Originally published on May 2nd, 2012.
Western Mass. Republicans meet in Westfield for 1st Congressional district delegate caucus
By Jordan Evans
Almost two months ago, registered voters from three different political parties filed into their local voting booths to make their pick for who they would prefer to see lead them to come this November. For most people, the primary was the extent of the nomination process in Massachusetts, but to the devout politicos, it was only just the first phase.
This past weekend was the next step, as Republicans from Charlton to Pittsfield crowded into the North Middle School Cafeteria in Westfield to participate in the new 1st Congressional District delegate caucus.
That word may not be too new. The remaining major Presidential contenders; Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Congressman Ron Paul, along with their previous rivals, have faced off in about one dozen caucus races and countless primaries so far this year in the race for the Republican Nomination. While the State of Massachusetts has legally bound it’s delegates to Mitt Romney based off of the March 6th primary results, a caucus is still conducted to decide who will be representing the Massachusetts delegation this August.
Over 200 participants, a high turn-out for this kind of event, decided between two slates of candidates, The Mitt Romney for President Slate and, representing Massachusetts Ron Paul supporters, The Ronald Reagan Liberty Unity Slate. But while a total of six candidates for delegates and six for alternate delegates from these two slates wanted a win, only three of each would be allowed to go to Florida for the Republican National Convention in the Fall.
After a series of short speeches and a single round of voting, Ronald Crochetiere and Marcel Burque of the Ronald Reagan Unity Liberty Slate and Rich Berrena of the Mitt Romney for President Slate had secured enough votes to be sent down to Tampa. Even then, it’s still far from over for some, as those results might change between here and the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office in Boston.
Rick Berrena narrowly beat out Joseph Cavallaro of the Ronald Reagan Unity Liberty slate by two votes. In compliance with the rules established beforehand, 13 provisional ballots, or votes that need further verification from the Secretary, won’t be counted until later this week, and the results could flip the third spot from Berrena to Cavallaro.
“If I’m meant to be there, I am. If not, not. ” said Cavallaro, who was “patient but anxious” over the results of the 13 provisional ballots.
The second round of voting, for the alternate delegates, was conducted shortly afterward, and it was a clean sweep for the Ronald Reagan Unity Liberty Slate.
Those familiar with the caucus system this year might recall how it’s been a consistent source of tension and riddled with problems, and while there was only a single outburst during today’s events, caucus-goers still did not escape the air of animosity that seemed to come with the process.
“There’s an element perverting the process”, explained Michael Case, a candidate for delegate representing the Romney slate, “There are a lot of people I’ve never seen before here. ”
Mike Valanzola, a candidate for an alternate spot, also from the Romney slate, noted that there was a “significant faction here to send a message that they’re not supportive of Governor Romney. ”
But not everyone saw all of these new faces as a bad thing. “The Republican Party is changing”, said Caucus Chairman and Mayor of West Springfield, Greg Neffinger, “At least half of them would have been brought up Democratic before. We’re changing the idea that Republicans are in fact People [for the] People. ”
But amidst the high tensions of today’s events, there was a mutual agreement that the whole procedure was managed smoothly and efficiently. “I was very pleasantly surprised with the Moderator and the Parliamentarian and their professionalism,” said presumed alternate delegate Paul Kleinwald.
Even Michael Cavallaro, whose fate hangs on the results of 14 provisional ballots, shared that sentiment explaining the caucus process is “transparent and positive” and found it “alive and well.”
The Republican National Convention will take place from August 27th to the 30th in Tampa Bay, Florida.