Threat fails to deter some delegates
One Valley delegate is visiting New York for the first time since the attacks.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Some Mahoning Valley residents attending the Republican National Convention in New York City say they are a bit concerned about their safety, but not enough to deter them from attending the event.
Craig Bonar of Cortland, Trumbull County Republican chairman and an alternate delegate, who is going to the convention with his wife, Wendy, said security will be heightened during the event.
Even so, the Bonars told their three adult sons the location of their important papers.
"This is a pretty serious thing to consider," Bonar said of potential terrorist attacks. "We're very concerned, but the terrorists would be accomplishing something if people don't go."
Bonar and other Republicans say the national party chose New York City for the convention, running from Monday to Thursday, in part to honor the city devastated during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Some Republicans say they are concerned about terrorist activities in the city because of the convention.
"There's a slight concern about terrorism because there is nothing these terrorists would like more than to disrupt the democratic process," said David W. Johnson of Salem, a delegate and one of the most prominent Republicans in Ohio. "We will have an unprecedented amount of security on the air, ground and sea. We're there to say, 'Never again,' to the terrorists.
This is Johnson's fifth Republican convention as a delegate or alternate. The chairman of the Columbiana County Bush-Cheney campaign as well as the 6th Congressional District's Republican representative to Ohio's 2004 electoral college, calls the convention "the Super Bowl of politics."
Even though the convention is anti-climatic because the party's candidates are already determined, Johnson said the event is "a great opportunity to get together with political leaders from throughout the country. It's a great time to solidify the positions of the party and to take part in the nomination of the president."
Eugenia C. Atkinson of Youngstown, an alternate delegate and co-chairwoman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Northeastern Ohio, and her husband, Richard W., a Youngstown councilman, have gone to every GOP convention except one since 1980.
"I like not being the delegate because you can have more flexibility and more fun," she said.
Among the activities are free breakfasts, lunches and brunches sponsored by state officeholders and lobbyists, a boat cruise honoring Ohio Sen. George V. Voinovich, and a reception at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.
Atkinson said she is aware of the potential danger of being in New York City during the convention, but she isn't terribly concerned because of increased security.
"This is now part of the world we live in, but you have to continue your lives," she said. "I say my prayers and move forward."
The Ohio delegation will stay at the New York Marriott Marquis on Broadway, near Time Square and a short walk to Madison Square Garden, where the convention is being held. Rooms at the hotel are about $200 a night. Also staying at the hotel are the California and Tennessee delegations. Bonar holds out hope that he'll run into California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the hotel's workout room.
There are 2,509 national delegates and 2,344 alternates. Of those, 193 come from Ohio. The Valley has three delegates -- Johnson, Boardman Township Trustee Elaine Mancini and Kathi Creed of Howland, a state central committeewoman -- and three alternates -- Bonar, Atkinson and Greg Smith of Canfield, son of Mahoning GOP Chairman Clarence Smith.
Mancini said conventions aren't as exciting as they used to be, and she'd like to see them cut to two or three days, instead of four, but she is thrilled to go.
"It's an affirmation of the party's platform," she said.
This is Mancini's first visit back to New York City since June 2001, three months before the terrorist attacks.
"Initially there was that little heartbeat, and I thought 'Oh, my gosh,' but I'm not deterred," she said. "I'm not thinking about it. I feel very safe. It will be quite all right. I'm looking forward to it."
Mark Munroe, Mahoning County GOP vice president and the county's Bush-Cheney campaign chairman, said he and Thomas McCabe, the county election board's deputy director, are planning to spend Tuesday and Wednesday at the convention. But those plans aren't set in stone.
Munroe and McCabe said their plans are uncertain because of campaigning for the president in Mahoning County, particularly during Canfield Fair week.
Also, Munroe said the lack of any intrigue or suspense at the convention makes going seem less exciting.
That's not the case for Ann Womer Benjamin of Aurora, a delegate to the convention for a second time and the state's Department of Insurance director.
"All of the real political activists, including those from the most basic level, are together exchanging knowledge and insight," said Womer Benjamin, who lost the 2002 race for the 17th Congressional District seat and is considering a 2006 statewide campaign, probably for treasurer. "It's an invigorating experience for anyone interested in party politics."
She is not at all concerned about her safety during the convention.
"Security will be very strong," Womer Benjamin said. "Regardless of where they are held, political conventions would be potential targets."