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Local Republicans Gear Up for Tampa
Lynne Lechter of Lower Merion likens the Republican Party to the state of Israel.
Both entities are morally correct in their stances, contends Lechter, a corporate attorney, but both have allowed their opponents to define them rather than articulating well what they stand for.
She hopes that the upcoming Republican National Convention, which begins Aug. 27 in Tampa, Fla., will serve as the ideal medium for the GOP to present itself as she sees it: as an inclusive, sensible movement that is motivated by a desire to restore fiscal responsibility, grow the economy and combat threats from abroad.
"I can't wait," said Lechter, who serves on the National Women's Committee of the Republican Jewish Coalition and will be heading to the convention as a guest of the RJC. "Our convention, in particular, is going to show people that we are not scripted, that we are truly more diverse than the left is at this point."
Half-a-dozen local Jews are headed to the convention, according to several activists affiliated with the RJC, though none interviewed for this article are going as official, elected delegates.
The relatively small contingent of local GOP Jews are making the trip to network, strategize for the fall election season and make the point with their presence that Jews are a force within the GOP.
They also hope to experience firsthand the official nomination of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to the GOP ticket.
Although the days of brokered conventions are long gone -- some critics contend the events have become little more than scripted campaign commercials -- several people interviewed said they view the convention as a shared, authentic, almost cathartic experience.
Israel, Iran and other foreign policy issues will be on the agenda, but sources said they are just as eager to hear the politicos tackle health care and the economy.
The fate of Medicare, the government-funded health insurance program for seniors, is sure to be a major topic as it has become a central campaign issue ever since Romney tapped Ryan, a budget hawk, to be his running mate. Ryan and others have argued that the GOP is looking to make the health care program sustainable in the long term. Democrats charge Ryan and other Republicans with trying to dismantle the popular government-funded entity.
David Edman, a health care consultant who is attending the convention as a member of both the RJC and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said he is eager to learn more about what the Republicans would do if they managed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He has said he likes certain portions of the law, but overall thinks it's unworkable and fiscally irresponsible. He said he was disturbed by what he described as the out-of-control spending undertaken by Barack Obama's administration.
"I'm going as an interested Jewish American and am hoping to see the future fortunes of our country turned around," he said. "Can we afford four more years of $1 trillion annual budget deficits? That is what we are looking at as far as the eye can see."
Edman and other attendees will have their pick of events catering to Jewish Republicans.
AIPAC will be hosting several gatherings in Tampa, said Edman, a former regional chair of the pro-Israel lobby, which will have a presence at the Democratic National Convention as well.
The RJC will be hosting several events, including one featuring top RJC leadership and GOP lawmakers. The group will also be hosting high-level donors in its suite at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, said Scott Feigelstein, area director of the RJC.
Feigelstein, who is attending his third GOP convention, said he is going "to work" and he "always finds these conventions very inspiring. I draw and feed on the energy of the crowd."
Pam Levy, a member of the Republican State Committee and chair of Women for Mitt in Montgomery County, is planning to attend as an honorary delegate, which means she has no voting power but will have access to events with other delegates.
"I hope to see us all coming together and realizing that our individual differences about small matters don't matter as much as our belief that we have to get this country back on the right track," she said.
"It energizes you," said Levy, who has attended one previous convention as an alternate delegate. "You realize that all these people are with you and you are not fighting alone in this important election. We must elect Mitt Romney for president."