The red walls in the Peppermill Hotel and Casino’s Tuscan Ballroom surrounded a sea of hopeful delegates, each sitting under a flag designating the various counties in Nevada.
Laura Damato and David Keller of Sparks sat in the ballroom beneath Washoe County’s Sparks banner, anticipating their involvement in the political process.
“I feel like I am learning something today,” Damato said.
Keller had not participated in politics for many years and decided he wanted to make his voice heard in the 2008 presidential race.
“I have learned that if you want to get involved in the political process you have to participate in things like this,” Keller said. “Essentially I am learning just like she is,” he continued pointing to Damato.
The task before the crowd was to choose 34 delegates to send to St. Paul, Minn., in September for the Republican National Convention and Damato hoped that she would be one of the delegates chosen to go.
The hopeful delegates had a full-day lesson in politics ahead of them.
As one of the first orders of business, the crowd was asked to approve the rules for the convention. Rob Tyree of Clark County stood at a microphone at the base of the stage and said, “There are some significant problems with these rules and they need to be discussed before we move on.” He was not alone in his sentiments.
“It’s organized chaos,” delegate Mike Webber said. “But in the end it does work itself out. That’s the exciting part about all this.”
Sparks City Councilman and delegate Mike Carrigan was not surprised by the chaos.
“It’s always like this,” he said.
Sylvia Larkin sat with her husband, Washoe County Commissioner Bob Larkin, at the front of the Sparks section, excited to be a part of the voting and waiting to discuss the issues that were important to her.
“I want to do what I can to be active and cast my vote,” Sylvia Larkin said, adding that immigration and health care were the issues that most concerned her.
“There is some great enthusiasm that has been generated here,” Bob Larkin said. “The mere fact that people are engaged is great.”
The crowd began the day calmly at 9 a.m. with patriotic speeches from party leaders including Congressman Dean Heller, Gov. Jim Gibbons and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Each rallied around their party’s front-runner, John McCain.
“It’s not all the earthquakes,” Romney told the crowd, referencing the recent quakes in northern Nevada. “It is a bunch of Republicans gathering to make sure we elect a Republican as the next president of the United States. We are all going to come together and make sure that we elect John McCain as the next president.”
Amid the John McCain banners, Ron Paul signs were spread throughout the crowd. Paul took the stage to loud cheers and supporters chanting his name.
“The number one responsibility we have is we are obligated to uphold the constitution,” Paul told the crowd. “The second major point is that we all should strive to preserve and secure our political liberties.”
Ed Anderson sat with the Sparks residents, a Ron Paul banner leaning against his chair.
“I think that Ron Paul should get at least three delegates,” Anderson said. “But honestly I would like to see anyone but the two Democrats.”