BISMARCK – North Dakota’s 2012 GOP Convention here quickly grew out of hand and disorderly this morning, after dozens of frustrated delegates raised concerns over how the state’s national delegates should be elected.
The 1,500 delegates at the North Dakota GOP Convention this morning were divided for more than an hour before actual balloting began over who would represent the NDGOP at the Republican National Convention this summer. The results of that vote have not yet been announced.
Several delegates who support Ron Paul and Rick Santorum voiced multiple objections to the party’s method for determining the delegates, specifically because they felt they were being disenfranchised by the party’s traditional process.
Santorum won the most votes during North Dakota’s GOP caucus earlier this month; Paul came second, while Mitt Romney placed third. North Dakota’s caucus results were not binding, but party officials maintained again today the slate of delegates to the national convention would reflect the caucus vote.
However, Paul and Santorum supporters alleged the party’s recommended slate of nominated delegates predominantly favored Romney supporters.
Many times, the upset supporters delayed the proceedings as party leaders – and a seeming majority of the convention delegates – wanted to move forward.
Former NDGOP chairman Gary Emineth, who is in charge of Santorum’s campaign in North Dakota, said Romney supporters in the party establishment “hijacked” the process.
“This is not a fair election,” he said, later chastising party officials during a statement he offered on the convention floor.
A selection committee of the state party chose a slate of 25 nominees among 101 people who applied for the chance to represent the NDGOP at the national convention.
The 25 nominees the party chose were mostly familiar names – state officials and high-ranking NDGOP members, including: Sen. John Hoeven, Rep. Rick Berg, first lady Betsy Dalrymple and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.
NDGOP National Committeewoman Sandy Boehler said that’s by design. The party’s nominees were chosen based on a weighted scale that heavily favors party-backers, donors and elected officials.
“You do want to reward the people that work tirelessly for the party,” she told the convention during the debate. “But I can tell you we did not know who was for who.”
But many young delegates said that process inherently leaves them out of the running – or at least, at a severe disadvantage – to be chosen to go to the national convention.
After several more nominees were offered on the convention floor, party officials sought to finally move on to a vote based on a pre-printed ballot of the selected 25 nominees. Any of the new nominations – which were displayed on two large screens in the Civic Center – could be chosen as write-in candidates.
However, Paul and Santorum backers asked multiple times for a new ballot – one which would list all the nominees alphabetically, so no preference would be given to any one nominee.
The objections repeatedly delayed the convention.
“Why can’t we have all names listed in alphabetical order on a printed ballot?”
asked District 47 delegate Karen Erickstad. “Out of eyesight concerns, spelling concerns and equal opportunity of every delegate here. Regardless of age, experience or monetary contributions, everyone has the right to have their vote count.”
Chairman Stan Stein and other party leaders responded to the concerns, reiterating many times how they were following their own party rules, the RNC’s rules and the rules of order for the convention.
Nonetheless, the debate grew hostile quickly, especially between Stein and those like him who wanted to move forward and frustrated delegates who demanded a change in procedure, which Stein repeatedly denied.
At one point, a delegate voiced concern that he couldn’t read the names of the nominees on the screens. Another delegate – who couldn’t be identified – abruptly responded: “Get your eyes checked.”*
After numerous rounds of voice votes and show-of-hand votes and more objections from upset delegates, the party moved forward with the written ballot they’d prepared.
As the votes were tallied, College Republicans gave a presentation and the Republicans gave a tribute to the late Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem, who died last fall.
The convention also moved on with the day’s endorsements, starting off with the U.S. Senate race.
Update 7:40 p.m. – Click here for the results of this morning’s vote.
*This article has been corrected to fix an attribution error.