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Houston Chronicle - GOP Gathering Ends with Applause and Plans: Party Leaders Close Convention Here with Focus on Conservatism

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Houston Chronicle - GOP Gathering Ends with Applause and Plans: Party Leaders Close Convention Here with Focus on Conservatism

A black candidate drew the biggest reaction Saturday on the last day of the Texas Republican Convention — and he was someone other than Barack Obama, who was portrayed by speakers during the previous two days as a threat to freedom and liberty.

"As the descendant of a slave who was owned by a judge, I stand before you as chief justice," said Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, of San Antonio.

That was when the crowd of about 6,200 delegates and alternatives responded with robust approval. The applause for Jefferson's description of his path to prominence was more enthusiastic than the clapping for a video about presumptive presidential nominee John McCain.

As Republicans marshal their vote-getting machinery against presumptive Democratic nominee Obama, Jefferson, fellow justice Dale Wainwright of Houston and the state GOP's vice chairman, Dr. Robin Armstrong of Texas City, gave blacks significant representation on the convention stage in downtown Houston.

Paul supporters show up
Jefferson, appointed chief justice in 2004 by Gov. Rick Perry, pledged loyalty to the GOP creed that justices should interpret rather than make law. He is on the Nov. 4 ballot for chief justice against Democratic state District Judge Jim Jordan of Dallas.

McCain, scheduled to visit Dallas on Monday and Houston on Tuesday for public and private campaign events, looked for votes in Connecticut and New Jersey while the Texas convention took place.

Delegates saw a video Saturday that emphasized McCain's experience as a Navy flier who became a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

The audience applauded for eight seconds at the end of the presentation, which cast the candidate as a steely leader willing to make enemies in Washington to protect America.

When the convention was declared over, a few supporters of Rep. Ron Paul's presidential campaign chanted his name — two days after Paul officially ended his quest for the White House to devote time to building a national organization to elect libertarian-leaning Republicans to all levels of government.

Paul was among several Republican congressmen from Texas who, after telling party officials they would come to the convention to be honored Saturday, did not show up. Only five of the state's 19 Republican House members did. State party spokesman Hans Klingler said there was no word from Paul about his absence, and a Paul spokesman did not respond to messages from the Chronicle.

Activists urged to unite
Republican activists who had never considered McCain conservative enough left Houston on Saturday after hearing a stream of admonishments from party figures to support him as the clear choice over Obama. The other central theme of the convention, which took issue with several policies of Perry and President Bush, was that Republican candidates will succeed if they hew to limited government and to conservative principles on social issues such as abortion.

From U.S. Sen. John Cornyn to re-elected state GOP Chairwoman Tina Benkiser to former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, speakers said Obama was one of the most liberal candidates to ever take the national stage and that many of his stands on the issues approach socialism and are a threat to the American way.

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