Three Wilton women at Republican National Convention
To the national convention of the political party against which the loyal opposition routinely has lobbed politically charged salvos of engaging in "a war against women," the Connecticut Republicans sent one alternate delegate and invited three special guests from Wilton — all four of them women.
State Sen. Toni Boucher, the alternate delegate selected from Wilton, had no qualms about being in Tampa, Fla., rooting for Mitt Romney, feeling she's in the right place and backing the right person in the race for the White House. Ms. Boucher told The Bulletin by phone earlier this week she had decided early on in the primary process (which saw several potential nominees rise and fall such as Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, etc.) that the former Massachusetts governor who has run a successful global financial services, venture capital and private equity firm would be the best candidate for the job of fixing the nation's economic woes, and defeating President Barack Obama.
Convention-going companions from Wilton were Lynne Vanderslice, a Wilton Board of Finance member who has been an active supporter of the A Better Chance of Wilton program; Ellen Essman, a former longtime consultant on enrollment projections for the Board of Education and a PTA member who is a CPA and businesswoman; and Donna Conway, an active community volunteer who has been involved in such organizations as the League of Women Voters, the Wilton Library Association and Wilton Friends of UNICEF.
They (along with more than 4,400 delegates and alternates and many more guests) were greeted at a huge welcoming event held Sunday at the Rays' baseball field. Ms. Boucher likened the festivities to the opening ceremony at the Olympics. The mix of different foods, entertainment (including the uniquely Tampa Gasparilla Fest invading, costumed pirates) and activities was impressive, she said. "The opening ceremony was pretty cool."
One of the speakers Ms. Boucher was most looking forward to was Condoleezza Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State, national security advisor and college provost and professor who recently made history by becoming one of the first two women golfers to be admitted for membership in the once exclusively all-male Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters tournament in Georgia. She was also looking forward to a breakfast hosted by Ann Romney, she of the "I love you women!" speech Tuesday night.
Ms. Boucher called Condi Rice a moderate Republican whom she generally supports and she would have wanted to see on the ticket as the vice presidential candidate. When Ms. Rice's name became the object of speculation earlier this summer after she gave what was hailed as an impressive speech at a Romney fund-raiser at former Vice President Dick Cheney's homestead in Wyoming, Ms. Boucher remembers getting excited at the prospect.
The Connecticut Republican senator said with a laugh that she, like Ms. Rice, might be considered "moderate or even liberal" by some standards of some other party members attending the convention.
"Party conventions are an exciting gathering of delegates, alternates and guests from every state," Ms. Boucher said in an email message later this week. "The atmosphere is supercharged as they participate in a purely American democratic process to help our nation move forward. The speakers include an array of Republican leaders. They bring different views and characteristics but the vast majority all cheering and rallying around our candidate Mitt Romney, a man of character who has a proven track record of solving problems and getting the job done!"
"I am so excited and honored to be here in the convention center witnessing the delegates cast their votes for the next Republican nominee. Whether you agree or disagree I can't help but feel proud to be an American," Ms. Essman said in her email.
Political party conventions are said to be all about the themes. At the Republican National Convention, the convention theme was "A Better Future." Monday's theme was "We Can Do It Better," Tuesday's was "We Built It," Wednesday's was "We Can Change It" and the wrap-up theme was "We Believe in America."
"I'm very surprised to be even here at all," said Ms. Boucher, noting that her busy schedule in the past years as a longtime legislator in the state has prevented her from finding the time for national politics, let alone the big convention held every four years. A state senator for the 26th District since 2008 and a state representative for 12 years before that, Ms. Boucher previously served on the State Board of Education, as well as on Wilton's boards of education and selectmen. In the state party leadership echelon, she has risen to deputy minority leader in the Senate, where she is ranking member on three committees; on education (and its higher education panel), transpiration and on the finance, revenue and bonding committee she is ranking member of the finance subcommittee on transportation.
But when it came down to it, Ms. Boucher found herself in attendance at the 40th Republican National Convention for the very first time mainly because she's a strong supporter of Mr. Romney, she said.
"The number one priority is to get the economy going again, getting jobs," she said. Like Mr. Romney on the campaign trail, Ms. Boucher calls Mr. Obama a good and decent family man who has tried what he could to fix the economic woes but he has failed. "I've been an enthusiastic supporter of Mitt Romney since January, so I can see why I ended up here," Ms. Boucher said. She said her candidate has the strength of character, is capable, can be trusted to do the job of restoring the economy and jobs, and has demonstrated he has the ability to get opposing sides in government to work together to solve the nation's problems. Ms. Boucher cited Mr. Romney's record as Republican governor in a heavily Democratic state, his success in business management running Bain Capital and stepping in to save the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Utah.
Ms. Rice introduced Paul Ryan, the vice presidential candidate, when he addressed the delegates Wednesday night. In part, the selection of Mr. Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin, has revived the "war against women" charges from Democrats and others. Religious politics has been playing itself out in Tampa, as reflected in the party platform adopted, with religious conservatives and evangelical delegates campaigning on the view that "life begins at conception, no exceptions" and also oppose free birth control measures in the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare, as they dub it). Mr. Ryan has stated outright he does not support abortion in case of rape, and a federal personhood amendment, which both he and Mr. Romney are on record in supporting, would ban all abortions, including in cases of rape.
Republicans are banking on the notion many voters, including women, are not single-issue voters, and the economy and jobs will trump other issues.
Ms. Boucher's stance is that a vice presidential candidate isn't a significant factor in presidential elections, that it would be Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama and their records and views voters will be looking at in deciding whom to vote for at the polls. Mr. Romney has come out in support of abortion in cases of rape, incest and the health of the mother.
Ms. Boucher faces a race herself this fall against Westport Democrat Carolanne Curry. "We need more conversation and less confrontation in Hartford. People across our state want their leaders to develop imaginative, principled solutions. It is time to put all of my life's experience to good use and be a force for crafting effective policies that benefit all of us," Ms. Curry writes in her blog.
In Wilton, Mr. Romney won 78% of the primary vote in March and 67.5% statewide. In 2008, Mr. Obama carried the state 60.6% to John McCain's 38.2% (the Fairfield County vote went 58.6% to 40,6% in Mr. Obama's favor) and in Wilton, the president became the first Democratic candidate for the White House to win the vote in town since 1964, carrying 57% of the electorate.
That fall Ms. Boucher, one of the Republicans in the state who emerged victorious at the polls (overcoming what she called "the Obama tsunami"), won election for the first time to the state Senate.
The threat of Hurricane Isaac forced a quick Monday schedule at the Tampa Bay Times Forum convention hall but the schedule was back on track Tuesday. (The RNC website has posted a notice to viewers on how they can help with donations to hurricane victims.)
James Passeri contributed to this story.