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Louisiana delegation torn between family, duty

  • Story Highlights
  • Some Louisiana Republican delegates have already returned home
  • McCain campaign chartered a flight for delegates to return home
  • Louisiana state party chairman says McCain has been "extremely helpful"
  • Louisiana will cast all 47 votes during roll call vote, chairman vows
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By Scott J. Anderson
CNN.com Senior Political Producer
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MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) -- With Hurricane Gustav bearing down on their state, Louisiana delegates to the Republican National Convention on Sunday were torn between party duty and concern for family back home.

With the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina still fresh in their minds, many delegates returned home to help their families or, as elected officials, their communities evacuate, said Louisiana state party chairman Roger F. Villere, Jr.

But the delegates also knew they had a responsibility to Louisiana's Republican voters to cast the state's 47 votes to make sure the party's presumptive nominee, Sen. John McCain, is on the ballot in Louisiana in November.

"We've got a job to do. We're caught in the crossfire," said alternative delegate Donald Moriatry, II of Alexandria, Louisiana, said.

As the delegation was briefed by representatives from the McCain campaign at its hotel in east Minneapolis, Minnesota, delegates called home to talk with family members about evacuation plans and watched as the big, red center of Gustav headed towards New Orleans on cable news channels.

All conversation ceased when Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal appeared on the screen to discuss the state's emergency preparations.

McCain said Sunday that convention activities would be curtailed out of concern for those facing danger in the Gulf Coast area. It was a move supported by the Louisiana delegation.

"We're pretty sure Louisiana is going to take the bullet," said Kay Katz, a Republican National Committee member and a state representative from Monroe, Louisiana. "There is excitement, but there definitely is not frivolity."

Katz said there was no pressure on delegates to either stay in Minnesota or to return to Louisiana.

"People need to make their own decisions," Katz said. "Your family must be premier in your thoughts"

Villere said Sunday the McCain campaign had been "extremely helpful" and had given the delegation any assistance he had asked for.

"They have assured us that this is their first priority," he said, adding the McCain campaign has been consulting with the chairmen from the Gulf Coast states.

"We're Americans first," Villere said. "We're not Republicans first, we're Americans first."

The McCain camp even chartered a flight to Jackson, Mississippi, from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport to fly any delegates who wanted to return to the Gulf Coast region.

The chartered plane will also return to the Twin Cities area with any family members who want to be with delegates there, Villere said.

The Louisiana delegation, however, would cast all of its votes whenever the roll call occurs, Villere said. A nearly equal number of alternate delegates made the trip to St. Paul as the voting delegates, and they will be allowed to vote if any of the voting delegates go home.

"The Louisiana Republican party is here to do our duty." Villere said. "And we will do it."

All About LouisianaHurricane KatrinaJohn McCainBobby Jindal

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