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
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 expressed delight in the size of the crowd at the local
“This is wonderful. You’ve got standing-room only at a
Republican Convention in Chester County,” he said. “I applaud
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,
“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.”
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.