Illinois GOP delegates deal with storm as they make way to Tampa

The Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., should be relatively calm — at least when it comes to choosing a nominee for president.

But from a weather standpoint, matters were getting stormy for several Illinois delegates.

Faced with the threat of Tropical Storm Issac approaching the host city, several delegates were adjusting their travel plans Sunday, though none intended to skip the event entirely.

Jay Bergman, a delegate from the 11th Congressional District, postponed plans to fly to Tampa on Sunday with State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, state Rep. Tom Cross and state Rep. Dan Brady. Instead he will head south late Monday or early Tuesday, after the storm is expected to pass.

“I wish it didn’t happen, but it’s very understandable,” said Bergman, who’s looking forward to his first convention. “You can’t control Mother Nature, and for whatever reason she has decided there is going to be a hurricane right now.”

Still, he doesn’t think the convention will be seriously affected by the Republicans’ decision to cancel Monday’s events.

“The Democratic convention is only three days anyway,” he said.

Bergman, the president of an energy company, said he will use the extra day to do some work out of his office in Hinsdale.

Several delegates said they were either in Tampa already or headed there, despite the weather.

“We have been watching the (storm) forecast pretty close and I think they’re pretty sure we’re just going to have rain,” said John Hurst, a delegate from southern Illinois. “The Illinois delegation has several things planned.”

State Rep. Sidney Mathias, an alternate delegate, said he arrived in Tampa Sunday after an uneventful flight, except for occasional choppiness.

“Of course, it’s always in the back of your mind,” he said. “Before we left, they said it was veering more toward the west. I’m sure we’re going to get hit with something. Hopefully we’re not in the direct path and it won’t be as bad. Either way, it’s going to rain a lot.”

Mathias is attending his fourth convention, where he expects to meet with leaders from across the country, including members of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Tinley Park Village Clerk Patrick Rea also arrived Sunday, finding a city experiencing overcast weather conditions.

Rea has some familiarity with hurricanes. He was appointed by President George W. Bush three months after Hurricane Katrina to head the Small Business Administration’s response to the storm and overhaul the disaster recovery process for future catastrophes.

“So I’m familiar with this, and I’m honestly looking forward to watching it come in,” he said. “I wanted to be above the first two floors, and here I am on the third.”

Dan Peterson, delegate from Glenview, said he was planning to fly himself to Tampa in a single propeller plane, but the forecast led him to fly commercial instead.

Jay D. Bergman
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