Minnesota’s delegation to the Republican National Convention will not back Mitt Romney when the party gathers in Tampa next week. Instead, 32 of the state’s 40 nominating votes will be cast for Ron Paul during the roll call of states, according to —chair of the delegation.
Stebbins lives in and was elected by Minnesota’s contingent of 77 total delegates, 37 of which are alternates, as chair earlier this year. While conceding Romney would capture the GOP endorsement for U.S. President, Stebbins said her state’s delegates are “overwhelmingly Ron Paul supporters” and made clear they would vote accordingly.
“I don’t think Mitt Romney is a strong candidate,” she said. “He represents old ideas and what the party has stood for over the last couple of decades, which is not necessarily what the voters want.”
While there remain rank and file Republicans who are “still sore” following Ron Paul’s strong showing in Minnesota’s caucus back in February, Stebbins says she has been feeling more acceptance of late and believes many in the party recognize Ron Paul’s level of support.
“They understand that we mean the party is growing, and that there are growing pains when an organization is growing,” she said. “But we’ve brought in so many people—disaffected Democrats, Independents, Libertarians and people who had been sitting on the couch and not interested in politics. We are growing the party, and it’s not always easy when there is a conflict of ideas.”
, the Republican challenger for Minnesota House District 46B, echoed those sentiments and said Ron Paul supporters like him aren’t trying to destroy the Republican Party; they’re trying to save it. Arvidson is contemplating writing in Paul’s name come election time.
“It’s a curious thing, and it’s politics at work,” he said. “It’s a grassroots movement trying to have an effect at the national level. To me, the two parties have become either big government or big business, and we just think it should be big people.”
Stebbins also stressed Ron Paul supporters are “not abandoning the party” and many are volunteering for a variety of Republican candidates seeking state and federal office this fall.
Senate District 51 Chair and Eagan resident Mike Kaess applauded the organization and determination of the Ron Paul contingent. At the Second Congressional District's Republican convention earlier this year, Ron Paul supporters showed up in force, Kaess said. As a result, all three of the convention's top vote-getters came from the Ron Paul faction.
Kaess, who dislikes Paul's approach to international relations, isn't a Paul supporter. Nor does he think the faction will have a significant impact on the presidential nomination, though he believes they may win some concessions from the Republican party.
Still, he believes the group has succeeded in getting its message out.
"The Ron Paul people wanted to make things happen this time around, and they all showed up," Kaess said. "Good for them; they did what they had to do to get the delegates they wanted elected."
Minnesota is not the only state in the Union sending a healthy helping of Ron Paul delegates to next week’s Republican National Convention. A large percentage of delegations from Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Maine also back Paul. A deal was reportedly struck Tuesday afternoon between Paul supporters and the Republican National Committee that would seat more Paul delegates and allow Paul’s son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, to speak during primetime in exchange for Paul supporters not holding up the nomination process.
For her part, Stebbins has supported Ron Paul since he first declared his candidacy for president back in 2007.
“At one point the campaign asked me to coordinate Minnesota, in late 2007, and so I did that,” she said. “We had decent success for that year and elected six national delegates. Of course the 2008 state convention was pretty infamous for the party kind of squashing the Ron Paul movement.”
When the Texas congressman again announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in 2011, Stebbins was among the first to join his campaign.
“In the fall of 2011 they asked me to chair the Minnesota campaign,” she said. “We went ahead and did what needed to be done. This movement is just getting started. You’ve got people here in Minnesota who are just now running for city council. So those people aren’t on the radar yet. Some of those will win and some won’t, but that’s where it starts. Those are the acorns, the shoots, that will spread out.”
Romney is scheduled to visit Minnesota this week for a —a reception at the Lafayette Club in Minnetonka Beach and a private dinner at a home in Shorewood. Stebbins said she would not be attending either event.
Stebbins has been active in the Republican Party for more than two decades and has been a state delegate most of that time. She has volunteered for “untold” campaigns during those years, and defined Libertarians as “classical liberals” who believe in controlling their own lives and self-determination as opposed to having government controlling their lives.
“I’ve put a lot of effort into the Republican Party, but I’ve always been fairly liberty minded," she said. "So when Ron Paul ran it was a natural fit for me. Practical liberal and Libertarian are fairly similar. Modern liberals came out of the progressive movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s. There is obviously quite a distinction now, however modern day liberals have a lot of good things about them.”