GAINESVILLE - One of the northeast Georgians who will be a delegate to the Republican National Convention which begins Monday says the integrity of the country is at stake in this year's presidential election.
Jim Pilgrim of Gainesville said Thursday while enroute to Tampa that after the convention "we must continue our hard work and keep our focus in order to ensure the election of Romney/Ryan in November," while emphasizing, "we cannot afford four more years of Obama! The integrity of the United States of America must be protected by voting for the Romney/Ryan ticket in November."
The 65-year-old retiree is a past chairman of the Hall County Republican Party and longtime party activist, one of several northeast Georgians who'll be in Tampa as either a delegate or an alternate. The convention, which will run through Thursday, will culminate in the expected nomination of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the GOP standard-bearer this year, who will challenge Democratic incumbent Barack Obama for the White House.
Others from the area who will be in Tampa include Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal and longtime Hall County Republican Party member Bettye Chambers. Both will serve a delegates to the convention. Alternates from northeast Georgia include Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell and Hall County GOP member Brenda Maddox.
Bell is a former Democrat whose wife Lauren was a delegate to the 2008 Democratic convention. However, both switched to the Republican Party in December 2010.
Of the slate of delegates, Hall County Republican Party Chairman Kris Yardley said at the time of their selection earlier this year "I think the voters of Georgia will be well represented by the delegates and alternates we selected here today. Hall County can be especially proud of the members selected to represent the voters".
This will be Pilgrim's first trip to a national convention as a delegate or alternate but it will be the third straight time for Chambers. She was an alternate in 2004 and again in 2008.
Pilgrim said he did not actively campaign for a delegate or alternate spot but "was encouraged to submit my resume' by members of the 9th District (Republcian Party)."
Asked what he thinks are the keys to the GOP taking back the White House this year, Pilgrim replied "A plan for economic recovery that includes job creation, self sustaining energy production, less outsourcing to foreign countries, and producing and consuming American goods and services" in addition to a "commitment to a return to traditional and conservative values."
Pilgrim blamed "media sensationalism" for much of the attention being given to Missouri congressman Todd Aiken's recent comments about rape. That media sensationalism, Pilgrim said, "is the culprit trying to distract from the true issues of the Romney/Ryan Campaign. I feel the distraction will be short lived."
He added that Romney can best distance himself from the controversy "by remaining steadfast on issues that reflect the principles and views of Romney/Ryan and the Republican Party platform." And, he was quick to add that Aiken, the GOP nominee for a U.S. Senate seat from Missouri, should withdraw from the race because he doesn't have the support of the Republican Party.
Though he was not his first choice for Romney's running mate, Pilgrim appeared satisfied with the the presumptive nominee's choice of Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as the GOP vice presidential candidate.
"He is young, aggressive, conservative and has a strong background in finance," Pilgrim said. "He believes in Christian values and is a strong advocate of capitalism on which our country is founded."
Pilgrim said his first choice for a running mate was Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and his first choice for the GOP presidential candidate was former Georgia congressman and U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was one of several men and women who sought the nomination.
Asked if he is at ease with the party platform, Pilgrim said, without elaborating," very much so - conservative," adding he has "no" problems with any of it.
That's not the case with the weather, though. Party officials and delegates are keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Issac which is expected to strengthen into a hurricane over the weekend and was on a track Saturday morning which had it crossing the Florida Keys early Monday. It's projected to swing into the Gulf of Mexico, passing the coast off Tampa late Monday night or early Tuesday.
"Yes, we are somewhat concerned but don't want to miss this historic event," Pilgrim said. "We have heard they are already thinking about canceling some of the 'fun' events (associated with the convention)."
Georgia Republicans are sending 76 delegates and 76 alternates to the convention. The slate of representatives was finalized during the state convention in Columbus earlier this year.
GOP delegates and alternates are determined in the following fashion: Georgia has 14 congressional districts. At this year's district conventions three delegates and three alternates were selected from each district. The total of 42 is added to the 31 at-large delegates and alternates, selected at the state convention, and the three automatic delegates from Georgia.
The Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte beginning Sept. 4.