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OKGOP Chairman Matt Pinnell reflects on Saturday's chaotic convention

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Matt Pinnell addresses a crowd of Ron Paul supporters in Feb. 2012.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – As the dust settles and Oklahoma Republicans
take a step back and take a look at just what happened at the Oklahoma
Republican State Convention on Saturday, the party’s chairman, Matt Pinnell,
spoke with Red Dirt Report about the
day’s chaotic outcome which led to bad blood between more socially-conservative
Mitt Romney supporters and constituitionally-minded, libertarian-leaning Ron
Paul-type Republicans.

“I’m not trying to make excuses,” Pinnell told us in a phone
conversation Tuesday. “Saturday was messy. It should have been a cleaner

As we reported Saturday, at the conclusion of the party’s
convention in Norman, approximately 400 delegates, primarily supporters of Ron
Paul, claimed that rules were not properly followed and they proceeded to hold
a rump convention in the parking lot of the hotel where the convention was held.
This, after several Paul supporters claimed they were assaulted by Romney
supporters in the convention hall. It was clear that the two factions were not
ready to shake hands and focus on the larger goal at hand: unification or "fusionism," to coin a term Pinnell pulled out of the Republican Party's mid-20th century past. "Fusionism," Pinnell said, was not happening on Saturday.

“I want to have a state convention that is certainly not as
contentious as Saturday’s was,” he said. “We need to go in there, get the
business done and get it done so delegates will want to come back next year.”

Pinnell said the state convention typically draws
approximately 1,000 people. This year there were 1,500 or so. Pinnell said the
party needs to grow and more people get involved. He said he wants as many as
3-to-4,000 showing up in the future, considering the large number of registered
Republicans in Oklahoma.

As for the nitty-gritty details of the outcome of Saturday’s
convention, Pinnell said that while there was “fisticuffs, a lot of screaming
and gnashing of teeth,” those delegates that are more in the Romney camp were
in the majority.

Pinnell points to an opinion piece written by conservative
activist David Tackett of Oklahomans for Liberty who wrote: “The OKGOP
convention – Both sides messed up
.” He said Tackett really had a handle on the situation as it developed at the convention.

“Our goal was that the majority ruled and that the minority
had a strong voice. And that ruled the day,” Pinnell said.

“I think there were people in that room that did not want to
be unified,” Pinnell said, adding, “I’m going to reach out to the Newt
supporters, the Santorum supporters and Dr. Paul’s supporters. But with what
happened Saturday, it’s turned into a Mitt Romney/Ron Paul dispute.”

Pinnell chalks up several of the problems they experience
to: the credentialing process; a lack of electronic voting machines ; and time

Pinnell said the numbers of delegates weren’t adding up to
the numbers voting, resulting in a discrepancy. The credentialing process, he
said, should move at a faster pace next time.

And then there’s the issue of voting.

“A lot of people are calling for (electronic voting
machines),” Pinnell said, noting the Utah Republican Party uses the devices. “We
are going to take a look at it. But if the majority of people don’t want to go
down that road then we won’t. Still, it would save a tremendous amount of time
if we had electronic voting machines.

Pinnell said he has been receiving a lot of feedback about the
convention and he is taking a lot of what he is hearing into consideration. He
recognizes the importance of having all sides come together in “making Barack
Obama a one-term president.”

“At some point, as chairman, I need to focus on moving us
forward, focusing on elections at hand in Oklahoma and to see what we can do to
support races nationally. While it’s clear how Oklahoma will go this fall, how
can Oklahoma Republicans affect the campaign and go to Colorado this fall and
help there? I know Dr. Paul’s supporters want to make Barack Obama a one-term
president. And I’d love for them to target races across the country.”

“For those who say Ron Paul or nobody, well, I don’t have
enough time in the day to convince them otherwise,” Pinnell said. “For those
who get on board …well, it looks like it’s going to be Mitt Romney. But I’ve
been very public that I know the primary (season) is not over. Ron Paul’s press
release yesterday may have changed that.”

At the same time, Pinnell emphasized the importance of the
Ron Paul campaign to the overall Republican message of smaller government and
increased freedom.

“I think a lot of the anger on Saturday was that a lot of
Dr. Paul’s supporters don’t want to be discounted,” Pinnell said. “I know Dr.
Paul’s message is a force. It’s not going to go away, nor should it. I want to
do what I can to fold them into the Republican Party.”

Copyright 2012 West
Marie Media

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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