Ron Paul Wins California Republican Straw Poll
Republican candidate for president Ron Paul (R-Texas) won the California straw poll at the California Republican Party fall convention in downtown Los Angeles Saturday, receiving 44.9 percent of the vote, beating one of the two GOP front-runners, Mitt Romney, by more than 15 percent.
The poll has no legal or binding effect and is seen as more of a "beauty contest" and a test of a candidate's ability to organize supporters. Last month's Iowa Straw Poll was won by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) who, nevertheless, is now running in single digits in most surveys of Republican primary votes.
Paul is also running in the bottom half of the pack nationally but has a fervent base of loyal supporters who made their numbers count in Saturday's vote.
Paul spoke to supporters at the J.W. Marriot Hotel which hosted the several hundred convention delegates amid cheers and chants as he laid out his criticisms of President Barack Obama's administration handling of the economic crisis.
“What we’re facing now is a crisis not only in economics but in politics," Paul said. "We have strayed away from a good, pro-American foreign policy. We’ve strayed from a sound monetary policy... I believe it's time for a change in attitude and a change in direction for this country."
Criticizing his own party platform at times, Paul, a militant libertarian, said the current state of the nation was due to an infrequent following of the U.S. Constitution by elected officials and a failure to live up to their oath of office.
“I’m running [on a platform of] peace, prosperity, personal liberty, the U.S. Constitution and the American tradition,” Paul said.
Humberto Rivera, a 25-year-old unemployed student, was one of Paul’s fans who joined the crowd of supporters, chanting “Ron Paul!” all the way down the hallway. Rivera said he believes Paul is the only candidate who tells people the truth. Rivera is an immigrant and supporting Paul as is his first engagement in American politics.
This enthusiastic follower started to learn about the Republican candidate from YouTube in 2008. Unable to afford voting in the straw poll (for which there is a fee), he and his friend, Rolando Jimenez, 21, supported Paul by making videos and spreading the word.
“Every candidate out there tells you what you want to hear to win your vote," Rivera said. "This guy has been saying the same thing for 30 years. It’s not about politics, guys, it’s about living your life everyday."
Another lower-tier Republican candidate who has come into the spotlight is Fred Karger, who is the first openly gay Republican presidential candidate. Karger had always been thinking about running for office, he said. As society has become more liberal and tolerant, he said, he could now actually start his campaign as he could get married in six states.
Republicans and homosexuality shouldn’t be a paradox, Karger said. The GOP, nevertheless has supported numerous measures opposing same sex marriage.
"We are the party of Lincoln, the party of Roosevelt. We are the land of civil rights. I want to bring that back. We are a party of less government, keeping the government out of our lives, and that should be across the board," he said.
“It would always be my number one goal, and I knew it would be difficult. I've never run for office before. This is a first to me. But it is important that I get on that stage,” said Karger.
California Log Cabin Republicans, an organization that encourages the rights of gay and lesbian Americans, argue Karger’s campaign is courageous, and they support him in his battle.
Leonard Lanzi, president of the California Log Cabin Republicans, said their conservative values and beliefs about the role of government should not exclude gays from the Republican Party. The most difficult thing for Log Cabin Republicans is to encourage the party to understand that sexual orientation is not antithetical to conservatism.
“The role of government is not to discriminate, but to welcome all people," said Lanzi. "As a Roman Catholic Republican who happens to be gay, I could be at peace with my own faith and I could be at peace with my party and promote the value of small government, limit taxation and fiscal responsibility."
Lanzi said he disagrees with some of Paul’s statements on homosexuality, but he declined to elaborate.