones asking that they – as either Ron Paul supporters or Romney supporters who weren’t on the official slate – to have a chance to address the delegates who would elect national delegates later that day.
All were denied that chance.
“I’ve put in many years serving this party,” said one national delegate candidate who wasn’t on the Romney slate and wasn’t picked, “both as a party and elected office holder. I would have really liked to go to Tampa, to see Mitt chosen our nominee. It didn’t seem very fair” how the Romney slate was pushed through the state convention, he told UtahPolicy.
A list of all the Republicans who ran for a delegate slot is here.
A list of just the elected delegates and alternates is here.
But such is politics, and there is no lack of enthusiasm among the Utah delegation that will attend the convention starting later today.
(Monday’s session will be brief, all speeches and work cancelled because of a hurricane sweeping up the western part of Florida. A reconfigured convention schedule will begin Tuesday morning and Romney will still accept the nomination and give an address Thursday night.)
Ruzicka says she will be a strong anti-abortion voice in the 2012 convention as she was in the 1992 meeting.
Some moderate Republicans, Democrats, independents and women’s rights groups are condemning the GOP’s anti-abortion proposed plank this year, with several of the Sunday morning political talk shows taking up the issue yesterday.
But supporters of the plank say it is not much different than planks adopted in 2004 and 2008.
“This is going to be a really exciting convention,” said Ruzicka, adding that she is personally pleased that Romney’s vice president pick of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan “is a true conservative we can all support.”
Ruzicka said she was pleased to be invited by Utah Romney organizers to be on the official delegate slate.
“I hope his folks always like us” – meaning the Utah Eagle Forum.
Ruzicka was not on the national platform committee this time around, glad to support state Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, for that slot.
But Ruzicka was on the platform committees in Houston and Philadelphia.
“It’s a big commitment to be on the platform committee,” Ruzicka recalls. “You have to be in town a week early, it costs a lot more.”
Each delegate and alternate must pay their own way to the national convention, although some do local fund raising to help with the cost.
Ruzicka estimates it that will cost her and Don around $5,000 to attend with their one grandchild this year.
“Twenty years ago there was a real threat to our (anti-abortion) plank,” said Ruzicka. “You might recall that we held a (platform committee) meeting in Salt Lake City and had a good, strong turnout” of folks to testify in favor of an anti-abortion plank.
“All the pro-abortion (Republicans) came here and we convinced some of them to change the proposed platform – that’s what got me involved” in national GOP politics, she said.
“It remains a top issue today for us. I probably wouldn’t have run again (for a national delegate) if not for that issue this time; and for the fact that Mitt Romney will be our nominee – we are all excited in Utah about that.”
The national GOP plank on abortion can be interpreted as being tougher than the official stand of the Mormon Church – a standard often referred to at the Utah Legislature when abortion law is debated there.
You can read the LDS Church’s stand on abortion here.
It includes the following statements: “Church leaders have said that some exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.
“But even these circumstances do not automatically justify an abortion. Those who face such circumstances should consider abortion only after consulting with their local Church leaders and receiving a confirmation through earnest prayer.”
Mormon leaders say abortion is not justified for personal or social convenience, and those who help, counsel or pay for such abortions could lose their memberships.
The proposed 2012 national GOP platform on abortion says, in part, that an: “unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life that cannot be infringed.”
And again calls for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion.
The platform has no exceptions for the case of rape or incest.
The LDS Church also strongly advises members to have children, not abort them, and to then put those children up for adoption if the parent(s) don’t feel they can take care of them.