Area Republicans laud coal at GOP convention in Tampa

Amid the thousands of fired-up Republicans in Tampa for this week’s national convention – and the official kickoff to the 2012 presidential campaign – the West Virginia delegation is a stand-out.

“We’ve all got on coal miner’s hard hats,” explained Jerry Mays, a convention delegate from Berkeley County.

The members of the Mountain State’s GOP wanted to show their commitment to the industry, Mays said. “Our dependency on coal is so strong, we wanted to make a point.”

Republicans kicked off the first day of their convention in Tampa, Fl., on Tuesday, making the first order of business a vote by delegates to select Mitt Romney as the party’s nominee to take on President Barack Obama in November’s general election.

It’s an important election for the nation and for West Virginia, said Mays, who also was a delegate at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

“This may be the year that we finally wean West Virginians from the straight-ticket,” he said. “If a convict in Texas can get more than 40 percent of the vote here [in the primary], Obama’s in trouble. We think that’s good news for [Republican candidate for governor] Bill Maloney and other Republicans. The support’s going to filter down.”

Mays said he was looking forward to hearing last night’s speech by Ann Romney and then on Thursday from Mitt Romney himself. Popular New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also spoke Tuesday night, delivering the convention’s keynote address.

With bad weather courtesy of Tropical Storm Isaac, the week’s schedule has been in flux, Mays said. Organizers canceled all of the Monday events on the schedule except for a brief pro forma session. Mays said he’d attended a number of social outings but that the convention’s formal proceedings were just getting underway on Tuesday afternoon.

Mays, a onetime state Senate candidate who was elected as an at-large delegate to the convention by West Virginia Republican voters during the May primary, also said he was eager to hear from the GOP vice presidential contender, U.S. Sen. Paul Ryan.

Ryan is set to deliver his acceptance speech tonight. George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez also are set to speak tonight.

Introducing Romney on Thursday will be Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Isaac officially became Hurricane Isaac on Tuesday afternoon. The slow-moving storm, now a Category 1 hurricane, was expected to make landfall late Tuesday or early today in Louisiana. Today marks seven years since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.


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