Convention Notebook

Election 2004 -- The Republic Convention

August 30, 2004

Walking the line on 9/11

To remind voters about the Sept. 11 attack and the continuing war on terrorism, Republicans chose to hold their national convention in New York for the first time. This overwhelmingly Democratic city isn't exactly overwhelmed by the event.

"Annoying Republican convention sale," read a sign outside a store on Eighth Avenue, a few blocks from Madison Square Garden, the convention site.

President Bush's leadership in the days after Sept. 11 was, by all accounts, the high point of his term. And fighting terrorism will almost certainly be Topic A for convention speechmakers over the next four nights.

One of the highlight's of this evening's session will be a speech by former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, the politician who has come to embody New York's determined response to the attack.

But Republican officials want everyone to understand that they aren't exploiting the Sept. 11 tragedy for political gain, as Bush was accused of doing last spring when his campaign ran TV ads featuring images of rescue workers at Ground Zero.

Ed Gillespie, the Republican national chairman, told reporters over lunch yesterday that the terrorist attack is a logical topic of discussion for the first presidential election of the post-9/11 era. Besides, he claimed, the Democrats made "over 100 direct references to the influence of Sept. 11 on policy" at their convention in Boston last month.

Wonder why the Republicans were counting?

Early start for Maryland delegates

The 75-member Maryland delegation to the Republican National Convention rolled into New York yesterday looking a little glassy-eyed. The state party had chartered two buses to carry them to Manhattan, and a kick-off rally to see them off had begun before 8 a.m.

For state Sen. Donald F. Munson, that meant rising at 4:30 a.m. to make it to the Baltimore region. Once aboard, Munson and other delegates were frankly more interested in napping than in political hoopla.

"A couple of people tried to break into song, but I put an end to that quickly," said Allen J. Furth, an engineer and alternate delegate from Annapolis.

One convention delegate, Gloria Murphy, the wife of former state Del. Donald E. Murphy, shared mimosas. And aides to state Sen. E.J. Pipkin, who is running for the U.S. Senate, distributed care packages that included bottles of water.

But at least the transportation was comfortable. The buses were provided by Dillon Bus Co., which is owned by Ronald C. Dillon Jr., a Republican councilman from Anne Arundel County.

Anti-establishment T-shirt sales brisk

For some, a convention is for protesting. For others, it's about schmoozing and partying. For Felipe Ribiero, it's about making money.

Ribiero, 25, said that business was brisk for the anti-establishment T-shirts he began selling for $20 on the street last weekend. And that's a good thing: He maxed out his credit card and is living rent-free with his girlfriend as he launches a graphics company.

One best-selling shirt, he said, shows a Nike-style swoosh snapped in half, with the phrase "Just Riot" underneath. Another read: "Don't do politics? Politics will do you."

A third took a broadside at the president: "I'll vote for any drunk-driving, draft-dodging, shady oil-dealing, misspeaking, minority bashing, civilian killing, wannabe dictator, war presidet [sic] but George W. Bush."

Ribiero, a Brooklyn resident, said he hoped that both sides of the spectrum saw humor in his messages. "They're not dogmatic," he said. "They're not preachy. Everybody can get these."

New York's Republican roots

Some may think New York City and Republicans mix about as well as Red Sox and Yankees fans. But not Councilman Howard A. Denis of Montgomery County.

Denis, a convention delegate, was born in Brooklyn in 1939 and grew up less than 20 blocks from the hotel where the Maryland delegation is staying.

One of his earliest political memories, he said, was of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia reading comics over the radio during a newspaper strike in the 1940s. A Republican, LaGuardia had broken the Tammany Hall grip on City Hall.

"For a lot of my youth, the Republican Party was the party of reform," Denis said.

Sun staff writers Paul West and David Nitkin contributed to this article.

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