Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Video of a Georgia county GOP convention this past weekend has presidential candidate Ron Paul supporters incensed, contending they now have proof local Republican leaders have cheated their candidate out of delegates.
The Athens-Clarke County GOP met on Saturday, March 10, to vote – among other things – on delegates to represent the county at district convention, from there to attend the state and national conventions.
But shocking video shows the meeting’s chair pushing through a list of pre-selected delegates over the objections of the convention and promptly declaring the meeting closed, a startling turn of events that took exactly 21 seconds.
Ron Paul backers, who made up a majority of the seated precinct delegates and had hoped to nominate their own choices for district convention, were stunned.
By their count, also captured on video, more than 20 of the 30-some delegates present had voted no to the slate of delegates offered, yet Athens GOP Chairman Matt Brewster first declared, “The ‘ayes’ have it,” then ignored loud calls for a vote count, before quickly concluding, “There is no other business to discuss; the convention is now closed.”
“I’m thoroughly disgusted,” said precinct delegate Shawn Lewis in an interview also recorded on the video. “This is my first time participating in the process, and I feel pretty much just violated.”
“We tried to do this the right way,” precinct delegate and Young Americans for Liberty State Chair Carter Kessler told the Athens Banner-Herald. “Like the little tyrants they are, they said ‘That’s it,’ and ran out the door.”
Video of the events can be seen below:
In the video, the “aye” vs. “nay” count is difficult to discern, but precinct delegates can be heard clearly calling for “division.”
According to Robert’s Rules, which govern such meetings, a call for “division” is a request for recount of a voice vote. The call for division “cannot be debated, or amended, or have any other subsidiary motion applied to it.” The chair is required to take another vote by other than vocal means.
The only exception is for when a minority has been deemed a persistent “annoyance” to a meeting by its members “constantly demanding a division where there is a full vote and no question as to which side is in the majority.”
Kessler assured WND this was not the case.
“This was the only call for division in the meeting, and we were hardly a minority, with roughly 25 of the 37 seated delegates,” Kessler said. “They knew if they did follow the rules, they wouldn’t be happy with the results. They apparently thought, ‘Let’s just ram this through, get it over with and forget it.’”
Brewster told the Banner-Herald, “The only thing I can say is, I followed the rules as best I could for the Georgia GOP and the convention process.”
Brewster did not respond to WND requests for comment.
Georgia is allotted 76 delegates for the Republican National Convention, which ultimately picks the GOP presidential candidate. Those delegates are bound to Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum based on the results of the state’s March 6 primary.
But even though Paul won no bound delegates in Georgia, his backers are still trying to win his supporters seats at the convention, Kessler told the Banner-Herald. For if none of the four presidential candidates can win enough delegates to secure the nomination in the RNC’s first two ballots, Georgia’s delegates are then unbound from Gingrich and the other candidates, meaning they could then vote for Paul.
Paul backers fight back
As the video shows, Kessler and other frustrated precinct delegates met after the convention to discuss what recourse they might have.
“A couple of us got together with our state directors,” Kessler explained to WND. “They told us that since the convention was never legally and properly closed [by convention vote], if we could gather a quorum, we could pick up where we left off.”
The next day, that’s exactly what nearly two dozen Athens-Clarke precinct delegates did.
“We got a quorum,” Kessler said. “There were 37 precinct delegates seated Saturday; we met Sunday with 19* of them. … We voted on the slate [Brewster] proposed, opened it up for a nomination process and passed our own slate. We have since submitted it to the state party.”
Kessler explained the original slate of delegates was nominated by a committee appointed by Brewster, who, in turn, oversaw their election.
Kessler told WND the new slate of delegates has been certified and sent in to state party officials earlier this week and he has yet to hear a reply.
“We’re waiting to see how it plays out,” he said.
* In an earlier version of this article, Kessler was quoted as saying there were 22 in attendance. The actual number was 19.