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By JOHN FRIEDLEIN
ST. PAUL, MINN. — At least four Elizabethtown residents are delegates or alternates at the 2008 Republican National Convention, which began in earnest Tuesday night after a slow start because of Hurricane Gustav.
“I was disappointed that we had to call off some of the planned activities,” said delegate Mike Harris, former head of the Hardin County GOP. President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney scuttled Monday night speeches because of the storm.
But Harris said he understood they were needed elsewhere.
“It’s better that we be disappointed than they not do their jobs.”
Monday wasn’t a total loss, though. Delegates took care of party business — like electing officers — and heard speeches by first lady Laura Bush and Cindy McCain, wife of Presidential candidate John McCain.
“That gave us all a lift,” said Alice Pelkey, an alternate in St. Paul and a parliamentarian for the county GOP.
Unlike the other three party representatives, this isn’t Pelkey’s first convention; she attended in ‘04 when Bush ran for re-election.
“It’s quite a bit different,” she said of this year’s convention. For one thing, security isn’t as tight, she said. Delegates four years ago had to walk through barriers to get to the convention. “The whole atmosphere here is much lighter.”
Kentucky delegates also have prime seats.
They were assigned a spot close to the Xcel Energy Center’s stage and are lodged at a nearby hotel. They may have high-ranking Republicans to thank for this up-close experience, local delegates said. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, has temporarily chaired the convention and Robert “Mike” Duncan of Inez is president of the Republican National Committee.
Kentucky has 45 delegates and 42 alternates in St. Paul for the convention, which is scheduled to end Thursday, said state GOP party spokeswoman Andi Johnson.
The state’s contingent is on the podium’s left side — at the steps going up to it. A few news clips aired the entire delegation, said Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Berry, who is a delegate.
“This is exciting,” Berry said. “You don’t know when you may have this opportunity again.”
The activities aren’t confined to the Xcel Energy Center. Harris on Tuesday morning attended an “extremely interesting and stimulating” discussion at an off-site location about issues such as Iran, Russia, the economy and the energy crisis.
One hot topic in the news cycle early this week apparently isn’t a matter of debate among Kentucky delegates. None of them are expressing concern about McCain’s vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin, whose family and history have caused a media stir.
In fact, alternate and recent county GOP Vice Chairwoman Norma Shehan said Palin’s speech scheduled for tonight “ought to energize the crowd beyond belief.”
She also wants to remove the “presumptive” from the Arizona nominee’s title.
“I’m excited to be part of the process to elect John McCain,” she said.
John Friedlein can be reached
at (270) 505-1746.