Before departing for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Patch caught up with Horsham Township 13th district delegate Bill Donnelly to hear past convention highlights, what he thinks of Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and if we can expect to see him on TV wearing a funny hat.
Donnelly, an eight-time RNC veteran, Horsham Township Republican Party Chairman since 1976 and a board member for the Horsham Land Redevelopment Authority – the entity tasked with overseeing the redevelopment of 862 acres of the shuttered Willow Grove air base – shared his excitement for Tampa, Romney and door-knocking post-convention.
Patch: How does a person become a delegate?
Donnelly: File a petition and put your name on a ballot and campaign. It’s not so much work. It’s expensive. You have to pay for it. I’m excited to go there. The convention is to get the workers all pumped up. I enjoy doing it.
You have to like politics. It’s not where everybody would spend their vacation.
Patch: What are some of your most memorable convention moments?
Donnelly: I had my family with me and (football coach) John Fox got my son out on the convention floor with a bunch of other young people, right under the podium when Joe Paterno threw out the votes for Pennsylvania.
(In Dallas in 1984) I had my youngest daughter there. She was 10. And I thought she wouldn’t even know what was going on, but ‘til this day she remembers being there … New York was the most exciting.
Philadelphia (in 2000) was exciting too. I remember being in a suite the night they nominated (George W. Bush) and I turned around and standing next to me was Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Patch: Are we going to see you on TV in a funny hat?
Donnelly: I’ve been known to do those things. You put the things on so you get on TV -something that stands out.
Patch: Have you had much one-on-one time with candidates in the past?
Donnelly: Ronald Reagan, when they had him here for an event up at Sunnybrook ... I went aback and stood by the kitchen door … I was the first person he had time to talk to.
I was at county headquarters with George Bush Sr. during a one-on-one with about 50 people.
Patch: Do you think locals will have time with Romney?
Donnelly: It’s how much he thinks he needs Pennsylvania. It’s the states that they really need --- I have to assume that we’re one of those states that he thinks he could win.
Patch: Do you feel that your presence at the convention will make an impact? How so?
Donnelly: It would probably get me more excited about everything and I would go out and talk to as many people as possible.
(Editor’s note: Donnelly’s political subdivision is close to 900 registered voters, representing a 3-1 Republican ratio. Following the convention, he said he will begin door-knocking in earnest).
Patch: What’s your prediction for this election?
Donnelly: I think it’s going to be a very close election. I’ve been doing this almost 40 years.
Whenever the economy is bad they get rid of whoever’s in there … They think they need a change.
Patch: These days a lot of people are disenchanted with the two major parties. What makes you proud of your party?
Donnelly: I believe in what Franklin and Adams and Jefferson put together. It works. They understood the whole process … I believe in smaller government. I don’t think I need government to do everything for me … I think the Republican Party represents that.
Patch: Do you know other delegates going, or are you about to join thousands of strangers on the convention floor?
Donnelly: I know all the delegates in the 13th district. You see a lot of people. You see people you’ve met over the years. You get to talk and mingle with everyone.
Patch: What are you looking forward to most at the convention?
Donnelly: Just having a good time in Tampa and hopefully I get much more excited about this election than I am now.
Patch: What would you want your neighbors to know about the convention?
Donnelly: It’s an exciting, informative time. It’s to get people involved in politics to get excited to go out and talk to their neighbors. It provides insight on what the candidates really think.
Patch: How did you get involved with local politics?
Donnelly: I moved here in 1971. This is where I was going to raise my family so I got involved in the community. (Editor’s note: Donnelly served one year on Horsham Township Council, finishing out the term of an elected official who resigned. In 1976, he became the Republican Party Chairman, a role the semi-retired commercial realtor and insurance man still holds).
I like government. I like being involved in my community. This has been a Republican community ever since I’ve been chairman.
Patch: If Romney asked you what issues really matter in Horsham, what would you say?
Donnelly: I think one of the biggest issues in Horsham of course is economics, tax reform.
Patch: What do you wish people in your town knew more about Romney?
Donnelly: I wish they understood him a lot better … I think he’s the kind of person that the voters of Horsham would vote for (a moderate).
Patch: What is the most surprising thing that you’ve seen or heard about the convention?
Donnelly: There’s a hurricane coming.
The most exciting thing is getting to hear (New Jersey Governor Chris) Christie speak. I’m happy to have Christie speak. I’m kind of nervous about this hurricane. Hurricanes don’t usually come into Tampa.