Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Sun Expanded Coverage
- Ron Paul supporters aren’t holding back (9-1-2008)
Balding and with bright but steady eyes, Wayne Terhune looks like just the kind of guy you want filling the cavity in your rotten tooth.
He is intense yet easygoing, more like the Sparks dentist he is than the revolutionary he has become.
But when the gavel pounded down to close the state Republican Party convention organized by Nevada supporters of presidential hopeful Ron Paul in June, Terhune knew an uprising was beginning. He knew he would wind up here, or somewhere like this.
Almost three weeks ago, Terhune loaded his family in a rental car, drove to St. Paul, and has been hanging around the edge of the Republican National Convention ever since. The dentist who didn’t know the definition of a convention delegate 15 months ago would spend his summer vacation trying to get Nevada’s Paul delegates seated at the Republican National Convention.
It’s the Sunday night on the eve of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, and Paul’s supporters have gathered outside of town at a Western heritage center that looks somewhat like the old-fashioned storefronts at Knott’s Berry Farm.
As hundreds of guests drink and nibble and wait for Paul to arrive, Terhune seems resigned to not having a seat on the convention floor with the Nevada delegation. The delegates Paul backers elected at their June convention were disputed by the state Republican Party. The party chose supporters of Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Imagine what would have happened if delegates from Nevada — a swing state in the presidential election — stood at the convention and cast their votes for Paul instead of McCain.
“It would have been very embarrassing for them,” said Terhune, whose navy blue campaign T-shirt and jeans are subdued compared with the attire of many Paul backers — that mix of the counterculture of the left and right like none other in America.
Neither slate was accepted by the national party, and both sides appealed the decision. They were granted a hearing before national party officials. The Terhunes drove for two days and arrived the morning before the Aug. 24 hearing.
For six hours, Terhune’s colleagues made their case. Two days passed without a ruling. The Terhunes passed time at the Mall of America, the zoo, the State Fair. Last week the panel issued a strongly worded rebuke to the state party for its “ineptness” in the selection of delegates.
But the final decision gave Paul people a few seats among nearly three dozen Nevada would have at the convention.
Most called it a compromise.
Not the dentist.
“We forced them to choose right versus wrong and they chose wrong.”
Terhune came to Nevada 20 years ago, fresh from college, to set up his dental office. It’s a family practice — fillings, root canals, extractions and so on. His wife, Jessica, runs the front office. Their daughter, Jennifer, is finishing up classes to be a dental hygienist. Their son, Robert, is studying at the University of Nevada, Reno.
He hasn’t registered Republican or any other party since college, but “did my voting, thought Fox News was cool.”
Then he heard Ron Paul on the radio. He and Jessica would tape the shows. They moved a few years ago to 40 acres outside the city where they live off the grid powered by solar and wind.
“I think our country’s in trouble,” he said. “Going downhill.”
In Paul, he found “a true patriot,” Terhune said. When the congressman announced he was running for president, the dental office became an informal campaign headquarters. His daughter helped with local media relations.
As part of the compromise reached with the national party, the Nevadans supporting Paul were to be given guest passes to the convention.
They won’t be on the floor, with the action, but can watch from the stands.
On Tuesday, thousands of Paul supporters crammed into Target Center in Minneapolis for a daylong rally that had the look and feel of a shadow convention.
Terhune was on the floor listening to a speech by former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura as he noted that his group of about 15 Nevadans was given 10 guest passes to share.
He and the family were planning to take their turns today.
“I don’t really care to see any of those speeches,” Terhune said. But he thought it would be interesting to take a look. “For next time.”
The family plans to leave this week, heading back to school and to cavities. They might be on the road Thursday around the time McCain is accepting the party’s nomination.