Hey, political junkies. I'm at the Texas Senate District 14 (more or less Travis County) Republican convention and it's dragging on so I might as well take advantage of the free wireless provided by the Austin ISD to put some notes out about the experience of attending a district convention. Special thanks to the folks from Americans for Prosperity who got bored and abandoned their booth in the convention hall, unwittingly providing me with a comfy place to sit down and share my thoughts.
So, how did I get here? Most people who haven't been through the process have no idea how one gets involved in the convoluted process through which the parties pick their candidates and set their platforms. You go and vote in your primary or in a caucus and you think that's all there is. That's really just the beginning. After you vote in the primary some of the most motivated voters get together and hold a precinct convention.
Attendees at the precinct convention vote to select delegates who then go to a regional convention, in this case broken down by Senatorial districts, which is why I'm at the Senate District 14 convention right now. Our precinct convention had an impressive turnout. In 2006 there were three of us at the convention. This year there were more than two dozen, which is a big step forward for our largely rural district. Of course, the Democrats had even more, but the growth we showed was very encouraging.
Here at the district convention we pick another set of delegates who get to go to the state convention, and at the state convention they will pick our state's delegates to the national convention this summer. In addition to picking delegates each of these conventions votes on resoultions which ultimately get passed up through the process in hopes of finding their way into the party platform, which is symbolically very important because it gives a sense of where the party body politics stands on the issues and ought to be taken to heart by candidates, even if the resolutions include no absolute compulsion to enact legislation down the road.
I don't guarantee that all the district conventions around the country are just like this one, but there are going to be a lot of basic similarities and even Democrat conventions will be structurally similar. Ours may be a bit unusual, because we're representing a Republican minority in an overwhelmingly Democratic district within a state which is equally overwhelmingly Republican. Every statewide elected official in Texas is a Republican. All but one elected official in this district is a Democrat. A very weird political situation. I knew this before the convention, but it was really driven home to me on the drive over here when it took 45 minutes to get here from my house which is all of four miles away because my route took me by the Texas Exposition and Heritage Center where the Democrats were holding their convention with so many attendees that traffic from every direction was blocked by endless lines of cars and by pedestrians who had parked miles away and walked to the convention.
I have to admit it was pretty intimidating, but our Republican turnout isn't exactly embarassing. We've got double the numbers that turned out for the 2006 convention and that includes lots of first-time participants. Many of the new delegates were brought here by their interest in Ron Paul, but for the most part they're sticking around and taking it seriously and deserve some credit for that.
2:43 PM: What Happened to Lunch Breaks?
So, you may wonder why my first entry beyond the initial introduction comes at almost 3 p.m. It's largely because it took us about six hours from the 9 a.m. start of the convention to actually get beyond the first procedural rules debate and move on to the meat of the convention.