Waiting for the bus in Tampa, delegates plan election strategy

IL GOP delegates from heavily Democratic 2nd District keep the faith

August 30, 2012

Alex Keefe

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Illinois delegates have been spending a lot of time this week waiting for buses to shuttle them from the hotel to the convention site. Buses that have been really, really late.

But the other day, that left time for Chicago delegate Isaac Hayes to catch up with a suburban colleague from Illinois' 2nd congressional district. The district encompasses the South Side and south suburbs of Chicago. 

In 2010, Hayes ran against incumbent Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr. who has held the seat for 17 years. It was Jackson’s toughest race in a decade and yet he still won 80 percent of the vote.

So what kind of person wants to be a Republican in a district like that?

Miriam Shabo, for one.

"My father was a card carrying socialist," she says.

Shabo was born in the former Yugoslavia, but now lives in south suburban Homewood. A compact, energetic woman who walks around wearing rose-tinted glasses, Shabo said she’s always been conservative, and found the Republican Party welcoming even though she wasn't born in the U.S.

"Even someone like me, who wasn’t born here, who speaks with an accent. I still can participate in nominating the next president of United States. I think that’s exhilarating."

Isaac Hayes is similarly optimistic. He’s one of the only African-Americans in the Illinois delegation, and he said he’s spent a lot of time this week talking about how to attract more black voters.

"I think the party is beginning to see, even though we may not be able to win the black vote at this point in time, it can be a swing vote to help close narrow margins."

When the bus finally rolls up, it's more than an hour behind schedule. But Hayes and the other delegates from the second district aren’t fazed.

It seems they’ve learned how to be patient.