Libertarians plan counter-convention

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul have ramped up plans for a local counterweight to the GOP’s national convention in September.

Not content with a planned rally at the University of Minnesota’s Williams Arena on Sept. 2, the Paul forces now plan a three-day "Rally for the Republic" that will climax in a 10-hour extravaganza at the Target Center arena.

"It’s getting exciting," said Marianne Stebbins, a longtime GOP activist who ran the Texas congressman’s campaign in Minnesota. "We realized (Williams Arena) wasn’t big enough for everything we wanted to do."

Although Paul was a long-shot candidate who came nowhere close to seriously competing for the Republican nomination, he was a potent fundraiser and attracted a fervent core of followers to his libertarian views.

Working state by state, his supporters have managed to land a small number of delegates to the Republican Convention, which will be held Sept. 1-4 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. In Minnesota, Paul will send at least six delegates to the convention.

Despite that representation, Paul’s supporters have given up on snagging a speaking slot for their candidate at the convention, Stebbins said. "We pretty much wrote that off when we figured out it wasn’t going to be offered."

Instead, they came up with the idea of a an alternative convention at a time when thousands of journalists already will be in the Twin Cities.

In addition to the Target Center rally, the three-day event will include volunteer training, meetings and a book signing by Paul.

"We’re not just looking at this November," Stebbins said. "There’s 2010, 2012 — the Republican Party is not a barge that you can turn around in a single year."

Several conservative activists and pundits will be featured at the rally. Tickets, which go on sale Friday, will cost $17.76.