NEW YORK - Umatilla County Commissioner Bill Hansell is outnumbered. Attending the Republican National Convention as the president-elect of the National Association of Counties, he said there are about 5,000 delegates and alternates at the convention and 40,000 media.
"That's a ratio of one to eight," he noted.
But it didn't detract from enjoying the spectacle of the first day of the convention. He was impressed by the dynamic kick-off speakers - U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani - and the level of security.
"To be in the audience and hear them live was quite an experience," Hansell said, noting that McCain "gave a solid speech, and he was very clear in his support for President Bush."
As for Giuliani, "the crowd loved him," Hansell said, rising to its feet to applaud several times during his remarks. Hansell noted that Giuliani's popularity seems to be as strong now as it was in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.
"Both speakers pointed out the inconsistencies in both the statements and voting record of Sen. John Kerry," Hansell said. "I am sure this will continue to be a theme in the campaign ahead. They also spoke highly of the leadership of President Bush, and why he deserves to be re-elected."
The convention is at Madison Square Garden in mid town, and it's blanketed in security, Hansell said.
"I took a cab and was dropped off two blocks from the Garden." he said. "I learned these are New York blocks, not Athena blocks - they are quite a bit longer. The key to access is your credential card. As you enter the checkpoint your card is checked, and then rechecked several times en route to the building entrance."
There are lots of police officers strategically placed, he said, and the streets around the Garden are closed to traffic.
"Once inside the Garden your credentials are scanned, and then you go through and airport-type of screening," Hansell said. "A lady in front of me had to leave her umbrella behind."
Hansell said he had a "great seat" in the third level.
The longtime Umatilla County commissioner is staying in a hotel near "ground zero" in the financial district, along with the delegations from Guam, Hawaii, North Dakota and Nebraska.
Security was tight at the hotel as well. Hansell said he was asked to show his room key prior to being allowed on the elevator.