Meet the delegates

Veterans and newbies alike are looking forward to making some convention memories.

Sometimes, amid reports of potential protests, traffic snarls and economic windfalls, it’s easy to overlook the RNC’s actual business at hand: unifying the Republican party behind its nominee, Mitt Romney.

That’s what most of the 4,414 total delegates (2,286 official and 2,125 alternates) are coming to Tampa for. But like anyone who’s able to get away for a work-related convention, frivolity and good times will be on the agenda for at least some of those traveling to the Sunshine State.

In what is no doubt good news for our tourist industry, several of the delegates we spoke with said they intend to arrive earlier and depart later than the four days of the actual event.

John Faso

GOP candidate for governor in New York, 2006

Staying at: Hilton Clearwater Beach Hotel

Been to a convention before? This will be his fourth.

The best part of coming to a convention as a delegate? What I find to be helpful coming in from New York is that it’s an opportunity to get together with people from our state that you may not have seen recently, and you can compare notes, both presidential races and state races. A lot of our time is spent together with the other NY delegates.

Looking forward to hearing from Mitt Romney: We tend to overanalyze all the ups and down of the campaign, but I think for most Americans, and I think this is a healthy thing, they really start to turn their decision after Labor Day, and my expectation is that Gov. Romney is going to win. I think it’s going to be a hard-fought, close race, but I do think the determinant of this election will be in the period between September 15 and October 30 — that’s when the country is going to make its decisions.

Been to Tampa before? I would come to Florida because my parents lived there for many years, and I still have many relatives in that area (Bradenton/Sarasota). I hadn’t spent as much time in the Tampa Bay area. The New York delegation is staying in Clearwater, so I’m looking forward to exploring that part of the state as well.

Florence Sebern

Denver resident

Staying at: Holiday Inn Clearwater-St. Petersburg Airport

Been to convention before? Never.

On being a supporter of Ron Paul: Ron Paul embodies the Republican Party I joined 33 years ago. All I know is that it’s been going sideways for a long time.

Did she support Paul in his 2008 run? No. I was thinking back then, “Who was that little nutball named Ron Paul?” The reason I’m here four years later is that his campaign is bringing people into the party who are articulate, enthusiastic.

On Paul not being asked to speak at the convention (at press time he had not endorsed Romney): If I had hundreds of people at my convention who were of a certain position, I think I would take it more seriously than it appears leadership is taking it.

Ever been to Tampa? Never been to Florida, but I’m really looking forward to it. And as a member of the Rules Committee, I’ll be in town a full week before the convention, working and staying at the Hyatt Regency in downtown.

Pete Seat

Communications Director, Indiana Republican Party

Staying at: Holiday Inn Harbourside on Indian Rocks Beach

Previous conventions: 2004 in NYC.

What it’s about for him: It’s an opportunity for everyone to come together, meet each other, regroup, reenergize, and get ready because when we get back, when we leave Tampa, that’s Labor Day weekend, that is the official kick-off to the fall campaign, so it’s just a great opportunity.

On Romney: I think it’s a real pivotal point in the campaign, an opportunity for him to introduce himself, which might sound a little funny but there’s still a lot of people who haven’t tuned in. They’re going about their lives, trying to make ends meet, if they can afford a family vacation going on a vacation, enjoying summer and not paying attention to it as folks like you and I do.

Best memory: I went to a party during the RNC in New York in 2004 that John McCain threw, and Henry Kissinger was there and Daryl Hammond from SNL did stand-up. It was a great experience, and it’s that kind of stuff that you remember, it leaves an impression on you, it makes you want to go back. I’ve got a great photo with myself and Steven Colbert on the floor of the convention with the balloons dropping around us, it’s… my one really cool floor moment.

Mark Zaccaria

Rhode Island State Chairman

Staying at: Clearwater Beach Marriott Suites on Sand Key

On what’s going to happen: It’s going to be a lot of work. I’m the state chair, so there’s a tremendous amount of work to certify everybody, get all the hotel accommodations set up, trying to book some support activities for the delegation. We’re going to try to have a delegation breakfast every morning Monday-Friday, just because we need to brief them on the day-to-day activities.

Familiarity with Tampa? I was in the Air Force. I’ve done business in Tampa, and stayed in Clearwater for convention-type things so I’m familiar a little bit with the area.

Extracurricular: Zaccaria is the author of War Record, an account of his father’s service in World War II, which he’ll be talking about at Indigo Coffee in Downtown Tampa on Friday morning, Aug. 24.

Richard Costigan

Former deputy chief of staff and legislative affairs secretary for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

Staying at: Tradewinds Resort, St. Pete Beach

Attended previous conventions? Five of the last six RNC’s, starting in New Orleans in 1988.

Excited about Mitt Romney? I think Governor Romney has laid out an articulate vision for the country.

Downtime in Tampa: Intends on golfing on the weekends before and after the convention, both here and in the Orlando area.

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