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Arizona delegates weather soggy start to Republican convention

TAMPA, Fla. – The hurricane didn't show up for the official opening of the Republican National Convention on Monday. Neither did the Arizona delegation.

Arizona, like a number of other states, didn't issue credentials to its delegates to attend the official, scaled-down opening of the convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Monday due to logistical concerns raised by Tropical Storm Isaac, a state party spokesman said. The state's seats, right near the podium, sat empty.

But there was not a whole lot to see for the people who were there.

Ten minutes after Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus officially kicked off the convention with the drop of a gavel and a few opening remarks Monday, he called a recess until Tuesday afternoon. The one-day pause had been scheduled by convention planners when it appeared a storm might threaten Tampa.

Still, some Arizona delegates were upset even to miss that abbreviated ceremony.

"You want to experience it all," said Ed Vallejo, a delegate attending his fourth national convention. "I treasure every moment of every convention I've been to."

But another delegate at his fourth convention, Matt Morales of Tempe, said he was not upset that he did not get to go to the opening call to order. Morales said he understands the party's reasoning for skipping Monday's opening ceremony, as did other Arizona delegates.

The first day of the convention is usually technical and business-like, said Morales, which is why he didn't mind missing it.

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The point of the convention is to, "see people that you don't get to see every day," said Morales. "That is more important than listening to a gavel."

Morales took Monday as a chance to get to know his fellow delegates and some of Arizona's politicians on a personal level, rather than a political one.

He, Vallejo and other delegates were able to watch the call to order on televisions in their hotel. Gov. Jan Brewer held a luncheon for Arizona's delegates at the same time.

Some delegates got out of the hotel to spend their day shopping and relaxing nearby. Morales had considered seeing the documentary "2016: America's Obama" at a local movie theater but opted to spend the rest of his afternoon getting some work done.

While weather has affected the beginning of the convention, there are some parts that even the weather won't affect: Morales said he is looking forward to the balloon drop that traditionally takes place toward the convention's closing.

"The Republican Party does a balloon drop better than any other party in the world," said Morales. "It's just those little things."

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Joe Henke/Cronkite News Service

As delegates, members of the media and guests entered the Tampa Times Forum for the official start of the Republican National Convention, Arizona’s delegate seats – seen in the upper left of this picture – remained empty. State party officials decided not to hand out credentials for the event because of weather concerns.