In Issaquah and Tampa, local Republicans join party festivities

September 4, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

State Sen. Dino Rossi visits the floor at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. Contributed

Cyrus Krohn, a pioneer in efforts to increase the GOP’s online presence, sat out the 2012 Republican National Convention.

The downtown Issaquah resident did not attend the convention in Tampa, Fla. — not in person, at least.

Instead, Krohn, a former digital strategist for the Republican National Committee, participated in a Google+ Hangout — or group video chat — streamed at the convention.

“Technology is such now that I feel like I’m a virtual participant in that I can keep up with everything, I can watch Web videos, I can follow the tweets and the posts,” he said. “It’s almost as good as being there without having to wear a raincoat.”

Even downpours from then-Tropical Storm Isaac did not dampen the mood in Tampa as party faithful gathered to nominate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president.

Washington Republicans sent 40 delegates to the convention. The lineup included Sammamish residents John Hennessy and state Sen. Dino Rossi, both Romney delegates.

Bob Brunjes, GOP chairman for the 5th Legislative District, Romney campaign chairman for the 8th Congressional District and a Snoqualmie resident, attended as a Romney delegate and served on the party’s national Committee on Credentials — a group responsible for deciding delegate-related challenges.

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“I think America is looking for answers on jobs and the economy,” he said. “Everyone’s been dancing around the issue, and I think the American people want to know what we in the Republican Party are going to do specifically.”

The convention, Brunjes and Krohn said, offered Republicans a chance to make a case to voters.

“I’m looking forward to the party outlining who we are and where we’re going,” Brunjes said before the convention opened. “This will be the defining moment of what needs to happen.”

Washington is ‘deep, deep blue’

In Tampa, Brunjes and other local delegates joined a group of 2,286 delegates and 2,125 alternates — and about 15,000 journalists — from Aug. 27-30 to listen to Republican luminaries, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, before Romney accepted the nomination on the convention’s last night.

Washington delegates stayed at a Clearwater Beach hotel 20 miles from the convention site at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The distance turned out to be a headache on the night a traffic jam kept delegates from returning to the hotel until 3 a.m.

Brunjes also noted the long list of rules for delegates — no binoculars inside the convention center, for instance.

Though party business filled the days, Brunjes and other delegates listened to conservative speakers at a series of breakfasts for the Washington delegation and headed to the Tampa Bay Rays’ Tropicana Field for a 5,000-person reception.

In Committee on Credentials sessions, as members listened to challenges from Ron Paul supporters, the lieutenant governor of Florida served as Brunjes’ counterpart, and the local delegate sat next to a former governor of Vermont.

Washington voters last selected a Republican for president in 1984, but Brunjes said national attention could still come to the Evergreen State.

“We’re a deep, deep blue state, and I think we will get more attention if we can get within striking distance, say, three or four points,” he said.

Technology allows ‘virtual convention’

The just-concluded convention represented a shift from 2008 for Krohn.

The lineup for the Google+ Hangout featured other GOP online gurus, including the digital directors for the Romney campaign and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Both parties touted online outreach efforts in the run-up to the conventions — a trend Krohn said is certain to continue as voters increasingly turn to social media for political information.

“I’m personally of the belief that we’re not that far away from having virtual conventions,” he said.

Throughout the convention, Krohn’s colleague at Seattle social media startup Crowdverb attended the event in dual roles — as a Crowdverb employee and a Washington alternate delegate — and sent photos from the floor.

In 2008, Krohn, a Microsoft and Yahoo! alumnus, led the team behind a website for citizens to submit ideas online for the GOP platform.

Krohn, as a key official in the Republican National Committee, enjoyed unlimited access to the 2008 GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn. So, he spent every night during the event on the convention floor, standing just beneath the monitor displaying the speakers’ prepared texts.

In addition to the party business, “there’s the pomp and circumstance of all of the state delegates getting together to celebrate the nominee,” he said.

In the corridors, candidates and officials roamed, and at one point, Krohn and a friend bumped into Ron Paul and asked for a photo.

“Everyone is very approachable,” Krohn said. “That was probably one of the things that I, in 2008, enjoyed the most was being able to stop, introduce yourself and have a conversation with somebody in a hallway.”

Sometimes, the excitement starts after the convention closes for the night.

“The parties are actually harder to get into than the convention hall itself,” Krohn said. “The nightlife aspect to it is more challenging than access to the national figures, and I mean that in all sincerity.”

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