Wow. When I got the offer to be an alternate delegate from Fairfield for the GOP convention this weekend and simultaneously to blog for the Connecticut Post, I had no idea what to expect. There were definitely a few things that I learned as I shook my rookie status in Hartford among the countless memories I’ll have. Here are a few highlights:
1. You can still walk away a winner without having voted for a winner. When push comes to shove, we’re all on the same team. And while we may disagree here and there about who we want to be the nominee, ultimately we all want to elect Republicans to turn this state around. This convention had an unusually amount of opportunity for candidates since there were no incumbents and thus lots of folks excited to take positions back from control from Democrats who have run this state amok. At the end of the day, we’re rallying behind our candidates to take out the opposition.
2. It’s more fun to know people in high places. Sure I could have gone as a complete outsider and had a productive time casting my votes and calling it a day. But meeting and getting to know GOP brass made the experience that much more awe-inspiring. Leaders like Senator McKinney and Lt. Gov. Fedele have been influential in steering the state party up until this point and hold the key to future success. Hear their insights into problems confronting our state was truly beneficial. I definitely have to work on my schmoozing, though. All too often I froze like an icicle when I met someone important. Rookie mistake.
3. Finding a voice in a vote is key to figuring out your own principles. As a delegation, Fairfield was able to vote with relative unity showing how like-minded many of the delegates are in town. And there was definitely an allure to playing good soldier and voting with the delegation as a block to show support for a candidate with a particular ideology that we identify with as a whole. But there were times when I broke from the majority of the delegation, a bold move to begin with but perhaps more surprising for a few in the delegation considering I was the youngest one there at age 22. I don’t view it as a bad thing though and I was lucky to have a group of people that were just fine with a young pup like me voting his conscience.
4. Next time, make sure to get more sleep. I mean sure, it doesn’t seem like a lot of work to sit there and cast votes…but it is. It’s a long day and it is actually pretty grueling both mentally and physically. Lots of people want your time and attention, and while it can be flattering, it can be exhausting when they won’t take “no” for an answer. Eventually though I think I found a backbone and got better at the “Sorry, I’m supporting so and so” instead of hearing the whole pitch and sheepishly slinking away.
5. The experience is enhanced when you know what’s going on. That means researching the candidates before hand, finding out all the scuttlebutt and intrigue, and figuring out who actually has a shot to win. Considering myself a novice, I waited until the last moment to make up my mind about each candidate (opting out of decorating myself in stickers and pins to show my allegiance). That allowed me to blend in when I wanted to and learn about the candidates openly and honestly from their supporters, staff, and themselves.
6. Let yourself enjoy the moment. I mean, for a political junkie like me, this stuff is like crack. All the attention, all the celebrities (well, to me at least), all the free food and swag… it was enough to make any political science major happy in the heart. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to do it again and further capitalize on the experience.
I have to thank the Fairfield RTC and its chair Jim Baldwin for letting me serve as a delegate, specifically Fairfield Town Clerk Betsy Browne for letting me serve as her alternate and giving me a great experience. I also have to thank Fairfield Probate Judge Dan Caruso for introducing me to people whose significance is too great for me to even appreciate at this point. Plus I am grateful for the Connecticut Post for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences with their online community. The whole weekend was great and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Now we get to keep up the momentum and elect a great ticket of Republicans to office this fall. I’ll take extra pride punching the ticket knowing I was a part of the process of putting them on the ballot. Even if I voted for the other guy.