Some N.C. GOPs pass on convention

Sen. Elizabeth Dole isn't alone in her decision not to attend the Republican National Convention.

Rep. Robin Hayes of Concord, who dropped in for a couple of days at the 2000 event but didn't go in 2004, says he has several district meetings planned that week and the convention overlaps with his annual trip to Alaska, where he lived briefly years ago.

Rep. Sue Myrick of Charlotte says she can't go due to a personal scheduling conflict. And Rep. Howard Coble of Greensboro, first elected to Congress in 1984 and the delegation's longest serving Republican, hasn't gone to the quadrennial bash a single time.

Coble says he isn't claustrophobic, but avoids huge crowds.

“The best explanation – this may sound strange since I have chosen the political arena as my career – but I'm more comfortable in the presence of 20 people than I am in the presence of 200 people,” he said. “That convention is wall-to-wall people. I could see losing four or five days when I could be at home. My record will remain intact.”

All insist this shouldn't be viewed as a diss on the GOP presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who would formally receive the nomination the first week of September in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Those planning to attend include Rep. Virginia Foxx of Banner Elk, Sens. Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham, both R-S.C., and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who is chairman of the convention's platform committee.

Rep. Patrick McHenry of Cherryville hadn't decided whether to attend as of Friday. But in a press release objecting to Congress taking a vacation without solving the nation's energy problems, McHenry said he'd devote the next five weeks to “meeting with constituents to hear their stories of how the energy crisis is impacting their lives.”

Dole, R-N.C., said early last week that she wouldn't attend because of a busy schedule at home.

The two local Democrats, Reps. Mel Watt of Charlotte and John Spratt of York County, S.C., are both planning to attend their party's August convention in Denver, where Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is expected to be nominated as the presidential candidate.