Md. delegation bunks with Grover Norquist in Tampa

August 27, 2012|By John Fritze, The Baltimore Sun

TAMPA, Fla. -- Maryland's delegation to the Republican National Convention doesn't include any headline speakers, but there is a nationally recognized figure within its ranks: Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist.

Norquist, the founder of Americans for Tax Reform, is staying at the same Tampa hotel as the 37 delegates, 34 alternates and party guests this week. Norquist, who lives in Washington, reached out to Maryland Republican leaders months ago to request four rooms from their hotel block.

He is also scheduled to speak to the delegation Thursday.

To say deep blue Maryland doesn't receive the perks that other states enjoy at Republican conventions is an understatement. More competitive states land top surrogates from the Mitt Romney campaign as speakers. And they organize events that draw Republicans from across the country.

But in some ways, Maryland Republicans have done fairly well here. After years of being stuck in the back on conventions floors, this year's delegation will sit close to the stage at the Tampa Bay Times Forum -- just behind Puerto Rico's front-row seats. And they secured a hotel that is remarkably close to the action -- a coveted get at a national political convention and likely part of the draw for Norquist.

Most Republicans attending the convention from Maryland credit the connections of Louis Pope, the state's national committeeman, for the access they have received. Pope is a longtime Republican National Committee official and he serves as vice chair of the convention's powerful rules committee.

Norquist, whose spokesman did not return calls seeking comment, has been active in Maryland politics lately, even though his main focus is on pushing Republicans nationally to pledge allegiance to a zero-tolerance policy on new or increased taxes -- a position that makes him a top enemy of the left.

Norquist addressed the Economic Club of Annapolis in May and spoke at a Tea Party rally during last year's special session in October.

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