PENDLETON — Delegates of the Oregon Republican Party will be flocking to the Pendleton Convention Center from all around the state next weekend, with Umatilla County set to host the 2019 Oregon GOP Platform Convention on Aug. 23 and 24.
“It’s about putting together what Republicans in the state find important,” Umatilla County GOP chair Suni Danforth said.
It’s the first time that Pendleton and Umatilla County have been chosen to host the convention, which is held every two years to confirm that party’s state platform. Attendance is limited to state delegates and county chairs for the party along with others, who are known as “bonus” or “alternative” delegates according to Danforth.
“This convention is to take an entire look at the platform and make tweaks and adjustments,” Danforth said.
Specific attention, she said, is given to ensuring the platform is up-to-date with the current political climate.
In total, Danforth said she is anticipating up to 350 people attending the convention. Costs of registration were $140 for pre-registration, which ended on Sunday, and can still be purchased for $200.
For those who aren’t official party delegates, Danforth said there’s still an option available to be a part of the event.
A fundraiser will be held Saturday night of the convention with guest speaker Stephen Yates, who most recently served as the chair of the Idaho Republican Party and most notably served as former Vice President Dick Cheney’s Deputy to the National Security Advisor from 2001-2005.
Those interested in attending the speech can purchase a ticket for $50 from the Oregon Republican Party’s website, or pay $250 for a VIP ticket that includes a meet and greet, photo and dinner with Yates.
When it comes to the business of the convention, Danforth said the delegates will start on Friday by meeting and then breaking into smaller groups based on issues or platform points that they have particular interest in. The groups will then reconvene to open up discussions about each of the groups’ thoughts and then suggesting those “tweaks” or “adjustments.”
Danforth said that all changes to the platform will be voted on by the delegates present and then at the end of the day on Saturday they will vote on and approve the entire Oregon Republican Party Platform for the next two years.
While he hasn’t regularly attended the conventions himself, Oregon Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, said he’s maintained a strong connection to the GOP infrastructure at the county level since his time as a Umatilla County commissioner.
When he attended a state party platform convention for the GOP, however, it wasn’t his cup of tea.
“What I remember was a lot of arguing and in-fighting,” he said. “It wasn’t something I was particularly attracted to.”
With that being said, Hansell said the nature of the platform conventions often “depends on leadership,” and he’s been impressed and appreciates where state GOP chairman Bill Currier is leading the party.
This time around, Hansell said he expects the convention to be more unified.
Away from the convention, Danforth said she and the Umatilla County branch of the Republican Party are hoping the delegates get to enjoy some of what the region has to offer too.
“We want to showcase some of what’s in Umatilla County and Pendleton,” she said. “There’s a lot of people that are going to be coming that maybe have never been here.”
On Thursday before the convention officially gets underway, Danforth and the party are hosting a welcoming event at the convention center with a bar. Attendees can also choose between pre-registering for the Pendleton Underground Tour or a wine tasting tour at the cost of $20.
Along with that, options for single meals are available throughout the convention’s two days so that those with significant others or children can plan accordingly. Danforth said she’s also been sure to tell people about the various museums and parks in the area along with all that Wildhorse Resort and Casino has to offer.
Hansell sees the convention as another opportunity for others from the state to see what Eastern Oregon is like.
“I think it’s special anytime we’re able to attract people from across the state to come out to our neck of the woods,” Hansell said.
From the convention itself to the tourist attractions around it, Danforth is hoping next weekend’s convention is just the first of many for the Oregon GOP in Pendleton.
“I’m just so excited. I hope for it to return again in two years,” she said.