News Column

Women Take Center Stage at GOP Convention

Aug 30, 2012

Republicans are often criticized for a lack of diversity, but party members from Whatcom County said they drew inspiration from prominent women this week at the Republican National Convention.

"There's a plethora of women leaders and that's just exciting," said Eileen Sobjack, an executive board member with the National Federation of Republican Women. She mentioned U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.

"The party is very embracing of women," she said.

Kathy Kershner, an alternate delegate and chairwoman of the Whatcom County Council, was impressed by another woman featured at the convention -- Mia Love, a black Mormon and a mayor in Utah running for Congress.

Love spoke Tuesday, Aug. 28, only for a few minutes, but "she blew it out of the water," Kershner said. "She made her entrance onto the national stage in a big way."

The party's standing with women has been called into question, especially after the recent controversial statement by U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, a Missouri Republican, that "legitimate rape" does not cause pregnancy. Prominent Republicans have distanced themselves from Akin, and in any case the gaffe is in the party's rear-view mirror, Sobjack said.

"I'm not hearing any scuttle about it," she said. "When you're on the convention floor and look across at the debt clock ticking and thinking about the economy, I think a lot of people there are in the same place as me as far as that's concerned."

The debt clock, which is totaling the U.S. debt accumulated during the convention, started on Monday -- the only business conducted that day. Other Monday events were canceled over concerns about then-Tropical Storm Isaac.

The storm, which as forecast developed into a Category 1 hurricane, did not otherwise interfere with convention business, said Luanne Van Werven, a delegate at the convention and chairwoman of Whatcom Republicans.

"The locals here in Florida really do consider a Category 1 hurricane pretty much a nonevent," she said.

The debt clock hit $3 billion on Wednesday and reflected a major theme of the convention for Whatcom delegates -- the failed economic policies of the president. That attitude has ramped up the excitement at the convention compared to four years ago.

"People are more excited about Mitt Romney than they were for John McCain," said Van Werven, who also attended the 2008 convention. "I think that there's a sense of urgency because of how far the country has gone downhill since Barack Obama is president."

Ron Paul got a handful of votes from Washington delegates, but the two voting participants from Whatcom County, Van Werven and Republican National Committeeman Jeff Kent, voted for Romney.

County allegiances were divided in the spring, when the Republican primaries were in full swing and it wasn't clear who the nominee would be. Locals have since united behind Romney, Van Werven said, because they have learned more about his record, his principles and his family.

"That has made a great deal of difference for everybody," she said.

The five local delegates or alternates, including Charlie Crabtree, will bring the momentum from the convention home with them and focus it on the fall campaign. Polls show Romney doesn't have much of a chance in Washington state, but he's not the only Republican on the November ballot.

"It starts at the top of the ticket. For us in Whatcom County it is so much more," Van Werven said, mentioning gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna; John Koster, who would represent rural Whatcom County in Congress; and Dave Grant, who opposes Deborra Garrett for judge in county Superior Court.

"We're going to go back to Whatcom County and do everything we can to turn out all Republican voters," Van Werven said.

Source: (c)2012 The Bellingham Herald (Bellingham, Wash.). Distributed by MCT Information Services

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