When the Republican National Convention begins Monday in Tampa, Fla. we’ll have it covered from the inside and out.
Most of the work, as usual, will be handled by our wire services via the Associated Press and McClatchy Tribune. But this year we have some additional help that should offer a local flair to our coverage. I hope so, anyway.
The first voice — and face — most will notice will be that of Patrick Brown, a junior at Elon University from Midlothian, Va. Brown is already in Tampa with a handful of other Elon students as part of the Washington Center Group. The students, who will be in Tampa for two weeks, were encouraged to write about their experiences for a newspaper. Many elected to do so for their hometown publication. He chose us.
This week the students are taking in the advance convention work — while probably watching as Tropical Storm Isaac looms. For our weekend newspapers, Patrick will file an account of his observations about how the convention comes together. Next week, as the convention unfolds, he may take on issues of interest to students or North Carolina.
My advice to him: Stay away from the big stories being covered by the wire services. We have too much of that already. And then there is the network TV coverage to factor in. For the past several years the conventions have become like a heavily scripted TV informercial. I told Brown to focus on his own observations and perspectives of what’s going on around him and to look for stories about issues few others might be writing about: Student loan programs, private universities, etc.
And among the delegates …
We also have an Alamance County presence in the North Carolina delegation. Reid Dalton, who has a lifetime interest in politics, is an alternate delegate and Ron Paul supporter. An alternate is a little more than someone who just fills the seat when a delegate has to go to the bathroom. There are 33 North Carolina delegates and an equal number of alternates.
“As far as I can tell the only difference between an alternate and a delegate is that an alternate can’t serve on committees,” he said.
Dalton is the only Alamance County person who will be a delegate in either the Republican or Democratic convention. More on that later.
I heard a few weeks ago from Dalton that he would be attending the convention and spoke to him then about doing a sort of diary of his impressions as often as he could muster around the busy convention schedule. He quickly agreed.
Dalton is a Williams grad who was appointed as a page to the state Senate by Ralph Scott in 1967. He eventually graduated from Carolina and earned his law degree in 1978. He ran unsuccessfully for the N.C. House in 1980 before going to work with the Office of the General Counsel in the USDA. He was Attorney-in-Charge in a new Raleigh office U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms created to serve the Farmers Home Administration offices there and throughout the state.
In 1986 he made an unusual U-turn, leaving government and politics to study theology. He became a pastor in churches in Virginia and New York before returning closer to home to a church in Caswell County in 1996. In 1999 he came back to Burlington.
“I have spent most of the years since doing real estate title work, filling in for vacationing pastors in local pulpits, and beginning a career as a professional actor,” he said.
Dalton is a longtime reader of the Times-News and its editorial page. He became “an advocate for Ron Paul and his platform of peace and liberty.” He got on the convention list because of his work during the Reagan years and because the Ron Paul campaign offered his name to state GOP chairman Robin Hayes. He was selected as an alternate by the state GOP convention.
Dalton is leaving Friday and to add a little nostalgia to the adventure, he’s going by train.
Expect to see his reports starting next week.
As I mentioned before, I’m looking forward to a little different kind of coverage from our would-be political writers. The national nominating conventions for the Democrats and Republicans used to be tremendous events flush with excitement, pageantry and debate. Over the past decades the events have become tightly scripted with Hollywood style videos and almost no floor fights to speak of. The rhetoric is so feeble that it’s turned into a cliché.
No Alamance Democrats chosen
I will post more later about our plans for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. We have an Elon student lined up there as well. And one of our newspapers will be supplying extra coverage.
Sadly, though, there are no Alamance County delegates. I spoke with Anna Gerow, the first vice chair of the Alamance County Democratic Party. She said the state delegation would be stacked with people from Wake and Mecklenburg counties — the largest counties in the state.
That’s a shame. With the national convention in our state for the first time, the opportunity was there to get as many people involved from as many different counties as possible.
I’m sad it didn’t turn out that way.