by David Safier
It was a scene. I never got into the Republican special meeting at the Manning House. The planned order of business is to amend the bylaws so their current embarrassment chair, Brian Miller, can be kicked out, then kick him out using the amended bylaws. When I left at 6pm, after standing at the door since 4:30, the beginning of the meeting was still a half hour away.
There were three types of people there: pro-Millerites, of the Tea-Party-and-close persuasion ("Keep Miller, he's our man"); Republican establishment anti-Miller types; and the media. (The ones I recognized were Channel 9 News, Fox News, Dylan Smith of the online Tucson Sentinel and me.)
The door was closed, and only PCs were allowed in -- a few hundred in my estimation. About 30 non-PC Republican Millerites milled around outside. Smith stood by the door next to me recording the proceedings (I picked it up on my pocket audio recorder, but he was getting video), and the TV crews filmed a bit. Both the excluded Republicans and the Millerite PCs were very, very angry about the whole scene.
Among the excluded was Randy Graf, one time Republican state legislator and the party's standard bearer against Gabby Giffords in her first CD-8 race. He's not a PC, so he couldn't get in. We chatted a bit. He appeared to be amused, like he enjoyed watching the party break in two.
One excluded woman stood on the steps and shouted to the crowd against what she said was a rush job to get rid of Miller.
"The last time something was rushed through, it was the Health Care law, and you didn't like that, did you?"
Every once in awhile, she would renew the theme by shouting, "You didn't like it when Obama did it, but now you're doing it." That was her catch-all argument against everything that was going on.
As the last PCs were entering, Cap'n Al Melvin slid up, wearing a white polo shirt with "Al Melvin, State Senator" in a circle insignia over his heart (It may be an official-issue shirt, I don't know). A very nice, apologetic man in an NRA cap was guarding the closed door. He kept telling me, "I don't like what's going on here, keeping people out, but I just want to keep things civil and peaceful, that's all." When Melvin approached the door, the man politely asked him, as he asked everyone, "Are you a PC, sir?" Melvin answered, "I Am A State Senator." Those were his words, but his tone said, "Out of my way, peasant!" You had to be there to fully appreciate the moment.
Once everyone was inside, Chair Brian Miller came out to talk with his supporters who couldn't get in and to the press. He said there was plenty of room inside, and once the meeting was called to order, he was going to request that Republicans and the media be allowed in. He was very cool, but needless to say, he expressed extreme displeasure with the whole affair.
What happened, according to Miller, was, this afternoon Ann Stevenson (sp?), wife of a member of the executive committee, had contractual powers granted over the meeting by the Manning House. That made it her affair, meaning, according to House rules, she could include and exclude whomever she saw fit. I'm sure that's a violation of open meetings law, but that will have to come out in the wash.
The owner of the Manning House, looking shaken, came out on the steps and addressed the crowd, saying she was sorry, but since this is private property, she would have to ask us all to leave. She was backed up by a few police who were there for crowd control. Miller told the crowd to wait, if they wished, across the street, and he would telephone to let people know if they could come in.
I decided not to wait. As I drove away, another half dozen police cars were driving up the street to the Manning House. It should be an interesting night.
You can learn more, maybe, on Channel 9 or Fox News, but for the most complete coverage, I'm guessing you should go to the Tucson Sentinel and see what Smith writes and what videos he posts.