TAMPA, Fla. – Springdale Republican Tom Lundstrum found himself in the midst of a major storm at the Republican National Convention, but it wasn’t named Isaac.
Lundstrum, a member of the convention rules committee, was instead confronted by a political storm over the 2016 nominating process.
Under pressure from the Romney campaign, the committee last week voted to give candidates veto power over national delegates, allowing White House hopefuls to handpick their own loyalists.
While aimed largely at supporters of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the rule was also viewed as an attack on states’ rights to select their own delegates.
"The way I interpret that is, a presidential candidate may at any time disavow any duly elected delegate. That is intolerable to us," Lundstrum said.
Lundstrum and Reta Hamilton of Bella Vista voted in opposition but the amendment was approved. Those opposed were prepared to take the fight to the floor and potentially spoil the image of GOP unity that the Romney campaign wants to portray.
A stormy floor fight was averted when Romney’s team offered a compromise that would essentially require delegates to vote for the candidate they had pledged to support.
"I’m comfortable with the compromise. I voted for it," Lundstrum said.
Hamilton remained unhappy with the rule changes and said she voted against them. The committee voted Tuesday afternoon in favor of the revised rules, 78 to 14.
Under the new rule, delegates would be invalidated if they vote for a candidate other than the one they are bound to support under their state’s rules.
The Arkansas delegates, who all voted for Romney, included several supporters of Paul.
Todd Ellis of Little Rock and Zach Smart of Romance, who favor Paul, said they appreciated Lundstrum and Hamilton for sticking up for states rights. They both vehemently opposed the rule change and would have preferred no compromise.
"It’s an assault on states rights. And, if this is any indication of how Romney would govern, then he is no conservative," Smart said.
Ellis said he was bound to support Romney even though his allegiances are with Paul. He decided to become a delegate in the hopes that the Paul supporters would have an influence on the Republican Party platform.
"I support his (Paul’s) message of liberty and freedom," Ellis said.
Lundstrum, who chairs the Arkansas Republican Party rules committee, said he did not want to see future presidential candidates hand-picking delegates as could occur had the initial amended rule been adopted.
That, he said, could lead to a situation where delegates would get selected based on campaign contributions rather than being selected by their local party.
Lundstrum said he joined the rules committee because it plays an important role in how the nominee is selected.
"I want to make sure the playing field is consistent," he said.