Introduction to Republican
National Convention    
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By Carla Bender

(Written prior to the convention)

[AUG. 31, 2004]  The Republican National Convention is being held at Madison Square Garden in New York City Aug. 30 through Sept. 2.

Illinois has 73 delegates and 70 alternate delegates. Of this total, 60 delegates and alternate delegates were elected in the March primary. The alternates, of course, will serve in the event a delegate is ill or unable to fulfill his or her duties. The number of delegates for the congressional district is determined based on population and Republican votes cast in the last primary in each of Illinois' 19 congressional districts.

I was elected in the 18th Congressional District, which is made up of 18 counties, or parts of counties, in central Illinois, including Logan, Peoria, Adams, Mason, Menard, Tazewell and part of Sangamon, among others.

The remaining 13 delegates who were not elected are at-large delegates appointed by the Republican National Committee. Some at-large delegates for this convention are former Govs. Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson and State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka. Others are long-serving members of the state Republican Party or former statewide elected officials.

In years past the national conventions held by the two major American political parties were instrumental in the process of determining who the party's nominee would ultimately be. In past decades there were spirited debates by members of the same party at the convention. Supported by factions of their party, they attempted to convince the state delegates to vote for their candidacy rather than the other guy (it was literally always the other “guy” in those days). Often the nominee came out of the convention fresh from an internal battle in his own party.

As the spring primaries have evolved over the years to take over the presidential nomination process, the conventions themselves have become less a factor in who the nominee will be. Today the primary process has taken place by midsummer and the choice for the nominee is obvious. The convention simply makes it official as each state delegation votes for the candidate who won in the primaries. The conventions have gradually become more of an opportunity for each party, through their nominee, to highlight their leadership plans, platforms and vision for the next four years if their candidate wins the presidency of the United States. 


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I look forward to the excitement of the convention and the opportunity to be a part of the process and witness the historic speech President Bush will give on Thursday night, Sept. 2, for his vision for our nation in the next four years. It will be my first experience as a delegate to a national convention and I am not sure what to expect, but I know it will be exciting to personally witness a historic event and represent my state.

The National Republican Committee officials and staff have briefed us regularly on the planning and preparation for this enormous event. Much has been made in the media of the security issues surrounding the convention and what precautions are being taken to keep the city safe. The Illinois delegation happens to be staying in the same hotel as the Secret Service. That fact alone is reassuring to us.

The conventions, both Democratic and Republican, were designated as special Secret Service events, and therefore the Secret Service will be in charge of security and will be supported and assisted by 10,000 of the 50,000 New York City Police Department officers. All of the security measures that can be taken are being taken, and I anticipate very tight security throughout the city, particularly in the Midtown area near Madison Square Garden. We have already been told that only delegates with credentials will be allowed into Madison Square Garden. No guests or other nonofficial personnel will be allowed entry. This heightened security effort may make for long lines and a lot of waiting, but this is unavoidable and a welcome assurance to many that safety and security are paramount.

I will be apprising Logan County and the citizens of the 18th Congressional District of Illinois, who sent me to the convention, on the happenings daily.

[Carla Bender, 18th Congressional District delegate]

Republican National Convention, Day 1

By Carla Bender          Send a link to a friend

[AUG. 31, 2004] 

Monday, Aug. 30

Republican National Convention

New York City, N.Y.

First day of the convention has been an eventful start to the week. The Republican National Convention is taking place in Midtown, the heart of New York City. Madison Square Garden, the site of the convention, is cordoned off and traffic cannot move within a five-block perimeter. New Yorkers, who stand to be significantly inconvenienced, greet us warmly with their thanks for coming to their city. There are volunteers everywhere who are pleasant and welcoming, answering our questions and giving us directions.

New York is a fascinating city: a true melting pot of what is great about our nation. It is an amalgamation of people of all races, nationalities and ethnicities. As different as it is from the Midwest, we share commonalities. New York is people, Americans, pursuing their dreams, raising their families and building futures. It is an exciting and vibrant environment for what will certainly prove to be an equally exciting week.

Safety is a priority, and every conceivable measure has been undertaken to secure the Midtown area. The New York City Police Department and private security, commanded by the U.S. Secret Service, are visible literally everywhere on horseback, motorcycles and on foot. The transportation system for the Illinois delegation is even staffed with a New York City police officer riding back and forth with us. Walking in Times Square, close to the NBC "Today Show" studios, last night, I saw a sight I never thought I would see in the United States: police officers carrying machine guns on city streets. There is no doubt that this city is as safe as it can conceivably be. The NYPD has 50,000 officers. The convention is the duty assignment to 10,000 for the next week.

We have seen some protesting. On the first day they were out in force, although not in the numbers that some media outlets would lead you to believe. We have seen small groups walking down the city streets, beating drums, chanting and, in the more demonstrative groups, some shouting obscenities and telling us to go home. They are, however, a small minority and have not seemed to cause disruption of any consequence. Entitled to their opinion, they have chosen to express it in that way.

Today's activities between convention sessions included a visit to the site of the World Trade Center towers. It was a sobering experience, serving as a stark reminder of how important this election is to this nation and to the world. Sept. 11, 2001, shook us from our complacency. It brought our nation together, united as we have never been in recent history. Those tragic events have in fact defined George W. Bush's presidency. Logically, a consideration of his success, or lack thereof, cannot be separated from Sept. 11 and its aftermath. Thus, in Monday night's convention speeches there were a great deal of references to the attack on America.


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Sen. John McCain spoke about the uniting consequences of that day. He reminded us that we were united first in sorrow and anger and then in recognition that our very freedom had been threatened. We were also sadly united in the profound realization of all that was lost that day. McCain's message was a resounding endorsement of President Bush's policy on the war in Iraq and the importance of a strong national defense.

The line that got the biggest reaction from the delegates was when he referred to the inaccuracies in Michael Moore's movie "Fahrenheit 911." The speech paused for literally several minutes while the delegations went wild exclaiming their fervent disagreement with the premise of Moore's movie.

Next we witnessed a moving and emotional testimonial from three victims of 9/11. Victims because they lost loved ones in the attacks. There was a moment of prayer at that point in thanks and remembrance. As the saying goes, you could have heard a pin drop. The entirety of Madison Square Garden was silent.

The highlight of the night was former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He pointed out that there has never before been a Republican convention in New York and said he had never seen so many Republicans in New York. His impassioned statement of support and endorsement of his friend George Bush was honest and heartfelt. Giuliani's remarks, too, focused substantially on Sept. 11 and President's Bush's response to those acts of terrorism. He reinforced the message that a strong American military is critical at this time and emphasized that America needs strong and steady leadership now more than ever.

I consider serving as a delegate to the National Republican Convention an opportunity to serve in a meaningful way, not only as an elected delegate in the political process but also as one of millions of American responding to President Bush's call to service. The theme of the convention is "Compassion Across America." President Bush has chosen to use this convention to reach out to Americans and encourage volunteerism in their respective communities.

In keeping with the theme, the Illinois delegation is organizing and participating in a service project at the Boys & Girls Harbor Youth Center and school in Harlem. Tomorrow we are scheduled to paint two large rooms in the facility. I look forward to the experience of visiting a school which, while I am sure will be similar in many ways to our schools in rural America, I am equally certain there will be some distinctive differences.

Note: Tuesday's schedule includes the Illinois delegation's hands-on service project. Speakers on Tuesday night will be first lady Laura Bush, Secretary of Education Rod Paige and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

[Carla Bender, 18th Congressional District delegate]

Carla Bender bio     Send a link to a friend

[AUG. 31, 2004] 

Carla BenderCarla Bender, a native of Logan County, was elected clerk of the Circuit Court in 1992. She is currently in her third term as Circuit Court clerk, having been re-elected to this office in 1996 and 2000. Previously she served as a juvenile probation officer, field manager for the Court Services Division of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts and as a researcher for a U.S. Department of Justice project examining the issue of missing and abducted children. She is also a member of the part-time faculty at Lincoln College.

A graduate of Lincoln College and the University of Illinois at Springfield, she holds a bachelor's degree in legal studies. She is presently pursuing a master's degree in communication at the University of Illinois. In 1996 she was among 15 Illinois women to be selected to receive a fellowship from the Illinois Lincoln Excellence in Public Service Series Inc., a nonprofit Republican educational foundation.

She is past president of the Illinois Association of Circuit Court Clerks and serves as vice president on the board of the Illinois Association of County Officials. As a community volunteer, she has served as president of the Lincoln Area YMCA board of directors, as a volunteer for the local chapter of United Way and as a group fitness instructor at the Lincoln Park District. She is a recipient of the Key Leaders Award for Outstanding Volunteerism from the YMCA of the USA, Illini Cluster.


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She has been politically active for over 20 years. She has volunteered on the campaigns of Republican candidates at every level of government, including the campaigns for George Bush Sr., Bob Dole and George W. Bush. She has participated in and directed the activities of various state candidates and many local campaigns, including her own. In 1992, her first time on the ballot, she defeated a four-term incumbent Democrat to win her first election as clerk of the Circuit Court. Beginning in 1993 she served as campaign manager for state Rep. John Turner during his four terms in the Illinois General Assembly until he was appointed Appellate Court justice in 2001. She was elected in the 18th Congressional District as a delegate to the National Republican Convention in 2004. She currently serves as the Logan County coordinator for U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood.

She lives in Lincoln with her husband of 16 years, Dave, and children Alex and Jeris.

Republican National Convention agenda   Send a link to a friend

[AUG. 31, 2004] 

Monday, Aug. 30


  • Mayor Michael Bloomberg
  • Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani
  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Tuesday, Aug. 31

In keeping with President Bush's call to service, the Illinois delegation has organized and will participate in service projects while in New York. This service initiative presents a great opportunity to show our delegation's commitment to answer President Bush's call to community service and share with people across the country our party's positive, compassionate message during this historic week.

The Illinois delegates will paint two large rooms in the cafeteria of the Boys & Girls Harbor Youth Center and school in Harlem, paint an activity room at the Salvation Army Williams Memorial Residence, and will be gathering donations for the Bowery Mission, the third oldest gospel mission in the United States meeting the critical physical needs of New York City's homeless. We will also be participating in blood drive on Sunday and Monday at the New York Blood Center, which is experiencing a critical shortage of blood.


  • Laura Bush, first lady
  • Secretary of Education Rod Paige
  • California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

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Wednesday, Sept. 1


  • Mrs. Lynne Cheney
  • Vice President Dick Cheney
  • Sen. Zell Miller, D-Georgia

Thursday, Sept. 2


  • New York Gov. George Pataki
  • President George W. Bush

[Provided by Carla Bender,
18th Congressional District delegate]

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