Carroll residents speak about experiences at GOP convention

Years before he would become a lawyer, the Mayor of Hampstead or a Carroll County Commissioner, a 7-year-old Haven Shoemaker watched the 1972 Republican National Convention.

"How cool would it be to go to the convention?" the young Shoemaker said to himself. Forty years later, Shoemaker and his wife Patty landed in Tampa for the 2012 Republican National Convention. The weeklong event was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A dream come true, Shoemaker said.

"To experience it firsthand is really something else," Shoemaker said. "I guess I can cross another thing off my bucket list."

Shoemaker was among a handful of Carroll County residents that took the trek to Florida to watch former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney receive the Republican nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in the November general election. The convention is meant to unify the Republican Party and introduce their presidential candidate and his ticket to the world.

Aside from Shoemaker, Sen. Joseph Getty, R-District 5, and Larry Helminiak, chairman of the Republican Central Committee of Carroll County, also attended the convention. Both Getty and Helminiak served on Maryland's convention delegation.

"The convention was everything anyone could hope for and maybe a little bit more," Helminiak said.

The big highlights of the convention for Helminiak were speeches from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and actor/director Clint Eastwood. Helminiak said he was impressed that Rice gave her speech without a teleprompter. The speeches were fantastic to watch, he said.

Shoemaker and his wife stayed with the rest of the Maryland delegation for the convention. Though not official delegates, Shoemaker said he and his wife were able to get a few guest passes to attend events at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Aside from the actual events during the convention, Shoemaker said the Maryland delegation and guests took tours, ate meals together, had guest speakers and took in the atmosphere of the event. Shoemaker said he spotted a few celebrities and even got interviewed by a reporter from Los Angeles.

The actual convention, Shoemaker said, was spectacular. Speeches by Romney and vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan were very good, he said. Patty Shoemaker, a New Jersey native, really enjoyed the speech from Garden State Gov. Chris Christie, the commissioner said.

"The convention was an attempt to unify us as a party behind our nominee after a rather divisive primary, and I think it accomplished that," Shoemaker said. "Republicans are coming out of this convention in Tampa ready to go to the mat to try to get our nominee elected in November."