Tuesday, August 31, 2004

THE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION: CONVENTION NOTEBOOK DAY 1

A published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 31, 2004


NEW YORK _ Former New Mexico Gov. "Lonesome" Dave Cargo has always had a tenuous relationship with the more conservative elements of the Republican Party when he was in office in the late 1960s. And Cargo's move Monday won't do much to endear himself to GOP regulars.

Cargo has helped to launch a group of moderate Republicans called Back to the Mainstream, which urges the GOP to go back towards the center. The group purchased a full-page ad in the New York Times to greet Republican delegates on the first day of their convention.

"The Republicans have gone far enough to the right, they're going to fall off the cliff," Cargo said in a telephone interview.

"We've let the extreme right push us," he said. "It's time to push back."

Cargo isn't exactly lonesome in this endeavor. He's joined by about 20 other political figures. Trouble is, there are few, if any, contemporary GOP leaders. The biggest names were in power about the time that Cargo was governor.

Among those signing on are former Gov. William Milliken, a three-time Michigan governor; Daniel Evans, a former Washington governor and U.S. Senator; former New Hampshire Gov. Walter Peterson; former Virginia Gov. Linwood Holton; and two former Environmental Protection Agency chiefs Russell Train and William Ruckelshaus.

Cargo said he started the group with Larry Rockefeller, grandson of John D. Rockefeller.

Republicans should be better on civil rights and environmental issues, Cargo said. "Some of these important environmental laws we have were passed when Richard Nixon was president," he said.

But even though he is critical of the Bush administration Cargo said Back to the Mainstream as an organization isn't endorsing or threatening to endorse Democrat John Kerry.

"I'm not terribly enthusiastic about Kerry," he said.

Broadway Joe

New Mexico delegates who went to a Sunday night performance of The Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theatre were greeted by a few dozen protesters who heckled and held signs with anti-Bush and anti-war slogans.

"They wanted to yell at rich Republicans," said state Sen. Joe Carraro, R-Albuquerque, a delegates. "But most the Republicans there aren't the type who would be spending money on Broadway plays."

The New York convention host committee and The New York Times sprung for Broadway tickets for delegates Sunday night.

"Some of the delegates complained about the protesters being so loud," Carraro said. However, Carraro, a former resident of Manhattan, was undaunted. "I told them that's just New York. It's just loud here. They had to be loud to be heard at all."

Full disclosure on graft:

There were no Broadway tickets for reporters, but there was a gift bag for reporters registering at the Hotel Pennsylvania Monday morning.

The black canvas shoulder bag (with the logos of the Republican National Convention and "NYC 2004") was packed with goodies.

Among the swag: a copy of the Guide to New York City Landmarks, a children's book about a bunny on a bicycle called Miffy Loves New York City, a History Channel DVD about Ellis Island, a Con Edison pocket flashlight, a disposable camera, a tiny packet of Dunkin Donut coffee, a pack of red, white and blue M&Ms, a pack of Listerine strips, a Statue of Liberty tie pin with the AT&T logo and a "Limited Convention Edition" box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, featuring an elephant holding a sign reading "Republicans in 2004."

But no apple:

On the last day of the Democratic convention in Boston, a law enforcement officer working the press entrance to the Fleet Center confiscated my jar of Bill Richardson salsa, which the New Mexico delegation was giving away to promote the state. The Secret Service wasn't impressed by the promotional tool, saying it violated a rule against glass jars in the convention center.

On the first day of the Republican convention I had another contraband food item confiscated.

An apple.

This convention has a rule against round fruit, which apparently some fear could be easily hurled at politicians.

"No round fruit is allowed," the officer told me. "You should have brought a banana."

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