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Isaac messes up plans for GOP delegates in Tampa

August 26, 2012|By Michael Finnegan
  • Seating for the Illinois delegation is set up for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
Seating for the Illinois delegation is set up for the Republican National… (Brian Cassella / Chicago…)

TAMPA -- With Tropical Storm Isaac swirling toward landfall somewhere along the Gulf of Mexico, some Republican convention delegates who live in its target zone were scrambling to adjust their plans for the week as drenching, windblown rain began hitting the Florida peninsula.

“I’ve got to go back home,” said Leonard Bentz, an alternate delegate from Mississippi, within the broad strike zone for a mid-week landing. “I’m going to miss everything.”

As chairman of the Mississippi Public Service Commission, Bentz is in charge of making sure that power is restored after any outage. In Tampa on Sunday for the convention, he got a Cuban sandwich and key lime pie at the Columbian, known as Florida’s oldest restaurant.

But after lunch, he was back at the Hyatt Regency Tampa, where the Mississippi and Wisconsin delegations were staying, and getting ready for the nine-hour drive back to Biloxi.

“I didn’t even prepare my home -- picking up stuff off the porch and tying it down and everything,” Bentz said.

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For Wisconsin's delegation, the disruption was less serious -- mainly figuring out what to do on Monday, when the convention’s main proceedings were canceled.

“We’re just going to kind of ride it out, play it by ear,” said Tyler Vorpagel, a Wisconsin delegate from Fond du Lac. “We’re not going to let a little weather spoil the fun.”

Vorpagel recalled the delayed start of the party’s 2008 convention in St. Paul when Hurricane Gustav hit the Gulf Coast.

“It seems to be a regular occurrence,” he said.

“I’m not quite sure what we’re going to be doing tomorrow,” said fellow Wisconsin delegate Dave Anderson. “But we’ll just wait it out. You’ve got to take what comes and deal with it.”

A few blocks from the hotel, Republican volunteer Barry Zimmerman of Homer, Ga., was on his way to lunch. The cancellation of activities on Monday left him wondering what he would do instead.

“I’ll probably work on my fantasy football league -- if we have power,” he said.

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