One in a series of profiles of Maryland delegates to the Republican National Convention

O.P. Ditch almost didn't make it to the Republican National Convention — not because of Tropical Storm Isaac, but rather a missed deadline.

The retired Air Force colonel decided in January he wanted to be a delegate for Mitt Romney. But after making up his mind, the 73-year-old Vietnam veteran learned that the deadline to put his name on the ballot was only hours away. There wasn't enough time.

And so Ditch embarked on the only other path would-be delegates and alternates may take to reach Tampa: He ran as an at-large candidate at the state's GOP convention in April. Ditch launched an aggressive effort that included old-fashioned retail politics as well as a modern social media drive.

"I mounted a bit of a campaign at the convention," Ditch said, chuckling. "I even had buttons made up."

The effort paid off: Ditch, who lives in Eklridge, was elected as an alternate and arrived in Florida this week.

Ditch lived in Virginia for more than 40 years before moving to Maryland in 2010. He soon began to volunteer for Republican campaigns in his adopted state.

He helped organize Hispanic and veterans groups for Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s unsuccessful 2010 gubernatorial run, for instance.

Now, he says, he's inspired by Republican candidate Dan Bongino's campaign to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin in November.

Bongino is expected to visit with the delegation this week.

Ditch acknowledges the transition from Virginia to Maryland politics was difficult at first. Republicans control the capital in Virginia and the state is a battleground in this presidential election.

In Maryland, Democrats control state government, and voters are expected to back Obama in November.

But Ditch argues that there are signs of GOP progress even in deeply blue Maryland.

"My enthusiasm for Maryland politics has been building slowly," he said.

His support for Romney, however, is solid.

"The main thing now for me is we've got to get Obama out of there," he said.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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