Thursday, September 4, 2008
RNC: Templeton working for Gustav victims from Minnesota
Special to The Times
La Salle County Sheriff Tom Templeton knows about disaster.
"We had a problem in our own county, in the town of Utica, where a tornado came through and killed nine people and devastated the downtown area. So we found out on a small scale how important it is for people to come together, and they came together there just like they're coming together here."
"Here" is on the floor of an exhibit hall of the Minneapolis Convention Center, where Templeton is elbow deep in boxes, working to fill care packages that soon will be on their way to people affected by Hurricane Gustav.
He is taking part in a hastily assembled relief event sponsored by retail giant Target, the American Red Cross, the Republican National Convention and John McCain's presidential campaign.
Templeton is a delegate from Illinois attending the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities. It's his first political convention, and it has so far been anything but conventional. Hurricane Gustav created much uncertainty for Templeton and his fellow Illinois delegates when they arrived in the Twin Cities.
"We were watching and wondering what were they going to do? There were discussions about 'Are we going to cancel, or are we going to just try this another time?' It didn't seem feasible to put all this work into it and get all of this set up just to cancel it. I don't think that would have been a reasonable thing to do."
As plans were put into motion to prepare and ship 80,000 packages to areas affected by Hurricane Gustav, the situation on the ground in the Gulf Coast was rapidly changing. Templeton says it also was changing the outlook for delegates.
"The mood changed, at least in our hotel, in Illinois' delegation, to a much better mood that people down there weren't getting hit as hard as they were before, that there wasn't as much damage as there was before. Still tremendous amounts of damage, but not nearly like Katrina was, so we felt better about things than we had when we got here."
News about Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter soon bumped Gustav off the top of the media radar.
Bristol Palin, 17, who is not married, is five months pregnant. The situation has caused a stir among reporters gathered in St. Paul for the convention, but does not seem to have created a backlash among Republican delegates.
"I don't think it's an issue," Templeton explained, "and I would hope that the public would not think it's an issue. It's a privacy situation."
Palin is popular with Republicans because she supports gun rights, is opposed to abortion and models herself as a "hockey mom," an everyday working parent who former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee believes gives her a strong connection to most American women.
"What Sarah Palin represents is everything family values is about. It's about affirming your family, Families aren't perfect. Families have problems. Everybody's does -- mine, yours and Sarah Palin. It's how we react to them."
Instead of creating a problem, the impending birth of Sarah Palin's grandchild is an issue Templeton thinks Palin could use to her advantage on the campaign trail with McCain.
"She's not ashamed of it, she shouldn't be ashamed of it and I think she's going to be a good candidate," Templeton said. "I think she's going to be a very electable candidate and she's a very strong person."
Templeton knows Republicans have an uphill battle in Illinois as the presidential campaign heads into the final months. It's Democratic nominee Barack Obama's home state. In spite of the challenge, Templeton is optimistic having Palin on the Republican ticket only can help John McCain bridge the gap in poll numbers, and ultimately votes, in Illinois.
Kane Farabaugh is a Midwest-based TV and radio correspondent with Voice of America (www.voanews.com). He is covering the 2008 Presidential election for VOA. A 1995 graduate of Ottawa Township High School, Farabaugh recently returned to Ottawa, where he now lives with his family. He's worked for various commercial TV stations as a reporter and anchor as well as the American Forces Network Europe based in Germany. The views expressed in this column are Farabaugh's and do not represent the views of Voice of America.