By Peter Wong
The Statesman Journal
The Mid-Valley will be well-represented when the opening gavels fall Monday at the Republican National Convention and eight days later at the Democratic National Convention.
The main business of the conventions isn’t in doubt. Republicans will nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as their ticket to challenge President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Mid-Valley Republicans have a preponderance of repeat attendees to conventions. It’s the fifth for Solomon Yue of Salem, Oregon’s Republican national committeeman since 2000, who also is one of 13 deputy permanent co-chairmen of the 2012 convention.
Three convention-goers who will be in Tampa this week share their perspectives.
Fred Thompson has campaigned for Congress more often than he has been at his party’s national convention.
But the 63-year-old Salem business executive is making up for that this year as a delegate chosen from the 5th District, which he hopes to win Nov. 6 on his second try.
While he expects to enjoy himself, he said, “I’m not going to have any elephant nose hanging off my forehead.”
Thompson is pledged to Romney, who was not his first choice for president. He won’t say who was, but noted that his favorite did not run this year.
But he said he supports Romney, and is reassured by the choice of Ryan, a six-term representative from Wisconsin.
“Ryan is well-grounded” with his upbringing in the Midwest, where Thompson has worked in the past. “He is a young man who’s not afraid to get up and speak his mind — and I like that a lot.”
The 5th District has the closest divide between registered Democrats (38 percent) and Republicans (35.7 percent) of any of Oregon’s districts. But through June 30, two-term Democratic incumbent Kurt Schrader has raised $1.3 million and had almost $900,000 on hand; Thompson raised $8,000 and had just $537 left.
Thompson said the convention trip might help him with the campaign — but he wants to do it on his terms.
“It will give people in the political world a chance to see who I am — and I think that will be good exposure for me and the people I represent in Oregon,” he said.
“You won’t see me going to any strip bars or dancing around and swimming.”
Like Thompson, Debora Nearman, who lives outside Independence, is a first-time convention goer.
Like Thompson, she’s pledged to Romney as one of Oregon’s 25 alternates, even though Ronmey was not her first choice for president. Rick Santorum was her preference, but the former senator dropped out before his home state of Pennsylvania voted April 24.
“I was really excited about all of the candidates running this year, so I am excited by the possibility of hearing them speak,” she said.
Santorum is scheduled to speak Tuesday. The other losing candidates in Oregon’s May 15 primary do not have speaking slots.
But Nearman said she supports Romney and Ryan, and expects the convention will motivate her to work for their election. She also said she’s “super-excited” about the prospects of meeting others like her from around the country.
The 53-year-old Nearman said with no family or other obligations, and with the financial ability to make the trip — delegates and alternates pay their own expenses — she and her husband can indulge their passion for politics.
“He’s going to carry my suitcases,” she said with a laugh.
The seating of Nearman and 20 other alternates was challenged by backers of Ron Paul, who pressed similar actions in other states. But the convention’s credentials committee voted Friday to turn aside all the challenges.
In Oregon’s case, Paul’s backers went to delegate-selection meetings in the five congressional districts on June 23, and by their estimate, ended up with 15 delegates. (Under Oregon law, Paul was awarded three of the 25 regular delegates based on his 13 percent showing in the primary.)
Paul supporters accused party chairman Allen Alley of violating rules in appointing alternates. Alley said he followed the rules — and the credentials committee voted to seat the appointees.
Jeff Kubler is from Adair Village, northeast of Corvallis near the boundaries with Marion and Polk counties.
Until last week, he was the only Oregon Republican delegate pledged to Newt Gingrich, a former U.S. House speaker. But Gingrich released his delegates, mostly from his home state of Georgia — so Kubler can vote for whoever he wants.
Kubler said he has no problem supporting Romney and Ryan.
“This is who we have come out of the process,” he said. “Romney is a successful businessman who turned around the (2002 Winter) Olympics and knows how to motivate people to work.
“The contrast between who we have now, and who we must have to achieve recovery, is stark. If we do not choose right, we will have a European-style economy that will continue to degrade in comparison with economies in the rest of the world.”
As for Ryan, “he is a nuts-and-bolts guy who is talking about fixing problems, not stretching them out until they get worse later for another generation.”
This convention will be Kubler’s third, following 2000 and 2004. He was a delegate in 2008 but dropped out because of illness.
Kubler, 53, is a computer consultant and a city councilor. Because of his formerly unique status for Gingrich, “I may have been the most popular delegate,” amassing the highest total of votes cast in the 5th District selection meeting.
Though just in his 20s, Michael Granat of Salem will have experienced two national political conventions by week’s end.
Four years ago, just out of South Salem High School, he was an Oregon alternate for Texas Rep. Ron Paul at the Republican National Convention.
His older brother, John — then a junior at Oregon State University — was an Oregon delegate for Paul.
They were the youngest members of Oregon’s GOP delegation, most of whom were pledged to Arizona Sen. John McCain as the nominee.
Michael Granat said, “the most valuable experience I had from 2008 was in appreciating the process of electing the nominee and the tremendous efforts that go into putting on a national political convention.”
That was then, and this is now.
On Saturday, a sleepless Michael Granat finally made it to Tampa, where he will be a delegate to the convention that opens Monday. Granat, 23, is a student at Western Oregon University, where he is finishing a bachelor’s degree in history, and evenutally would like to teach in the Mid-Valley.
The state party website officially lists Granat as a delegate pledged to Romney, although his heart is still with Paul.
Granat offered a few thoughts about the 2012 convention via email en route to Tampa.
“Every convention is unique, so I believe it is best to have the events speak for themselves,” he wrote. “However, through the various speakers and the national platform, the GOP will lay out clear reasons why America needs to move in a conservative direction.”
pwong@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6745 or twitter.com/capitolwong