By Victor O'Brien
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON – Party conventions in Bell County made for two starkly different scenes Saturday.
The Bell County Democratic Party Convention drew close to 800 people, who packed into the Belton Educational Development Center auditorium on Saturday.
In contrast, the Republican Party Convention was a more subdued scene for most of the early morning, as about 150 people filed into the cafeteria at Sparta Elementary School.
The high turnout at the Democratic convention was one of several reasons the convention lasted until past 5 p.m., even though it was scheduled to end at noon.
"The holdup was the credentialing," said Arthur Resa, Bell County Democratic Party chair.
Missing information, mislabeled precinct delegates, many first-time delegates and the sheer number of delegates delayed the process. Resa also said the credentialing committee was particularly concerned to make sure all rules were followed so there are no recounts or questioning about voting results.
"They went through it with a real fine-toothed comb," Resa said.
When the voting was over, Sen. Barack Obama received 66.3 percent of the delegates, and Sen. Hillary Clinton got 33.6 percent, which indicates about 38 delegates for Obama and 20 for Clinton. Those delegates are expected to attend the Texas Democratic Party Convention in Austin from June 5 to 7.
Resa said he could not confirm the exact number of delegates to each until the figures had been plugged into the formula.
From the auditorium's stage, party representatives and precinct chairs spoke and coordinated the event with the aid of PowerPoint presentations and microphones.
Outside of the packed auditorium, several area precinct delegates and alternates met to decide their selections away from the crowded indoor auditorium.
Timothy Phillips of Precinct 209 in Harker Heights watched as 20 members of his precinct selected their delegates and alternates for the state convention from just outside the side entrance auditorium.
"It's a great process from the standpoint that you get to see it up close, so you feel more a part of the process," Phillips said.
During the delegate selection process, several precinct delegates engaged in heated debate. Delegates from Precinct 109 of Temple got into a tense discussion outside between Obama and Clinton supporters debating the explanation of the selection process.
Brian Lloyd of Precinct 303 in Temple watched a row back as members of Precinct 109 returned inside still debating and described the scene as "organized chaos."
"A lot of chaos and confusion, but for the most part our group (Precinct 303) was pretty well-organized," Lloyd said. "I think there are too many issues put on the table. With everything about the state's future and family, you almost have to get involved."
Lloyd said he got involved because he has family serving in Iraq and he wants the best candidate to protect soldiers.
Resa described the scene of people constantly shuffling about debating candidates as not so much chaos as excitement.
"I don't know if I'd call it chaos," Resa said. "It's just a high-energy group."
With almost nothing left to be decided after Sen. John McCain locked up the presidential nomination, there was much less on the line at the Republican convention. The attendees remained seated throughout most of the morning.
There were no PowerPoint presentations and no videos. Republican Party officials provided directions as speakers addressed the audience via microphone.
Bell County Republican Party Chairwoman Nancy Boston said she was pleased with Saturday's turnout and highlighted the record 18,128 voters who turned out for the March 4 primary as a reason to believe the Republican Party in Bell County is growing.
"We continue to grow, even though it wasn't a contested primary."
The Republican Party chose 59 delegates and alternates to go to their state convention in Houston from June 12 to 14, Boston said.
She added that the party was focused on the District 55 Republican nominee runoff between Martha Tyroch and Ralph Sheffield, who both spoke at the convention.
Jackie Smith, a three-time state convention delegate, said she attended the convention because she believes resolutions make a difference, and she hoped to make a difference by getting elected to the state convention again.
"What we do here goes to state (convention), and what we do in state goes to our government in the state and eventually to Washington," Smith said. "I feel like I have a say-so in what happens."
Wanda Slye was one of many first-time delegates who attended party conventions Saturday.
"This is my first convention, and it's exciting because it is an important election year," said the Precinct 101 Republican.
Rosetta Fedelen attended Saturday's convention with her 6-month-old baby and hoped to have an effect in the resolutions portion, which will allow her to voice her concerns about marriage rights and to support the pro-life movement.
"Lots of people complain about the way things are going but don't do anything about it," Fedelen said. "We get to see what's going on. We get to have a say."
Contact Victor O'Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7468