From her seat with the California delegation, Leah West could turn her head slightly and see Condoleezza Rice, Mitt and Ann Romney, Paul Ryan and his family, and a host of other dignitaries who sat in the reserved area to her right.
She also didn’t have to look far to see the media representatives who filled the aisles, interviewing a host of other politicos attending the convention.
“It was amazing being there and seeing everyone,” West said.
The Graeagle resident and chairwoman of the Plumas County Central Republican Party, represented the 1st Congressional District at the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay, Fla.
“It was such an honor and a humbling experience to be able to participate in our political system on this level,” West said.
West was one of the 179 official delegates selected to represent California from the thousands that applied.
She filled out an application months ago and then waited to hear. West said she was selected, but suspected it was because of her position on the central committee and relationships she has developed over the years.
In addition to the official delegates, alternates and guests also represented the state bringing the total contingent to 800.
Mallory West, Leah’s daughter, attended as a guest. Mallory is a political fundraiser and finance director who resides in San Francisco.
“It was so great being able to share this experience with her,” West said.
West’s delegate pass allowed her to roam the convention floor, but guests and delegates, with their color-coded identifications, were restricted to the upper floors, so the two couldn’t sit together during the convention.
Still, they attended a host of other functions together, including convention parties and VIP by-invitation-only events.
“We met Scott Brown, Carly Fiorina and Ambassador John Bolton at one party,” West said. “We met a lot of super people.”
In addition to the dignitaries, West enjoyed meeting her fellow delegates.
The California group stayed at the TradeWinds Resort at St. Pete’s Beach, typically a half-hour bus ride from the Tampa Bay Forum. During the convention, it turned out to be much longer so there was plenty of time to visit.
West attributed the long bus rides to the sheer volume of people who needed transportation and the extreme security measures, such as taking varying routes to the convention. A police officer rode on each bus.
The first day, delegates needed to be at the convention by 2 p.m., but during subsequent days it wasn’t until 5 p.m., which worked out well because often the delegates didn’t return to their hotel until the early hours of the morning.
At the forum, the delegates listened to speakers, watched videos and nominated their candidate.
“There wasn’t a down minute; everything was planned,” West said.
When asked which speaker resonated most in the forum, she said they were all well received, but then singled out Ann Romney.
“She was so real,” West said. “She said, ‘This is me. This is who I am.’ It was so genuine and emotional.”
When asked about Clint Eastwood’s speech, she said, “It was a little bit of a surprise, but he was very well received.”
West said all the speakers did well and she is pleased that the Republicans “finally have a bench,” referring to people like Paul Ryan, Mark Rubio and others.
West said the three-day convention left her “hoarse and tired, but so energized.”
She said it’s hard to describe the emotion in the room on that last day as the balloons and confetti dropped from the ceiling.
There were rocky moments during the trip, such as when someone stole their luggage in Sacramento the night before their early morning flight.
That necessitated a quick trip to a mall in Florida to replace everything they had packed. West said it was lucky Hurricane Isaac delayed the convention by one day.
West and her daughter returned home with many new possessions including mementos from the convention, but most importantly, West said she returned with memories that will last for the rest of her life.
“It was definitely the opportunity of a lifetime,” she said.
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