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The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida conventioneers arrive -- in swank Siberia



Florida's convention delegates and party faithful streamed into the Innisbrook Golf and Spa resort on Sunday, right on schedule, as the hurry-up and wait for convention activities began. They were handed white bags with blue trim, loaded with RNC swag from water bottles to a beach towels.

But if the gray clouds, persistent drizzle and tropical storm warnings weren't enough to dampen the mood in the swank, sprawling resort, the lack of convention buzz certainly was.

The conventioneers face an hour long drive, each way, to get to the Tampa Bay Times Forum and convention headquarters. Buses have been reserved for the trips but travelers were urged to be vigilent about departure times.

This is the Republican equivalent of Siberia. Comfortable and lovely, the resort features a golf course, spa, swimming pools and restaurants. It is owned by Sheila Johnson, co-founder of the BET network and a major Democratic contributor.

But it's not Tampa. In fact, door-to-door, it is 25 miles away from the convention hall. The closest thing to the convention was the three TV monitors set to Fox News in the darkened meeting hall.

It is punishment for state legislative leaders setting the presidential primary in January in violation of party rules.

Organizers, however, were prepared in the event conventioneers wanted to stay and play. RNC sponsor, Disney, had set up a miniature version of Cinderella's castle in the meeting hall. The space also features two bars and a floor filled with game tables -- foosball, air hockey, ping pong and pool.

Florida Republican Party leader Lenny Curry, who told the Tampa Bay Times in May that he was "p----- off'' at the hotel accommodations when they were announced by the RNC officials, convened the quarterly meeting of the party executive committee and reminded them, "It wasn't your decision."

Notably absent from the meeting, the legislators who led the charge for the primary switch -- such as Rep. Carlos Lopez Cantera, R-Miami, a members of the executive committee..

Said Curry back in May: "We're one of the most important swing states, if not the most important swing state, and our activists and our donors are going to be punished for something they had nothing to do with."

[Last modified: Sunday, August 26, 2012 4:54pm]


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