CLEARWATER - Susan Swanson is on her way to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, and she says she's traveling with high hopes.
She is confident that George W. Bush will carry the GOP standard to victory in November and glad that former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney will be marching beside him. It's a ticket that the anti-abortion activist says she can support without reservation.
"America is looking for a strong leader who is very firm in values. In George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the American people can see two solid family men committed to integrity and keeping promises," she said shortly before she began the long drive to Philadelphia and the Best Western Center City where Mrs. Swanson, an alternate delegate, and the rest of the South Carolina delegation have rooms.
She is one of four area residents who are delegates or alternate delegates to their parties' conventions, all to be held successively during the first weeks of August.
In a first for Aiken County, Reform Party member Will Tinney leaves Aug. 9 for Long Beach, Calif., and the Reform Party convention as a staunch Pat Buchanan supporter. He fully expects the former GOP stalwart and Nixon speechwriter to carry the Reform Party banner in the 2000 race for the White House.
The convention in Long Beach is not expected to be quite the coronations that are expected in Philadelphia and, later, for the Democrats in Los Angeles. Still, Mr. Tinney does not anticipate a divisive fight among Reform Party delegates despite the enmity between John Hagelin, who represents the Ross Perot faction, and Mr. Buchanan, whose supporters are recent Republican converts to the party.
Mr. Tinney, moreover, says he's certain that Mr. Buchanan is just what the fledgling political party needs.
"A Buchanan ticket adds the social side to the Reform Party that it didn't have in the first place," he said.
Just as Mr. Tinney is leaving California, South Carolina state Sen. Tommy Moore and Aiken City Councilwoman Lessie Price will be arriving in the Golden State as delegates to the Democratic convention to be held in Los Angeles from Aug. 14-17.
Mr. Moore goes as executive committeeman, representing South Carolina on the Democratic National Executive Committee. He replaces long-time Democratic Party official Don Fowler in that position. Mr. Fowler represented the South Carolina party for over two decades and most recently served as national Democratic Party co-chairman along with Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd.
Mrs. Price heads toward Los Angeles as a delegate representing South Carolina's 3rd Congressional District, and like Mr. Moore, she's a staunch supporter of Vice President Al Gore.
"Yes, I like Gore. When I look at where our nation is, the economy, all the prosperity can be attributed to this administration, and Gore is a part of that," Mrs. Price said.
The hoopla this week, however, is in Philadelphia, and the first order of business for the South Carolina delegation is to meet with Mr. Bush's advisers at their hotel. It is highly likely that the delegation's overwhelming anti-abortion views will play a dominant role in the conversation.
"A lot of the pro-life leaders around the state came out for George W. Bush," Mrs. Swanson said in an interview before she left for Pennsylvania. A director of the Care Pregnancy Center in Augusta and the regional director of Heritage Community Services, a character-based program that stresses abstinence, Mrs. Swanson is determined to try to make sure that the anti-abortion plank in the GOP platform is not forgotten.
She is also convinced that Mr. Bush's choice of Mr. Cheney for vice president is a good indication that a Republican administration will be staunchly anti-abortion.
"Dick Cheney has always voted against abortion and gun control. He's a solid conservative, but he's also a coalition builder," she said.
Mr. Cheney has served as a congressman from Wyoming, President Ford's chief of staff and Secretary of Defense under President Bush.
Even though U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond will miss this year's convention for the first time since he became a Republican in 1964, he remains honorary chairman of the South Carolina delegation. Other officers are Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler, chairman, and South Carolina House Speaker David Wilkins, vice chairman.
In all, the South Carolina delegation is 74 members strong, including 37 delegates and 37 alternates. Though she is officially designated an alternate delegate, Mrs. Swanson has been assured that her voice will be heard in the delegation and she will be seated at intervals on the convention floor.
And the seating is down front.
"South Carolina will have one of the best seating positions at the convention because it was the turning point for Bush after (John) McCain's win in New Hampshire," she said.
Reach Pat Willis at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.