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Calif. delegates hot tub, watch '2016,' smoke cigars and nap Monday

August 27, 2012|By Seema Mehta
  • Everything is ready for the California delegates in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, site of the the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
Everything is ready for the California delegates in the Tampa Bay Times… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. — With almost all official convention business canceled for the day, California delegates used their free 24 hours to relax, sleep in, see the sites and take in some of the unofficial programming offered by Republican supporters.

Delores Chavez Harmes, an alternate delegate from San Diego, mixed work and play – she attended a breakfast speech by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and a screening of the conservative film “2016: Obama’s America.” But she also stopped for a neon-green crème de menthe cocktail in  the lobby of the Tradewinds resort and planned to head to the historic pink Don CeSar Hotel down the road.

“We’re going to have some drinks and smoke some cigars,” said the 53-year-old accountant, who worked on Latino outreach for failed 2010 gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and Senate candidate Carly Fiorina.

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She said she appreciated weather that is all but unknown in California and had no qualms about the shortened schedule. “The hurricane we had was awesome. It’s been no big deal,” Chavez Harmes said. “We can get everything done in three days.”

Most of Monday’s events were called off because of uncertainty about Tropical Storm Isaac. But it did not hit Tampa directly, so on Monday, the weather on this barrier island was intense sunshine mixed with intense downpours. Delegates congregated in the hot tub, and there was talk of a Monopoly tournament. The film screening, complete with a panel discussion with the director, was hastily pulled together at the last minute.

But some delegates were struggling with the time difference, including Whitman, who noted as she introduced Christie that it was early.

“It’s 7 o’clock our time,” she said, before pausing. “Actually, no, it’s earlier than that, it’s 5 o’clock our time.”

The jet lag and the parties the night before led some delegates to use much of their time Monday relaxing.

John Warner, 65, said he attended the Christie speech and then returned to his room for a nap (he had been up till 1 a.m. the previous night attending the official opening party at Tropicana Field and then hanging out with California Republicans in the lobby bar). He went to lunch at Dockside Dan’s (the blackened grouper sandwich and onion rings are outstanding, Warner said) and then returned to the hotel.

“I had hoped to take a couple of laps in the pool,” said the Newport Beach delegate, before pointing to the hotel ceiling, where a furious downpour was ricocheting off the roof. So instead he decided to relax some more before heading to dinner and dancing.

Gina McNelley, 47, from San Juan Capistrano, sneaked in some shopping – a sequined Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan lanyard to hold her convention credentials and an oversized fuzzy hat in the shape of an elephant’s head. She said she was inspired to work for the GOP cause because of her 11- and 15-year-old sons.

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“I’m fighting for their future,” said the stay-at-home mom. “I know it sounds a little cliché, but it’s true.”

David Kiachko, 56, brought his 16-year-old son Daniel as his guest. The pair attended the Christie speech and a foreign policy panel at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg that included some of Romney’s advisors. He and others said they were unfazed by the decision to cancel convention events for the day.

“It looks  like conditions are not that bad, but you don’t know that in advance. It’s better safe than sorry,” said the options trader.

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