ST. CHARLES • Supporters of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul took control of St. Charles County’s second-try Republican caucus Tuesday night, winning all of its delegates to later stages of the state GOP’s presidential selection process.
The Paul campaign used superior organization to get its people to the meeting at the St. Charles Convention Center. More than 900 people took part overall.
Brent Stafford, the Paul activist who chaired the caucus, said Paul’s supporters were "inspired by his positions on constitutional government and sound fiscal policy’’ and his consistency on issues over the years.
GOP State Chairman David Cole had scheduled the do-over session after the county GOP’s original caucus March 17 disbanded amid boisterous disputes over rules. Two Paul supporters, including Stafford, were arrested at that event.
The session Tuesday night was comparatively calm, although there was some confusion and arguments over procedure at some points.
Paul's caucus victory occurred even though he got less than 13 percent of the vote in the county in the nonbinding GOP presidential primary in February. Paul is far behind front-runner Mitt Romney in national delegate totals.
"They worked hard, were well organized and they got the turnout," Karen Fesler, the disappointed state director of Rick Santorum’s campaign, said of the victorious Paul team.
Fesler and other Santorum backers had hoped to keep Santorum supporters together to advance their own slate even though their candidate had dropped out of the race earlier in the day.
The goal, some said, was to make sure socially conservative issues would be in the national GOP platform.
But Fesler said there was no question their numbers dropped because of Santorum’s announcement.
Buddy Hardin, a Romney campaign leader in the county, took a philosophical view, noting that Romney is now the presumptive nominee given Santorum’s departure from the race.
"Today we won the war so losing the battle tonight doesn’t quite have the same sting," Hardin said.
He said he began working for Romney’s bids for the GOP nomination in 2006. "I can go to bed tonight knowing that has been accomplished, and we can look forward to November," he said.
In St. Charles County, the combined numbers for Santorum and Romney slates didn’t equal those for the Paul slate.
Early in the meeting the Paul contingent flexed its muscle when it elected Stafford, of O’Fallon, Mo., as the caucus chairman.
But it wasn’t immediately clear then whether all voting for Stafford were also for Paul and how the delegates to be chosen later in the evening would be divvied up among Paul and other presidential contenders.
Stafford was picked caucus chairman over Cole, the GOP state chairman, 480-402.
Cole was supported for chairman by the campaign organizations for Romney, Santorum and Newt Gingrich. The Gingrich campaign did not make a major effort to get people to show up.
The caucus was the last in a series of 142 such meetings across the state.
Cole, from Cassville in southwest Missouri, began the meeting as temporary chairman. He then oversaw the election of the caucus chairman, Stafford.
Cole assumed the temporary chairman role from the county GOP committee chairman, Eugene Dokes, whose handling of the March 17 session was sharply criticized.
Cole said in advance that video and audio recording would be allowed. A ban on recording devices by county-based organizers had been a major point of dispute on March 17.
The caucus Tuesday night picked 147 delegates to attend congressional district conventions April 21 and 147 to the GOP state convention in June.
Those meetings in turn will choose most of Missouri’s 52 delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa.