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Official says Delleney’s party switch, world situation sparks interest
Staff Writer

It was a running joke, repeated by several of the speakers at the Chester County Republican Convention last Thursday in Chester.

It was told in several different forms, but it always involved a telephone booth — the imaginary telephone booth that was at one time considered large enough to hold all Republicans active on the local level.

Paul Clarkson, who organized the Chester County Republican Party between 1968 and 1970, told the telephone booth joke many times over the years. But at the local GOP convention last week, the joke became a badge of honor as local Republicans and visiting GOP leaders from the state applauded themselves for their growth — the evolution of a telephone booth crowd not many years ago to one large enough to fill the banquet room of Pundt’s Restaurant.

“The phone booth has gotten bigger,” said Tommy Windsor, the chairman of the GOP Party in Lexington County in a speech aimed at getting local Republican delegates to support his candidacy for chairman of the state GOP Party.

Clarkson, who served as chairman of the Republican Party here from its inception to 1998, received a standing ovation for his devotion to the party from the crowd of about 70 people. Those in attendance included the majority of the 50 Chester County precinct delegates who organized a precinct meetings last month, as well GOP leaders who seeking posts in the state Republican Party and a candidate or representatives of candidates seeking elective offices in the state next year.

State Rep. Greg Delleney of Chester, who was introduced to the crowd by Clarkson, received a standing ovation, too. It was his first time attending the Chester County Republican Convention.

Delleney, who was first elected to the House in 1990, switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party this year. Clarkson showed his appreciation of the move to his political party by presenting Delleney a limited-edition elephant mug, made by the National Republican Women.

Delleney introduced keynote speaker David Wilkins, the Greenville Republican who is Speaker of the House. He praised Wilkins, saying no one in the House has done more for him than Wilkins.

Wilkins expressed delight in the size of the crowd at the local convention.

“This is wonderful. You’ve got standing-room only at a Republican Convention in Chester County,” he said. “I applaud you.”

In his speech, Wilkins returned compliments to his House colleague, saying Delleney’s switch to the Republican Party took courage and conviction and that Chester County voters deserve thanks for sending him to the State House. “I tell you, Greg Delleney has everybody’s respect in Columbia,” he said.

Wilkins spoke of how the Republican Party has grown into the majority party at the State House and suggested that grassroots efforts could make the party the majority political party in Chester County. He said Delleney and local Republican leaders are “blazing a trail.”

In his remarks, Wilkins also took jabs at Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges of Lancaster, saying, “The only time I see leadership from Jim Hodges is when he is trying to push the lottery through or when he is supporting video poker, which Greg Delleney helped defeat.” He criticized Hodges for giving the people what he called “sound bites over substance.”

He said Republicans need to work together to return a GOP candidate to the governor’s seat next year. Another goal should be to increase the Republican majority in the state House and Senate, he said.

“This is what we all have to work for,” Wilkins said. “The fact that you have a Republican in Columbia in the State House is an example that we are moving in the right direction.”

Clarkson, who was elected state executive committeeman at the convention, attributes the new degree of interest in the local GOP to Delleney’s switch to the party and events happening in the world. He said his goal has long been to see the Republican Party become the majority party in Chester County and the interest he is seeing in the GOP locally is encouraging, he said. “I’m looking forward to the day when we are the majority party,” he said. “It’s what I’ve been working for.”

Other speakers

In addition to Tommy Windsor, who is seeking the chairmanship of the state Republican Party, others speakers included Cyndi Mosteller of Charleston, who is also seeking that post, and Mark Hammond, the current clerk of court for Spartanburg County and a candidate for Secretary of State. Representatives of GOP governor candidates Mark Sanford, Andre Bauer and Robert Peeler also spoke at the convention.

Officers, delegates elected

Those elected officers at the convention were: Melvin Croft for a second term as chairman; Becky Delleney as first vice-chairwoman; Lawrence Shuler as secretary; Linda Weatherall as treasurer; and Paul Clarkson at state executive committeeman.

The 16 delegates to the state convention elected were: Paul Clarkson, Melvin Croft, Becky Delleney, Jodie Hodge, Howard Hodge, Larry Powell, Jim Reinhardt, John Welborn, Pat Dixon, Bob McWatters, Frank Ferguson, Linda Weatherall, Greg Delleney, Danny Bailey, Joyce Clarkson and Major Thompson.

Jo Darby and Tot Kennedy were elected alternate delegates to the state convention.

About the photo ... State Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester, is presented a collector’s elephant mug by local GOP official Paul Clarkson at the party convention Thursday in Chester.