Shelby women in eye of the Republican storm

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Decker, Cuthrell experience convention in Tampa

By Lisa King

If you have been following the coverage of the Republican National Convention in Tampa and wondering if anyone from Shelby County was there to watch the nomination of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for president and vice-president, rest easy that a couple of their neighbors were in the swing of things, even when the threat of a hurricane was looming on the horizon.

“The first day was called off, but it’s going well now, and we’re enjoying beautiful weather,” said Jennifer Decker, the Shelby County Republican Party chair and a field representative for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.

Decker and Janet Cuthrell, the Shelby County Republican Party treasurer, are representing the county at the convention – Steve Miller, a field rep for U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, and Michael Biagi, on the staff of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, didn’t attend this time – and they’ve been taking the buses from their hotel in Clearwater on a 90-minute trek to the Tampa Bay Times Forum in northeastern Tampa.

The convention was to have opened Monday night, but it was postponed a day because of concerns about  the approaching Tropical Storm Isaac. But the storm skirted Tampa and made landfall near New Orleans instead as a Category I hurricane, on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Despite the weather delay, Decker said she has been impressed with the speakers, many of whom, including Paul, talked about personal experiences, something that she thought took the excitement of the convention to a new level.

“Rand Paul spoke yesterday, and he talked about the economy and our need to have free and fair markets and our need to return to constitutional principles, but he also had lots of great anecdotes about his family and friends, especially about how his great-grandfather immigrating here with absolutely nothing, except his concepts of the American dream of success,” she said.

She also was taken by the words of Condoleezza Rice, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and Mia Love, the candidate for Congress from Utah who is vying to be the first African-American Republican congresswoman in history.

“Condoleezza Rice was an absolute showstopper,” she said of the former secretary of state, who is now a faculty member at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “Paul Ryan was great, and Mia, she was just sensational.”

McConnell  and Guthrie made very vocal endorsements of Romney and Ryan.

Decker said Thursday that she and Cuthrell were looking forward to the final evening of the convention.

“The stadium is completely full and the floor is packed, and I expect that tonight will be even a bigger crowd,” she said. “We have staff here and our deputy state director is here; the Republican National Committee assigned hotels.”

But not everyone you would expect has a room there.

“I thought I would sit this one out,” Biagi said.