GOP convention cancellation a disappointment for Dalton woman who had been selected as a delegate

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Dalton resident Dianne Putnam stands with the Georgia sign at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, where she served as an alternate delegate. Putnam was selected earlier this year as a delegate to the 2020 Republican National Convention, which was scheduled to be held in August. But last week, President Donald Trump canceled most of the convention activities because of the surging number of new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases.

Four years ago, Dalton's Dianne Putnam stood on the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, thigh deep in confetti and balloons, having witnessed Donald Trump's nomination as the Republican Party candidate for president.

"If you haven't been to a convention, it's hard to express the excitement and the energy in the air," she said.

Putnam, chairman of the Whitfield County Republican Party and a GOP activist for more than 50 years, served as an alternate delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention. Earlier this year, she was selected as a delegate to the 2020 national convention at the state party convention.

But on Thursday, President Trump announced he was canceling the portion of the national convention that was to be held in Jacksonville, Florida, Aug. 24 to Aug. 27, where he was scheduled to give his keynote speech.

"I looked at my team and I said the timing for this event is not right. It's just not right with what's been happening," President Trump said in a press conference, referring to an increase in diagnosed cases of the new coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Democratic Party earlier this year told its national convention delegates not to come to Milwaukee as planned. Instead, that party plans an online "virtual" convention from Aug. 17 to Aug. 20.

A small group of GOP delegates will meet Aug. 24 to Aug. 27 in Charlotte, North Carolina, to formally nominate Trump and Vice President Mike Pence as the party's 2020 nominees and to adopt the party's 2020 platform. But the vast majority of the party's delegates and alternates will stay home.

"I'm very disappointed. I understand why the president made his decision, but this is still a disappointment," Putnam said. "I have wanted to serve as a delegate for a long time. It's something you have to work for, campaign for, and I was so honored when I was elected as a delegate."

In addition to taking care of the business of the convention, many delegates in normal years tour the attractions of the city hosting the event, attend concerts and get to mingle with national politicians.

"For that one week, for that event, the delegates are bigger deals than congressmen," said state Sen. Chuck Payne, R-Dalton, who served as a delegate to the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City.

David Veve, a senior lecturer in political science at Dalton State College, said being selected as a delegate or alternate to a national convention is a reward for people who have a long record of volunteering for their party and its candidates.

"Working on a political campaign is hard work, especially when you aren't getting paid," he said. "Attending a convention, seeing some of the things you've worked for get accomplished, is a major reward."

Payne said he feels for those delegates and alternates who won't get to attend this year's conventions.

"It's like those high school and college seniors who missed out on proms and graduations, or those athletes who had their seasons canceled or shortened (because of the coronavirus pandemic)," he said. "They've had a major moment in their lives taken from them."

Veve said he doesn't believe the canceled conventions will hurt or help one candidate — President Trump or presumptive Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden, a former vice president — more than the other.

Putnam agrees.

"If it was just one party that was affected, it might," she said. "But both parties have basically canceled the main part of their conventions."

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