(Ankeny, IA) Political conventions have two purposes: to determine policies and to select people. The Polk County Republican Convention convened Saturday, March 8 at the Ankeny High School auditorium, with a platform reduced to half its 2012 size and a quasi-scandal over a delegate slate.

After the pledge, Governor Terry Branstad came on stage to speak, both to open the convention and to take the opportunity to continue his 2014 campaign for re-election. During his apparently standard stump speech, the governor frequently lost his place, and at one point actually required help from the audience for a basic point on Ethanol. Careful observers noted that only about a third to half of the audience rose to greet him, and even fewer when he finished speaking.

The Polk County Convention had received state-wide and even national coverage for what had been termed “Dele-GATE” by WHO radio host Jan Mikelson and others. At issue was “Exhibit A,” a list of 99 names which was to be adopted without exception as an effective “slate” of pre-determined delegates to the district and state conventions. Seen as a power grab by “establishment” Republicans, it was ill-received in a year where inconclusive Congressional primaries may well be determined by convention delegates. Presumably because of the significant social media pressure and the negative press attention, the Polk County co-chairs had provided a second list, “Exhibit B,” with 49 names the weekend before the Convention, and then the night before the Convention, “Exhibit B 2.0” with only 27 names.

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Attempts to delete the slate met with 2 defeats on voice votes. But a third voice vote on adding the words “who are present” into the delegate selection rule was overturned on a call of “division” where delegates stand to be counted. This left many wondering out loud if the first two votes should have been decided on a division as well.

The process used to elect members for the Rules, Organization, Platform, and Credentials committees was called “Texas-style voting.” Lists of nominated names had to be pared down to 11 or 9, so delegates were asked to vote people off the list, rather than vote people onto a committee. The nomination speeches then had the bizarre element of asking people not to vote for them.  The process was quickly compared to the TV reality show Survivor, where participants vote people “off the island”.

In the end, Dele-GATE resulted in the “must be present to win” clause which limited district convention delegates and the lottery for alternates to those who had actually attended at the county level, while all Rules, Organization, Platform, and Credential Committee members were also automatically given delegate status. This has the effect of going from a slate (Exhibit A) with 99 names, down to a slate with 27 names (Exhibit B 2.0) plus the 38 committee members, who were at least elected.

Jeremy Filbert, running for Iowa Senate district 15, engages junior delegates.

Meanwhile, the junior delegates had much less drama in electing their executive committee and passing simple rules limited debate and establishing a quorum.  These middle- and high-school students shared a little about themselves, using play dough to shape sculptures of what they wanted to share, and then answered the question, “What is the most important issue facing us today?”  Out of 16 students, 7 responded with the National Debt or overspending.  Other answers included the 2nd amendment, healthcare, and a need for a clear definition of personal liberty. One of the more creative play dough representations included a chain, which stood for more and more government restriction.

Throughout the day, 6 candidates took the time to speak to the students, including David Young, Monte Shaw, Jeremy Filbert, Paul Lunde, Brad Zaun, and Mark Jacobs. Of these candidates, Jeremy Filbert, Mitchellville mayor and candidate for Iowa Senate District 15, was the only one who asked the students to tell him their concerns and opinions.

The Junior Delegates eventually adopted 4 platform changes, including bringing troops home from around the world, to allow more freedom for educators on subject material, and to end the Healthy Kids Initiative.

Platform Committee members discuss and debate at lunch time.

The 2014 Platform Committee, headed by Chairman Richard Rogers, had a stated goal to move toward a statement of principles rather than a long and detailed document that many candidates found impractical and many delegates had simply never bothered to read.  The new categories can be seen in the preamble:

As United States citizens and Republicans, we reaffirm our founding documents, and the writings of philosophers who outlined the inalienable, natural rights to Life, Liberty, and Property. We believe that all citizens have fundamental rights of life, liberty, and property, so long as these rights do not directly interfere with the life, liberty, or property of any other person. We believe the language in the United States Constitution and Declaration of Independence is as relevant today as when it was penned. Any attempts to deviate from the original intent of said documents must be vigorously opposed. We believe that a properly limited Federal Government will be constrained to its constitutional roles of protecting National Sovereignty and facilitating Interstate Commerce. We also believe the proper relationship of the Federal Government and States will allow the State and Local Governments to maintain decision-making responsibilities for all other issues.

It seemed very well-received, with its 6 categories instead of 13, and 6 pages instead of 10. Many people expressed how glad they were for the simplification and “statement of principles” feel of the new platform. This general feeling may have contributed to a rather lackluster platform debate during the late afternoon, as there was little to no disagreement. Until the water quality issue came up.

Platform committee received several qualified suggestions for revisions to the 2014 Platform, but surprisingly, none on the “Life” category.  Instead, the changes regarded medical marijuana, a number of education-related changes, one on water quality; and a proposal to include the anti-Agenda 21 plank from the 2012 platform.  The committee passed along its recommendations for adoption for only 2 planks, including one on student data privacy.

The Platform debate wrapped up the “policy” side of the day. However, the Convention still had to finish the “people” side by announcing the delegates and alternates for the district convention by 6:50 pm, when this reporter finally called it a day.  Delegate and alternate assignments were expected to be released early this week.

Anthony Seliquini of Voices of Reason recorded a lot of the convention which you can watch below:





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