By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
TAMPA, FLA., AUG. 29, 2012….At 18, Evan Kenney is the youngest delegate to the Republican National Convention from Massachusetts, inspired by a good teacher and the values of free enterprise and liberty espoused by the Republican Party.
He’s also a Ron Paul supporter. But unlike other Paul delegates in Tampa, he’s not here to crash Mitt Romney’s party.
“I became a delegate because I had a really motivational teacher at Wakefield Memorial High School who always questioned his students and challenged his students to question authority through logic and reason, never emotion, always use the facts,” Kenney told the News Service on the second night of the Republican National Convention.
“And then I found Dr. Ron Paul who was always talking about the national debt and inflation and the Federal Reserve printing money and he was all about the facts, and I liked that,” he said.
Kenney’s road to Tampa was paved with obstacles, starting with getting certified by the Republican State Committee as a delegate from the home state of the presidential nominee.
Members of the Liberty Caucus flooded local caucuses this year and secured 17 delegate spots, but the state committee decertified the delegates because they did not submit timely affidavits pledging their votes to Romney. An appeal by the delegates was upheld by the Republican National Committee, but in the lead-up to the convention the MassGOP struck a deal to avoid a further appeal. Five five delegates from the Liberty Caucus, including two voting delegates and three alternates, were allowed to attend the convention.
“That internal fight, I like to think that it’s over. It’s behind us,” Kenney said.
Kenney said that since arriving Tampa, leaders of the Massachusetts Republican Party have been nothing but friendly and welcoming. He was even recognized at the delegation breakfast on Tuesday morning.
On the convention floor Tuesday, many Paul delegates shouted out the one-time candidate’s name, and loudly protested the adoption of the convention rules over objections to the process for seating delegates. They were quickly overruled, but not before some members of the Maine delegation walked out over being unseated by the RNC. Minnesota was one state that cast the majority of its delegates for Paul.
Paul, despite his inability to gain traction nationally, has a devoted cast of followers, including libertarians and Tea Party activists, who have staged events and rallies in Tampa throughout the first few days of the convention.
“He turned my attention to the national debt, and I realized I have to pay that off. I already owe hundreds of thousands of dollars to the federal government and I haven’t paid for college yet,” Kenney said of his support for Paul.
Kenney will start college at Fitchburg State University when he returns from Tampa, and plans to study film.
Even though Paul’s quest for the presidency failed and the movement he helped start will likely soon need a new standard-bearer, Kenney said he can always fall back on the “Republican oath.”
“The Republican oath talks about principles of liberty, freedom of enterprise, equal rights, sound money policy, all these great things that I hope all Americans should believe in and those are the real values of the Republican Party,” Kenney said.
It hasn’t been all business for Kenney in Tampa. Kenney said he’s been keeping a journal to help remember all the experiences and people he’s met here, including Rep. Ron Paul and his son Sen. Rand Paul.
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele even recognized him from an interview he did with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
“I’ve been star-struck most of the time, so I’m really grateful for this opportunity,” Kenney said.