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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Will we pass the test?
Jonathan Pait
April 27, 2002

My feet still hurt.

The day didn't start very well for this delegate. I overslept. Getting out of bed shortly after 9 a.m. I rushed to get ready, pack up, eat breakfast and make it to the Township Auditorium on time. I figured I could do it. The Convention was not scheduled to begin until 10:30 and I was traveling light.

I arrived at the auditorium and made my way to the registration tables. Ah, I had made it! It was just after ten. The tables were outside. I couldn’t help but wonder what they would have done had it been raining? I approached the “P” table and was about to give my name when the lady said, “Sorry, but you can’t check in. The registration tables closed at 10:00.”

“Really,” I replied. “Well, I guess someone won’t get my vote this morning.” I had been threatening to abstain, so I figured this might just be Providence. However, it upset me that in none of the information I had received from the party was the 10:00 deadline mentioned. I voiced my displeasure to Doug Wavle who was working hard to get things underway.

Finally, word came down that those of us waiting could sign in and make our way into the auditorium. This was the first experience with what I must say was a terribly organized convention. I know that sounds redundant based on past experiences, but it seemed especially so this time.

Township Auditorium was a fine venue for the event. It got a little warm (leading to jokes about all the “hot air” from the politicos). It was good to see so many Republican activists in one place. There weren’t but a couple of empty seats in the entire Greenville County delegates’ section.

We were not underway for very long before you sensed what was on most minds; what was going to happen with the chairman’s race. So, much had been made of it leading to the event you almost expected there to be fist fighting in the aisles. You could sense some tension, but it was not overwhelming.

What was overwhelming was the frustration that mounted as we waited for the credentials to be approved. If there was anything that could bring together the factions of Lee Bandy’s “great divide,” this was it! Basically, the entire agenda was thrown out of order until the credentials committee could report that things were satisfactory and ballots for Chairman could be cast.

The idea was that we would vote using these nifty computerized ballot booths and then we could go get our boxed lunch. Even that got thrown off as delegates (including executive committee members) walked in with their boxes. I decided to follow suit and discovered a VERY long line. I needed some air. Stepping outside I found some friends talking. “Hey, why don’t we go to Chick-fil-A?” I asked. Two of us got in the car and headed to eat mor chikin.

Upon returning, I found I was just in time to cast my ballot with the Greenville delegation. Then more waiting ensued as the ballots were counted. The computerized ballot system did help here. Actually the winner of the race was known well before it was announced. I stood near both Katon and Tommy in an entryway and could tell by the way people were approaching them that the result was established. It was just a matter of getting the official count that delayed the announcement.

As the announcement was made, Tommy was on the phone and people who had already learned the results were congratulating Katon. He pumped his fists in the air and headed for the podium. It looked like Tommy was trying to make his way to Katon. He was moving very quickly and my initial thought was, “Tommy is wanting to make sure this starts right. He is going to assure Katon of his willingness to put the race behind them.” I really think that was his plan, but he didn’t make it before Katon reached the stage.

In his remarks earlier in the day, Lindsey Graham said, “It is hard to put yourself on the line and then have people say no to you. This chairman’s race and how we respond to it is a test of our character.” I think we got the first answer of the test right. Cyndi and Tommy were class acts as they joined with Katon Dawson in putting the party first. Now, the next question is for their supporters. Will they do likewise?

It is easy to look at the “losers” and say, “You guys didn’t win, so suck it up and join in with us.” I believe that would be a mistake. We are not the victors and vanquished. There are hatchets that need to be buried. I believe the responsibility for that lies with the “victors.” It is not time for pay-back. It is time for patching up.

I hope we all get straight “A’s.”

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