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Nevada Ron Paul Supporters Stage Rogue GOP Convention

Posted: 06/23/08 09:05 PM ET

Ron Paul may have ended his bid for the presidency, but his supporters in Nevada apparently still believe backing his candidacy and platform will send an important message to the larger Republican Party. At least one Nevada Republican spokesperson, however, will go on record that by continuing to back his suspended candidacy, the Ron Paul supporters are tarnishing the image of the Republican Party in the silver state.

Paul backers, spearheaded by Sparks dentist Wayne Terhune, are renting out the Grand Sierra casino in Reno this weekend to complete unfinished business from the party's April 26 convention, which was cut short under controversial circumstances. The rogue GOP-Ron Paul supporter gathering planned for this weekend is neither sanctioned nor recognized by the Nevada Republican Party, which plans to resume the convention on July 26.

"It's going to cause a big, black eye for Nevada," said Zachary Moyle, the state party's executive director. "It reflects so poorly on the state."

The chaos at the April 26 convention at Peppermill Casino began when attendees overwhelmingly voted to change convention rules and allow delegates to be nominated from the floor. Nearly 200 people added their names to the slate of potential delegates and it took party officials several hours to sort out proper voting procedure.

Nevada sends three delegates from each of its three congressional districts and 22 at-large delegates to the national convention, so the state convention divided by district and voted on congressional delegates first.

About an hour later, murmurs started circulating about some surprising results.

Paul supporters say that all three of the delegates elected in the 3rd Congressional District and at least one in the 1st Congressional District were for Rep. Ron Paul, which meant four of the possible nine state congressional delegates were going to Paul and three delegates from the 2nd district were still being determined. Paul was seriously in the running to win the state congressional districts, in other words, even though the party's nominee would almost certainly be Sen. John McCain.

But these are Ron Paul supporter counts. According to the state Republican Party, the votes from the convention remain uncounted and uncertified and will not be reexamined until the state's party reconvenes. Both McCain and Ron Paul supporters would have to be present in order to certify all tallies.

"Nothing has been certified. It's all in a lock box at the Peppermill," says state Party Executive Director Moyle.

Nevertheless, Carl Bunce, an elected delegate for Paul in CD3, believes events at the convention support their unofficial count. When a Paul delegate was elected in CD1, says Bunce, "Bob Beers, the convention chairman, even shook his hand and congratulated him."

On the night of the convention, results from the final district took a while to come in, but the bulk of the nearly 1,400 in attendance seemed prepared to wait it out.

Bunce says his brother was seated toward the front of the room and overheard a striking exchange pass between Republican Party Chairman Sue Lowden and Commissioner Bruce Woodbury. Lowden reportedly heard an update from the 2nd Congressional District.

"After the person walked off, Sue sat there for about 30 seconds tapping her foot and then stood up and walked over to Councilman [sic] Woodbury, who was sitting in front of me. Leaning over, she said, 'If we can break Quorum, can we invalidate this?'" which is exactly how Richard Bunce wrote up the exchange on the Ron Paul website.

Sue Lowden is out of the country until June 28, but Moyle says they "absolutely object" to allegations that the party recessed the convention due to Paul's success, noting that Nevada was one of the only states that invited the Texas congressman to speak at the party's caucus.

But by all accounts, order at the convention started to disintegrate.

Carl Bunce says he could see convention chairman Bob Beers encircled by party leadership off stage "like he was in a shark tank" shaking his head no.

Moyle says that Paul supporters "aren't reading the truth" when it comes to interpreting the decision to recess.

They both agree that when Beers came on stage to announce that the convention would resume at a later date, the decision wasn't well received.

"People got angry and ran to the front of the room," said Robert Holloway, a lifelong republican who attended the convention. "Beers exited to a chorus of boos."

The remaining attendees tried to reconvene the convention right then and there, but too many people already had left the Peppermill to resume voting.

Several weeks later, when the party hadn't announced a new convention date, Paul's supporters decided they would organize their own. They contend that if a quorum shows up on June 28 any business conducted there will be recognized under the political guidebook Robert's Rule of Order.

But Moyle says the party's bylaws precede Roberts and that if people choose to attend Saturday, instead of the party's official date on July 26, it will only undermine the efforts to elect republicans in the state.

"If there's no quorum at the July meeting, it's only going to hurt themselves," Moyle said.

Despite Paul dropping out of the race and the Nevada Republican Party hosting a barbecue in Vegas on the same date, Robert Holloway plans to travel by van to attend Terhune's convention in Reno - even if it lessens the likelihood of Sen. John McCain winning the state.

"It may affect the election some, but it's more important to take a stand," Holloway said.