AIKEN -- Delegates to the biennial state Republican Party Convention in Columbia will get a chance to vote for the candidate of their choice to lead the party in the race for president in 2000.
GOP delegates will have a field of 22 current presidential hopefuls to choose from but only six -- Lamar Alexander, John Ashcroft, Gary Bauer, Jack Kemp, Alan Keyes and Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire -- have said they plan to attend.
June Cannon, former chairwoman of the Aiken County Republican Party, has attended four statewide conventions and has her own theory about straw polls.
"Candidates who attend events with straw poll events do not necessarily win them," she said.
She noted that she attended the Southeastern Republican Leadership Conference in Biloxi, Miss., in February that featured a straw poll.
"The winner was Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, and he did not attend the conference," she said.
Mr. Bush, son of former President George Bush, is not scheduled to show up in Columbia, either, but his name will appear on the ballot along with Patrick Buchanan, Elizabeth Dole, Newt Gingrich, Rudolph Giuliani, Orrin Hatch, John Kasich, John McCain, Colin Powell, Dan Quayle, Fred Thompson, J.C. Watts, Christie Whitman, William Weld, Pete Wilson and Steve Forbes.
"I would not be a bit surprised if Steve Forbes attended," Mrs. Cannon said. "He has done a lot of traveling around lately."
Both Mrs. Cannon and her husband, John Cannon, are among the Aiken County delegates to the convention.
Before the South Carolina Republican Party's first-in-the-South presidential primary is held in 2000, the party has to conduct a primary in June and field candidates for local and statewide offices in the 1998 November general election.
"It's basically a time to rally the troops before the 1998 elections," said Edgefield Mayor John Pettigrew, a delegate to the convention.
That reality makes Saturday at the fairgrounds in Columbia a time and a place for old-fashioned political speech-making, including candidates from a range of offices, from U.S. senatorial hopefuls to commissioner of agriculture.
The convention begins Friday at 7 p.m. with a reception at Williams-Brice Stadium and continues at 8 a.m. Saturday with the chairman's breakfast at Seawell's at the state fairgrounds. The convention starts at 10 a.m.