1. Florida Politics

Amid RNC speeches and party business, pin trading excites delegates

Republican campaign buttons are displayed at the Delegates “Go Nuts” booth in Channelside Bay Plaza.
Republican campaign buttons are displayed at the Delegates “Go Nuts” booth in Channelside Bay Plaza.
Published Aug. 31, 2012


In a perfect world, delegates Pat Hurley, Susanne Sellers and Dianna Bingle would be taking that big teddy bear Chris Christie and that heartthrob Marco Rubio back to North Carolina as they depart the Republican National Convention today.

But all was not lost.

Instead, they'll be bringing back some of the convention's other coveted booty — a shiny red Alabama, a classic Virginia and a glorious Tennessee.


Here was the real convention action. Between the speeches and the cheering and the partying, the delegates horse-traded these little chotchkes like blue-chip stocks.

Some of them had pins first stuck in a lapel at Eisenhower's convention. "We have a party member who has a huge collection and sells them for $5 apiece," said Joan Clendenin. 70, from Modesto, Calif. "He practically supports his family."

You have Hawaii?

Need Georgia?

I'll swap you for California.

They pin them to their RNC credential lanyards or dress shirts. Some ladies spend years bedazzling hats. Clendenin is a true conservative — she keeps hers in a box.

"I don't want to look like a kook."

Every pin has a story, but the tale usually goes in an unpredictable direction.

The North Carolina women started talking pins and ended up sighing over Christie and Rubio, both of whom spoke to their delegation. How that Christie tells it like it is. And Rubio, such a charmer!

(They saved no sighs for Mitt Romney.)

Pat Hurley said she was pinless Tuesday night until she boarded a bus at Raymond James Stadium for a ride to their hotel in St. Petersburg. The ride that should have taken an hour lasted about three times that — until 3 a.m.

By that time, passengers knew the names of each other's grandchildren. And Hurley had scored a trade.

Speaking of taking the long way, Texas alternate delegate Dee Carroll made a few detours in explaining her pin philosophy.

For instance, if Carroll were in charge of Tampa's convention, she'd change just about everything.

Such as?

"Well, for one thing," she said, "they're not Texans."

And, on the weather: Texans would know better than to shut down activities "for a little old Cat-1 hurricane."

As for pins, Carroll has plenty of them. A gold elephant, a "Don't Tread on Me" flag, a red-white-and-blue Tea Party tea kettle. They adorn her tan cowgirl hat.

"I'm proud of every pin on there," she said.

She doesn't trade.

"They are dear to me," she said.

Added her friend, fellow delegate Kathy Cameron: "We're sentimentalists. We are not re-gifters."

Kim Wilmath can be reached at or (813)226-3337.


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