With much business ahead of us, we headed to the Gonzalez Convention Center for our third day of business. On this day, we would hear speeches by Stephen Willeford (the citizen who stopped the Sutherland Springs shooting), RR Commissioner Ryan Sitton, Ag Commissioner Sid Miller, and Senator Ted Cruz, while also finalizing our platform.
Stephen Willeford had been referenced throughout the convention, so perhaps it should not have been surprising that he was given a speaking role at the convention. This private citizen, a plumber, gained fame in the immediate aftermath of the Sutherland Springs church shooting.
Willeford was told about the church shooting by his daughter, and he grabbed his rifle, ran to the scene, and shot at the perpetrator, hitting him twice. The culprit survived those shots, jumped in his vehicle, and drove away–followed by Willeford and another man, who called 911 and stayed on the line as they chased the shooter. Hurt from his injuries, the church shooter eventually lost control of his vehicle, crashed, and fatally shot himself in the head. Willeford stayed at the scene until authorities arrived.
It was good to hear Willeford speak directly. Many of the politicians who dropped his name at the convention did so in blustery tones, incongruent with the sad, somber incident in which Willeford found himself called to. Wisely, Willeford adopted a different tone, and he spoke quietly and humbly during his speech.
Sid Miller was less quiet. The Texas Ag Commissioner and long-time supporter of Donald Trump, is something of an easy caricature.
But he acts independently on occasion, and on this day he gave a humorous speech, while also softening his image somewhat when his wife joined him onstage.
Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton must be the youngest of the state-wide office holders (he is 43), and he typically eschews the cowboy attired common among Texas office-holders.
He is a better speaker than he was when beginning his political career, and he did a competent job conveying the RR Commission’s job to a crowd eager to hear from Senator Ted Cruz.
Senator Cruz has a reputation for being somewhat humorless, but he gave an effective and, in the end, quite funny speech. He detailed seven priorities he has (although didn’t mention the immigration crisis that he would propose legislation for just days later)…
…interjected humor, offered the crowd some Republican red meat, and closed with a very funny video highlighting his one-on-one basketball game with Jimmy Kimmell…in which he closed…”See how a third-ranked night-show talk host can finally finish second at something…” The crowd loved…
…and, as it turned out, Cruz won the basketball game.
Despite this fun, the delegates still had a lot of work to do: namely voting in the Party’s Platform. In the end, this took about three hours, a deadline met only because the delegates had to vacate the building by 6:00pm.
The platform prompted much discussion–as often as not driven by minor concerns rather than large policy visions–and long lines at the microphones.
Each convention, the party runs into the same problems, and then tries to solve them based on what went wrong last time. Last convention, most of the discussion time was spent discussing one of the first platform planks (secession of all things) and, consequently, we ran out of time to discuss the next 250 or so planks.
This time, the convention decided to allocate a specific amount of time to each section of planks (Human Services, Economy and Market, Governmental Affairs, etc.). This sort of helped. But the amount of time allotted was brief, only enough to discuss approximately two planks out of 30-100. So priorities were basically set by whichever delegates got to the microphone first, meaning we were just as likely to spend fifteen minutes discussing a minor matter as we were a matter of great importance.
Smaller groups huddled together to discuss specifics of importance to them…
…while others grappled as best they could to amendments to amendments.
In the end, we were given about 30-45 minutes to read approximately 335 platform planks and record them to scantron–as debate continued on the stage!
Many people didn’t finish and, after all the sound and fury, every plank passed. One plank did away with vehicle safety inspections, which means that a person could drive a car without working brakes. It passed without discussion. Another plank allows people to be attorneys without having a law degree. It passed with an 84 percent approval rating. One plank was printed unfinished and read only: “Spending Limit: adopted under the heading budget federal.” We were advised by the Chair to disregard it or vote “no.” It passed with 68 percent approval.
Few complained, however, as the voting brought things to a close. After three days among the party faithful, delegates left alternately energized and exhausted. Some to return home, others to enjoy time on the Riverwalk of San Antonio with a margarita and reflections on a full three days.