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 2

By Carla Bender          Send a link to a friend

[SEPT. 1, 2004] 

Tuesday, Aug. 31

Republican National Convention

New York City, N.Y.

The theme of the second day of the convention was "Compassion Across America." Our delegation from Illinois participated in a volunteer service activity that was not only worthwhile but fun as well. Early Tuesday morning, we traveled to Harlem, on the north side of Manhattan, with our paintbrushes. Our assignment was to paint the cafeteria of the Boys & Girls Harbor school.

The Boys & Girls Harbor was founded in 1937 as a summer camp for underprivileged immigrant boys. It has grown into a full-scale elementary and high school serving over 6,000 low-income children and young people yearly from the East Harlem area of New York. Having learned so much today about this incredible facility, the committed people who run it and the students we met, we considered it a pleasure to contribute in this small way to their important work there. I would encourage you to visit their website at www.theharbor.org.

We did not get a chance to do any sightseeing today, but here in New York City, going to and from our projects and the convention, you see all sorts of sights. The protesters are still present, although not nearly as many as we expected. Most have been civil, but a few have violated the rules or broken the law and have been arrested.

I thought it was going to be a tough task to top Monday evening's convention speakers, particularly after hearing former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani give his phenomenal speech. However, our speakers -- led by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, immigrant turned bodybuilder, turned movie actor, turned politician
-- were again uplifting and generated excitement among the delegations on the floor.

As governor of a state with the fifth largest economy in the world, he understands the challenges and complexities of leadership at that level. Gov. Schwarzenegger's speech was a humorous, yet hopeful success story of a proud American. One who overcame many challenges himself and, because of the opportunity our America promises to every citizen, was able to overcome many obstacles and ultimately find himself where he is today: a confident leader, filled with the hope and pride this country has been built upon for generations.

One of our Illinois delegates, 2003 Miss America Erica Harold, was given a prime-time speaking spot as well. She is an eloquent speaker and represented Illinois well. Although her term as Miss America has concluded, she has continues to travel the country speaking about volunteerism and the importance of giving back to our communities.


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Tuesday night was also an opportunity to hear from the president and first lady's twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna Bush. They introduced their mom, but not before giving a humorous insight into what it's like to grow up in the spotlight of national politics. The crowd enjoyed this rare opportunity to get a glimpse of the presidential daughters and hear their obvious love and respect for both of their parents.

Laura Bush is revered by the Republican grassroots, and that was evident throughout the convention hall. People respect and admire her quiet, gentle manner and her ability to personalize her message about her husband's commitment and dedication to serving the American people. We can identify with her as one of us, and that is proven by her approval ratings and her popularity, not only among Republicans but across the political spectrum. Her dignity and poise brings honor to the title of "first lady," and her love and devotion to her family and her husband are clearly a priority in her life. Her speech reinforced the mood in the convention hall that President Bush is a strong, solid leader and that he has not only the experience and strength to lead, but, just as importantly, the heart to lead our nation.

After the convention, I rode the delegate bus back to the hotel with former Gov. Jim Edgar. He is enjoying this convention as much as anyone here. Not a minute goes by without someone approaching him asking him to consider getting back into Illinois public service. His answer is always the same: We need to get President Bush re-elected, and that is the priority we need to focus on right now. I choose to see that from the "glass half-full" perspective… He hasn't said no.

* * *

On Wednesday, Dave and I, along with former Lincoln resident Eric Robinson, will be having lunch with Gov. and Mrs. Edgar at Blue Smoke, a restaurant owned by a fellow Illinoisan, Mike Mills of Murphysboro. We also will be attending a joint caucus meeting with delegates from Illinois and New Jersey, followed by Convention Session 4, featuring Democratic U.S. Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia and Vice President Dick Cheney.

[Carla Bender, 18th Congressional District delegate]


Other postings

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]

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.

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