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GOP delegates faced 'bus from hell' after convention

Published August 29, 2012 9:47 am

Confusing transportation network causes gridlock and leaves conventiongoers stranded.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Tampa, Fla. • The 10-minute trip from the convention hall to the hotel turned into a dreadful excursion for Republican delegates Tuesday night, with some conventiongoers stuck on buses for hours without air conditioning in the Florida heat.

"It was the bus from hell," says former state Sen. Carlene Walker, a Utah Republican who left the Tampa Bay Times Forum at 11:15 p.m. and walked into the delegation's hotel around 2:30 a.m. "It was a nightmare."

On a political high from the convention speeches, delegates entered the humid night in Tampa to find a confusing transportation network devoid of signs and volunteer guides stumped on which bus was headed where.

"There weren't a lot of directions," said Utah House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden. "Instead of lines for the buses, there were masses for the buses."

Security checkpoints, closed-off streets and bus drivers who wouldn't let passengers alight from the coach added to the fiasco. And it wasn't just Utahns stuck on the bus.

Delegates from California, Texas, Arkansas and Connecticut found themselves back at their rented rooms two hours after the convention gaveled closed for the night.

An enterprising Illinois delegate reported that he took up a collection of money on the bus to bribe the driver to get them back to their hotel.

"We told the driver he could have it all, all $600 if he'd drive away," the delegate was overheard telling fellow Republicans at his morning breakfast.

Delegates from Oregon on Wednesday reportedly referenced the iconic book, Lord of the Flies, in talking about their bus problems the night before. Some Connecticut delegates considered calling 911 out of frustration, Hearst reporters noted.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff tweeted his frustration at being trapped for two hours on the bus, saying he was being "held hostage."

Bruce Hough, Utah's Republican national committeeman who was overseeing the transportation committee for the convention, said he was headed to a meeting early Wednesday to find answers on what caused the mess.

"I am very upset about the fact our vendor did not produce the results we asked for," Hough said.

Meanwhile, GOP National Chairman Reince Priebus told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that there was a big meeting with Secret Service, convention staff and the bus company to try to find a better solution for the remaining two days of the convention.

"Of course we want to address it," Priebus told the newspaper, "but there's not a whole lot we can do."

tburr@sltrib.com

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