Terrorism top issue for Nevada delegates headed to GOP convention | NevadaAppeal.com

Terrorism top issue for Nevada delegates headed to GOP convention

BRENDAN RILEY

The 33 Nevada Republicans headed to their party’s national convention in New York say fighting terrorism is by far their biggest concern. All but one oppose gay marriage, but they’re divided on abortion rights.

A survey by The Associated Press shows two-thirds of the delegates to the Aug. 30-Sept. 2 convention see anti-terrorism as their top concern. The economy and jobs was the second biggest issue, followed by the war in Iraq and taxes.

Delegates are split over whether the state should negotiate with the federal government for benefits in exchange for building a national nuclear waste dump in southern Nevada, while a strong majority said President Bush’s support for the Yucca Mountain repository shouldn’t cause him to lose the state in November.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice were the delegates’ favorites to replace Vice President Dick Cheney should he step aside this year. The two high ranking administration also were the Nevada delegation’s top picks as presidential candidates in 2008.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani was next in line as the delegates’ choice for vice president, and he and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist were the runners-up as favored GOP presidential candidates in 2008.

Most of the delegates doubt third party candidate Ralph Nader will take enough support away from John Kerry to cost the Democratic candidate the election. And while many consider themselves conservatives, most don’t see themselves as part of the religious right movement.

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Brian Scroggins of Las Vegas echoed the broad concern among fellow delegates over fighting terrorism.

“The war on terrorism is important. If we don’t feel protected, a lot of other things won’t matter,” he said.

“Every day we’re finding out how pervasive this whole thing is,” said delegate Al Valdez of Henderson. “These people are dead set on doing something really bad.”

“It’s the most important issue facing the future of our nation and the world,” said delegate Bruce Woodbury of Boulder City.

“If our country gets attacked, it’s not going to help to have a good economy or good schools if everything gets blown up,” said delegate Eileen Rice of Zephyr Cove.

Rice also was clear in expressing the pro-choice view shared by some delegates.

“A woman has a right to choose what happens to her own body,” she said.

Heidi Smith of Reno joined with other delegates who oppose abortion rights, saying, “If we had free contraceptives, we wouldn’t even have to discuss abortion.”

By a more than 4-to-1 margin, those responding said they didn’t think Nader would take enough support away from Kerry to cost him the election – although many said they hoped that would be the case.

“If it does, then President Bush isn’t doing his job right,” delegate Paul Willis of Pahrump said. “I think we should beat Kerry soundly enough that Nader won’t be an issue.”

“In the last couple of weeks, Kerry has been shooting himself in the foot,” added delegate Mike Weber of Reno. “I don’t think Nader will be significant enough.”

The delegates gave Powell and Rice high marks as potential Republican presidential candidates in 2008. Harold Willard of Carson City described Rice as “a very intelligent lady – and she could give Hillary a real run for her money.”

And delegate Milton Schwartz of Las Vegas said of Powell, “He’s a man who could be president.”

Of the 33 delegates, 18 are men and 15 are women; and all are white, including three with Hispanic roots. All but two have spouses, and the married delegates include five couples who account for nearly a third of the entire delegation.

More than two-thirds are 50 or older. Six are Catholics, four are Mormons and the rest either declined to answer or listed a variety of religious beliefs, mainly Protestant.

Although Las Vegas is by far the largest city in Nevada, only a dozen of the delegates are from southern Nevada. The rest are from less-populated Northern Nevada.

All the delegates were elected at the GOP state convention held in May in Reno.