AUGUSTA, Maine — As Ron Paul’s supporters in Maine pack their bags for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., the delegates don’t even know if they’ll be seated once they get there.
The answers could become clearer this week when convention committees take up challenges to their election as delegates.
“It puts us in a very peculiar position,” said Eric Brakey, who is secretary of the Ron Paul-affiliated Maine delegation.
Brakey said all of the delegates plan to fly to Tampa, at considerable personal expense to many of them. Some have borrowed money, pooled their resources and made other arrangements in order to make the trip. “It’s really an unjust situation and could have been resolved,” he said.
At a raucous GOP state convention in May that was taken over by Ron Paul forces, supporters of the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman were elected to 21 of 24 of Maine’s delegate seats to the national convention, set for Aug. 27-30. In late July, mainstream Republicans filed a challenge to the Paul slate.
The complaint by GOP national committeewoman Jan Staples and Peter Cianchette, a former RNC committee member who currently serves as Mitt Romney’s campaign chairman in Maine, cited a failure of credentialing at the state convention. They said that led to illegal votes being cast, a lack of a quorum for some votes, and repeated violations of party and parliamentary rules.
Paul supporters say they played by the rules and that lawyers from Paul’s presidential campaign will help defend them when the challenges go before one or more convention committees. The Rules and Credentials committee is to meet Friday.
Whatever the outcome, it will not affect the ultimate nomination of Romney for president. Paul supporters just want to mount enough of a presence to ensure him a prime-time speaking platform at the party gathering.
Meanwhile, the Maine delegates are queasy waiting to see whether they’ll be admitted. Challenges are also pending against Paul delegates that have been elected at GOP conventions in several other states.
So far, the signs are not especially promising for the Paul crowd from Maine. On Aug. 10, the national party’s Committee on Contests put off a decision of whether the mainstream Republican’s challenge has any merits. The committee was scheduled to meet again Saturday in Tampa.
John Logan Jones, a Paul delegate and a Republican candidate for legislature in Falmouth, said Maine’s delegation should have been certified.
“Instead they are reaching over backwards, changing their own rules to accommodate the Mitt Romney campaign,” he said.
On Friday, three of the Paul delegates from Maine asked Waldo County Superior Court to order a stop to the Republican National Committee’s process of investigating whether Paul delegates were elected legally.
Weeks before the matter reached the courts, Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster tried to broker a deal between the Paul and mainstream forces to end the seating dispute, but his effort went nowhere.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Webster, who leaves this week for Tampa as a delegate who hasn’t declared support for a candidate.
Challenges are also pending against Paul delegates that have been elected at GOP conventions in a half dozen other states.