By Courtney Dentch and James DeWeese
The borough's representatives will be part of the 5,000 delegates and alternate delegates filling Madison Square Gardens at the Republican National Convention beginning Monday. Republicans will formally nominate President George W. Bush as their candidate for the presidential election and discuss the party platform.While the Republicans have been working to reach out to people of all ethnicities, Queens boasts the most diverse delegation in the convention, said state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale), chairman of the Queens County Republican Party.”I am proud to say that all of our delegates and alternate delegates are very involved in the communities they represent and illustrate the traditional family moral values that our party and president are furthering and protecting,” Maltese said.While Maltese has been to conventions before, this one promises to be exciting, he said.”This is certainly the most important election since the Second World War,” Maltese said. “It's a different world working under a microscope where the killing and death in battle of one soldier ends up on the front page.”And when the convention-goers take a break from discussing party business, Maltese hopes to show off his borough. Events were still being planned Tuesday, he said.”I'm still hoping to get something in Flushing Meadows Corona Park,” he said. “For security we're not saying anything yet, but we're still hopeful.”Community service projects were also planned for all five boroughs, said first-time delegate Meagan Costello, of Briarwood, but it was unclear how Queens would be involved.”We need to send the message that Queens is just wonderful,” she said. “The Republican convention needs to be made aware of all that Queens has to offer.”Adding to the delegation's diversity is Meilin Tan, a Flushing Republican who emigrated from China almost 40 years ago. Tan has attended every Republican convention since 1992, when she was invited by then-Vice President Dan Quayle.”I'm very, very excited to go the convention, of course,” she said. As a member of the steering committee for W Stands for Women, she said she is looking forward to welcoming delegates from around the country to New York. “I'm very proud of being a real New Yorker and a real Flushing local,” she said. In the weeks leading up to the convention, Tan said the committee responsible for articulating the Republican Party's platform sent out questionnaires to delegates seeking their input.”We are taken seriously,” she said. “It's really a great political process and I'm very proud.”Now, she said her primary role will be to listen to all the speeches, network with Republican delegates from across the country and then report back to constituents in the Flushing area.In the meantime, Tan said she will be staying with the New York delegation at the Manhattan Sheraton in a bid to avoid the 1 1/2 hour commute from Flushing, which promises to be slowed by extra security measures. With a packed schedule and early morning events, Tan said she want to be prepared for the unexpected. At the 1996 convention, Tan said, she was surprised by a 7 a.m. visit from presidential candidate Bob Dole.Katherine James, of Jamaica, is also a veteran when it comes to conventions. For James, deputy chief clerk with the Queens office of the Board of Elections, the convention is a chance to get lost in policy, she said.”It's just a good time to be submerged in government policy and I enjoy that,” she said. “It's an interesting time to meet people from across the country, and in particular the many volunteers from the grassroots organizations.”While some have wondered why the Republicans chose New York City, an overwhelmingly Democratic city, for its convention, James hopes the event will spark city finances and debates, she said.”I'm glad the convention is in New York,” she said. “I think it will be good for the city economy and discussions in many homes at dinner time.”Briarwood resident Costello is eagerly awaiting her first day at the convention, she said.”This is the first involvement I've had and to do it on such a national level is amazing,” she said. “I think it's a tremendous opportunity for myself to represent the interests of the people of Queens and be a part of something historic.”Costello plans to stay at a friend's apartment, a short walk away from the rest of the New York delegation staying at the Sheraton, she said.Aside from the 5,000 delegates, their families and the thousands of other people hoping to get into Madison Square Garden for the convention, thousands of protesters were planning events to decry everything from the war in Iraq to state drug laws to city policies. “That's what makes this country great,” Costello said. “Everybody has a right to say what they're going to say.”Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.