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Republican National Convention: Batchelder heads to Florida as national delegate

Bill Batchelder, a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay, Fla., reacts to a congratulatory call. Batchelder leaves today for the convention, which runs Monday through Thursday. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Bill Batchelder wants to put in a good word for his city this week as a delegate at the Republican National Convention, being held Monday through Thursday in Tampa Bay.

“I want to project a good image of Bemidji so it’s inclusive to both parties,” said Batchelder, who left today for the convention. He added longtime DFL activist Lorraine Cecil called him to congratulate him on being named a national delegate.

“She told me how honored she was that I was going,” he said. “I have tremendous respect for the work she has done for her cause.”

Batchelder will endorse Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention, but he hasn’t forgotten about Rick Santorum, the presidential candidate that previously drew his support.

“Obviously, my endorsement is for Romney,” Batchelder said. “To the best of my ability, I will support Mitt Romney and push the values of Rick Santorum’s campaign.”

Batchelder, owner of Bemidji Woolen Mills, left a mark on that campaign by making the signature sweater vests for Santorum, who put his campaign on hold and endorsed Romney in May. The Woolen Mills is still filling orders for the vests.

On watch for Isaac

Delegates will attend a welcome event tonight at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. The event will showcase Tampa Bay and the cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. More than 20,000 people are expected. Overall, the convention is projected to draw 50,000 people.

Convention organizers and delegates are closely following Tropical Storm Isaac, which is projected to become a hurricane as it nears Florida. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus announced Saturday that Mondays’s convention events have been called off. The convention will convene briefly Monday, after which it will recess until Tuesday afternoon, when the storm is expected to have passed through.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who had already declared a state of emergency for Isaac, canceled his plans for the convention to prepare for the storm.

Official convention events will go until about 11 p.m. each night, followed by receptions until about 1 a.m.

“Almost always, you’re invited to a reception somewhere after the convention is over,” Batchelder said, noting he is getting lots of information from Pat Anderson, the national committeewoman for Minnesota to the RNC. “I can’t say enough about Pat Anderson. She’s been unbelievably organized and informative.”

Delegates will have a busy schedule, starting with early-morning briefings. They will have two to six hours free each day, Anderson told Batchelder. A shuttle will run to the beach one day, but otherwise delegates are asked to stay close by.

On his own, Batchelder plans to see “Art of the Poison Pens: A Century of American Political Cartoons,” an exhibit at the Tampa Museum of Art. He also wants to go to the Florida Holocaust Museum.

Also during the day will be optional events, such as Santorum’s Patriot Voices event, Patriots for Romney/Ryan, on Wednesday, and the screening of the Santorum film “Our Sacred Honor.” Batchelder intends to attend the Santorum event, as well as others.

Anderson said 160 people from Minnesota – delegates, alternates and support people – will take part in the convention. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Sen. Norm Coleman will be among the Minnesotans. Batchelder also looks forward to seeing national leaders of the Republican Party, such as Sen. John McCain, 2008 presidential candidate. He’d also like to meet vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, “being my neighbor from the state of Wisconsin.”

“My personal reward will be meeting with the top Republican leadership in the U.S. that a common person would only read about in the newspaper or watch on TV,” Batchelder said. “That will be my great honor, to be able to watch or shake hands with them.”

minnesota values

One of the responsibilities of delegates from each state is to pay attention to the wording of resolutions that have been merged with resolutions from other states.

“We have to be careful to make sure Minnesota values are represented,” Batchelder said. “That’s a huge leap, going from 50 states to the national convention.”

For example, he said, states may define illegal immigrants differently and use different practices with respect to illegal immigration.

“Once adopted, Republican candidates swear to abide by the Republican platform,” Batchelder said. “Then it’s the responsibility of the citizens to challenge officials to stick to those values, and hold them accountable.”

Personal views

“My personal belief is smaller government, lower taxes and personal responsibility for oneself to make this country a better place to live for all citizens,” Batchelder said, adding he believes in personal self-sacrifice, working hard, asking less of others and contributing to the community.

He would consider any resolution to reduce the level of government.

“Intrusion of government into the lives of individuals and businesses is crushing the entrepreneurial spirit of America today.”

Batchelder stressed, “Private industry always can deliver less expensive and more efficient means of moving this country forward.”


Laurie Swenson
Laurie Swenson is a reporter/copy editor for the Bemidji Pioneer. She has been with the Pioneer since 2004.