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GOP Takes Center Ring at Convention Circus

Convention Notebook

By Erik M. Weitzman

Madame Secretary, first Suffolk and Norfolk reports Steve Pierce: 64, Paul Cronin: 4, and Bill Weld: 85.

Loud cheers and strident air horns greeted the loudspeaker's latest announcement, as supporters of former U.S. prosecutor William F. Weld '66 celebrated victory--albeit temporary--over his rivals for governor at the state Republican convention.

But despite the jubilant sounds, Weld supporters had little reason to be pleased as the roll calls were sounded Saturday morning. By the end of the day, House Minority leader Steven D. Pierce would exit the convention with a resounding victory over Weld, establishing himself as the party favorite and a clear frontrunner for the September primary.

But the Republican party was the real winner of this weekend's convention, showing Massachusetts that although it has been excluded from the center ring of Beacon Hill for two decades, it can still put on quite a circus show--elephants and all.

Gold and silver elephants hung from the necklaces and charm bracelets of hundreds of delegates at the convention Saturday. Elephant pins adorned lapels, keeping ties squarely in place and collars fastened tightly closed. Delegates and candidates tossed stuffed elephants around the convention hall amid sculptured ice elephants, elephant hats, elephant earrings, elephant watches, elephants on sweaters, T-shirts, dresses, balloons and placards.

A large man in a grey elephant costume with campaign bumper stickers plastered over his ears, danced in front of a local TV camera crew, while Carol McPherson, a pro-choice delegate from the town of Spencer, criss-crossed the convention hall with a multi-colored stuffed elephant dangling from her neck. Committed to Weld, she handed out buttons and posted "Republicans for Choice" signs in the hall.

And Ray Shamie, the state GOP chief, sat on the dais presiding over the year's largest state Republican convention with a smart, but aptly conservative blue tie, dotted with--you guessed it--elephants.

First Essex and Middlesex, does anyone know... wait, microphone number three... are there any other holds? We have Frankliin and Hampshire that would like to be polled.

David K. Chivers, a shaggy-headed delegate from Lee and a member of the state committee, wiped the perspiration from his brow and refastened the Pierce button to his red suspenders. He had just finished tabulating the delegate vote from the Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire senate district. Weld won the district by nine votes, but Chivers was excited anyway.

"It's an activist atmosphere that this party hasn't seen in 20 years," Chivers yelled over the drone of the secretary's voice count. "I'm having a great time."

There is a polling request for the Suffolk and Middlesex district... That has not been challenged. First Suffolk Norfolk, microphone 18. Hampden and Hampshire, microphone seven.

After Pierce's nomination speech, members in the Berkshire delegation were caught in a crossfire from Pierce supporters who hurled small, red sponge balls imprinted with the Pierce logo through the hall. Trapped by the onslaught, they tried to fend off the attack with the red, white and blue Weld cushions adorning every seat.

When it was Weld's turn to speak, a large and silverheaded Weld supporter--slightly miffed about the sponge balls--whipped his styrofoam Dixie hat frisbee-style across the delegation. His target was a Pierce supporter who was waving a placard and chanting, "Steve, Steve." The Pierce supporter smiled back like a child who has just outwitted a younger sibling as the hat sailed far to his right.

As Weld's nomination speech boomed across the vast convention hall, an anti-abortion delegate jogged down the middle aisle with a tiny infant in pink pajamas upraised in his arms.

"Hey Bill, are you going to kill her too?" the heckler yelled. Weld, who has said he supports a woman's right to have an abortion, ignored the comment. But a host of Weld delegates surrounded the man with the baby and shouted him back into the crowd, as others looked on with indignation and disgust.

First Essex and Middlesex, microphone number three, are you ready now?

The brass and percussion sections in the back of the American Legion Post No. 24 Band from Canton huddled around a cache of "Daly Delights," packages of peanuts, M&Ms and Granola Bars handed out by volunteers working for U.S. hopeful Daniel W. Daly '65, who had won the party's endorsement by the end of the day.

After U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) strode from the podium after his keynote address to the convention, the blue and gold uniformed band members belted out "Dixie" for the Southern Republican.

Madame Secretary, we hate to hold up the convention, but if you'd hold on for a minute or two... all right, First Essex and Middlesex reports 94: Steve Pierce, 51: Paul Cronin and 75 for Bill Weld.

Former U.S. Rep. Paul W. Cronin, wearing the green tie and matching carnation which are hallmarks of his campaign, strode briskly through the aisles, stopping now and then to greet supporters and well-wishers.

"Helluva good campaign Paul," a burly man in a dark suit said, slapping the candidate on the back.

"My mother used to tell us when we were kids, `You try your best,'" said Cronin, who did not receive the 15 percent delegate vote he needed to stay on the Republican ballot. "And we've tried our best."

Hampden and Hampshire report Pierce: 34, two for Cronin and three for Weld.

Harry J. Wilson '93, a Pierce volunteer and member of the Harvard Republican Club, joined other Harvard students and Young Republicans across the state in demonstrating for their candidates at the convention rallies.

"It wasn't even work," he said. "I had three hours sleep last night--18 hours in the last four days--it feels great."

Harvard sophomore Jeremy C. Severeid paced the convention floor, plastered with Weld stickers, a Weld T-shirt and a two-foot tall hat constructed from a Weld poster.

"I want to get involved because I think I can help," Severeid said. "There are so many people at Harvard who scream about democracy and better government but sit on their asses come election time. I have no respect for those people."

Any district that would like to be polled, please deliver your ballots to the RFC, they will be taken directly to the rostrum for tallying.

Eager for the results, the crowd begins to chant, "NO MORE POLLS! NO MORE POLLS!" At 3:17, Pierce supporters begin to hand out confetti. The sound of the gavel banging against the podium resounds throughout the convention hall. The chair begins to speak.

Total votes cast: 5080, Steven Pierce: 2672 or 52.6 percent, Paul Cronin: 563 or 11.1 percent, and Bill Weld: 1845 or 36.3 percent...That's a supermajority. Steven Pierce has been nominated and he has received a supermajority!

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