Conservatives unite to block Romney’s preferred delegates

DENVER – Two Ron Paul supporters from Southwest Colorado were elected delegates to the Republican National convention this afternoon, a development that took Mitt Romney’s Colorado campaign by surprise.

The votes showed that while Romney is confident that he has all but won the Republican nomination for president, Colorado conservatives are not ready to give up the fight.

Todd King of Lewis and Luke Allen Kirk of Bayfield, both supporters of Paul, took two of the three delegate spots to the Republican National Convention from the Western Slope’s congressional district.

King said his party has marginalized young people the last several years.

“I was hoping I could make it so I could be a part of the conversation of where the Republican Party needs to go,” King said.

Michelle Gilleland of La Plata County, a Romney supporter, was elected as an alternate to the national convention, which will be in Tampa, Fla., in August.

The story was the same at other congressional district assemblies today in Denver. Ron Paul supporters did well in the Denver district and Eastern Plains district.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum dropped out of the race this week, just days before the assemblies in Denver today and Saturday that will determine Colorado’s 36 delegates to the national convention in August. But instead of getting behind Romney’s official slate of delegates, Santorum’s state chairman and key supporters formed an alliance with Ron Paul activists to support their own slate of delegates.

“The Romney campaign and the Republican leadership had no clue this was going on,” said Sean Conway, Santorum’s delegate coordinator for Colorado. “If our slate wins, it shows you how out of touch they are with the party right now. And they’re going to need us to win.”

Conway said he had been planning the move with the Paul campaign for a couple of weeks, in cooperation with Santorum’s national campaign.

With hundreds of delegates running for just a few dozen spots, campaigns used official delegate slates as a way to make sure their supporters don’t dilute their votes.

King and Kirk appeared on the Paul-Santorum “Conservative Unity” slate.

Conway said the Conservative Unity slate was not necessarily anti-Romney, but he and his allies want to make sure Romney sticks to the conservative positions he outlined during the primary.

“I think what we’re trying to do here is send a message to Mitt Romney to not just talk the talk. We want him to walk the walk,” Conway said.

Voting was taking place Friday afternoon in six of the seven congressional district conventions. More delegates will be chosen at the state convention Saturday.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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