Illinois Republicans unfazed by storm delay at national convention

August 27, 2012

Tony Arnold and Alex Keefe

(WBEZ/Tony Arnold)
Sand bags line the street just blocks from the convention center in Tampa, Fl.

Illinois Republicans are moving forward with their scheduled itinerary in Tampa, Florida despite the one-day delay of Monday’s events at the Republican National Convention.

The national Republican Party postponed Monday’s scheduled speakers and votes at the main convention center because of the threat of a tropical storm heading toward the Tampa area over the weekend. Come Sunday evening, though, it appeared as if the worst of the storm was heading west of the city.

 

On Sunday, Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady downplayed the effect any severe weather would have on the plans of the state’s delegation. He said they would continue their work on Monday and throughout the week, despite the disrupted convention schedule and an ominous-looking sky above.

“Our schedule will continue as scheduled. We’ll have our breakfast and we’ll have the lunch meetings that some of the sponsors have put together. And then we’ll have the event that night at the hotel, so our schedule doesn’t change at all,” Brady said. “And I think we’ll be back on our full schedule Tuesday, I hope.”

The Illinois delegation is staying at a hotel about 27 miles west from the national party’s events happening at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is expected to formally accept his party’s nomination for president later this week.

Upon arrival at the Illinois delegation’s hotel, guests could pick up a series of different pamphlets supporting conservative causes. One included a schedule of classes for “Newt University,” which will include sessions on health care, energy and job growth taught by Newt Gingrich. Another pamphlet encourages convention-goers to sign up for a new email address with the domain name “@reagan.com.”

The state’s delegation is made up of a collection of elected officials, traditional party supporters and young people faithful to the GOP who are attending their first Republican convention. In all, Illinois is represented by 69 Republican delegates, but several more tag along for the week’s events. Many attendees from Illinois boarded a bus Sunday evening to attend a welcoming party for all convention-goers at Tropicana Field, the home of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team.

As a steady drizzle fell across Tampa, the streets were deserted outside the stadium except for a large battalion of security officers. A chain link fence surrounded the perimeter of the stadium while groups of officers on bicycles rode along in packs.

Inside, Republicans mingled and noshed on buffets of seafood and Cuban food while the group Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy performed acrobatics on a cube-shaped stage high above the floor. Multiple live music acts also played for the crowd that was enveloped by a landscape of red, white and blue table cloths, decorations and sculptures.

Sitting in the dugout at Tropicana Field, Illinois State Senator Kirk Dillard said the weather delay wouldn't dampen their spirits. “We’re gonna use the down day to gather around and get to know one another," he said. "Illinois’ a very diverse state.  And, you know, there’s a lotta folks from Cairo to Rockford” in Tampa for the convention.

With Monday’s main events pushed back, the rest of the convention will work on a more condensed schedule. Speakers at the main event on Tuesday are scheduled to include former presidential candidate Rick Santorum,  Ohio Governor John Kasich and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.