MERNA - - The Republican National Convention was filled with rally speeches from high profile people, and days filled with events designed to fire up the party members in attendance. One of those party members, serving as a Nebraska delegate to the convention, was Craig Safranek of Merna.
Craig was only in junior high in 1984, when a teacher got him interested in the presidential election. He remembers watching Ronald Reagan, and being fascinated by the fact that one man could have such a profound affect on the nation and the world.
He also recalls Nebraska Governor Kay Orr visiting the community of Merna when he was young. His grandmother was the town’s mayor at the time, so he got to meet the governor in person - which for a kid was pretty neat.
His interest in politics continued to grow as he did, and when he was in college he volunteered his time working for the Bush/Quale campaign against Bill Clinton. In his early years of interest in politics, it was more the candidate than the party that captured his attention. As he grew older he found himself agreeing more with the Republican candidates than any others, and his party roots took shape.
In 2005, Craig was selected for the L.E.A.D. program, and had an opportunity to meet Governor Heineman.
“He kind of took me under his wing and introduced me to the political world,” says Craig of Gov. Heineman.
The governor encouraged Craig to run for the office of chairman of the Custer County Republicans, when health issues forced long-time chair Keith Glaze to give it up. Craig has served in that position since 2006, and has served as 3rd Congressional District chair for the party for the past three years.
Craig was one of three Custer County delegates to the Nebraska Republican Conven-tion, along with Ann Owen and Kevin Cooksley. The number of delegates representing each county at the state convention is determined by the percentage of votes country-wide for the last Republican presidential candidate. This year, Custer County had three delegates and three alternates for the state convention.
At that convention, anyone interested in representing Nebraska at the national convention signs up to run. The more than 400 delegates at the state convention then vote on delegates for the national convention, with Nebraska sending 35 delegates.
Of those 35, Craig explains, there is the state party chair, the state committee man, the state committee woman, three representatives from each congressional district, and 23 others selected from across the state. Craig says the fact that he has served as the 3rd district chair for the past three years made him a little more known among the states delegates.
Each of the state’s 35 delegates paid $250 to attend the national convention, to help offset some of the costs incurred by the state party. The delegates also paid for their own hotel rooms for the four-day convention in Tampa, Fla., which ran from Aug. 27-30.
The first day of the convention was the event all of the state delegates were officially there for - the casting of the votes for a candidate. Of the 35 delegate votes from Nebraska, 33 went to Mitt Romney and 2 to Ron Paul. The state chair officially announces the votes when his or her state is called.
Craig says the party focused primarily on women and Latino voters at this convention, which included some powerful female speakers such as Condoleezza Rice. Other speakers included Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer, Ann Romney, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and actor Clint Eastwood.
Craig says seeing the event live was pretty exciting, especially the balloon drop at the end.
“It just brought back lots of memories of watching those big conventions on TV as a kid, and wondering if this would be one people would talk about years from now.”
It’s an opportunity not a lot of people get, and one Craig says he is glad he had the chance to experience.