One of Utah's most conservative and visible voices, Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka, will represent Utah on the national Republican Convention's platform drafting committee next week in Philadelphia.
Ruzicka jokes, "I won't embarrass anyone back here" during the convention, where Texas Gov. George W. Bush is expected to be picked as the party's presidential nominee and announce a running mate. "I'm going to be a good girl and behave myself, as I think I always do," she said.
In fact, Ruzicka says her main battle will be to keep the current 1996 GOP platform, especially its strong pro-life language, intact against challenges from moderates within Republican ranks.
However, should Bush pick a pro-choice vice presidential running mate — a possibility, but not likely — Ruzicka says she will cast a "no" vote as a Utah delegate on that vice presidential convention ballot and won't vote for Bush in November's final election.
"I would never vote for a pro-abortion candidate. I would just write in some other Republican's name" on the ballot in November, Ruzicka said.
Because of new national GOP rules, Ruzicka and the other 28 national delegates from Utah must vote for Bush, regardless of whom he picks for vice president, in the official roll call of the states. That vote traditionally takes place the Wednesday night of the weeklong party convention, this year July 31-Aug. 3 in Philadelphia.
"All of us have to vote for Gov. Bush, because he won" Utah's winner-take-all presidential primary last March, she noted. But delegates do have a free-conscience vote when the convention is asked to formally nominate Bush's vice presidential pick.
"I hope (Bush) will pick Alan Keyes" as his vice presidential running mate. Keyes is a conservative talk-show host and orator who officially is still in the presidential race, although he won no major GOP primaries or caucuses. Keyes is a strong anti-abortion advocate. But he is not on the short list of vice presidential candidates Bush reportedly is considering.
Ruzicka and seven other members of her family are attending the convention. Two of her children are alternate delegates, including her son, Jordan. Jordan Ruzicka may well be the youngest delegate or alternate in Philadelphia, his mother believes. He is only 17. His birthday is in mid-October, in time for him to turn 18 and vote in November's election. National GOP rules say delegates and alternates must be of voting age by Election Day.
Ruzicka was picked as one of two Utahns to sit on the convention platform committee by the 29 Utah delegates. (A man and a woman from each state sit on the committee.) And interestingly enough, she beat Lt. Gov. Olene Walker for the platform post.
"We both got to give a little speech" in the special delegate meeting held several weeks ago. "I said I was strongly pro-life and would reflect that" in the platform work. "Olene said she was pro-life, also. And even though Ron Fox (Bush's Utah campaign manager) and Gov. (Mike) Leavitt asked the delegates to vote for Olene, I won. I was pleasantly surprised."
Part of that victory could be because "this year we actually had a meeting and secret ballot," said Ruzicka.
She was a Utah national delegate in 1996 at the San Diego convention. But that year Leavitt, who was picked by national party leaders to be co-chairman of the whole platform committee, wanted Walker to be chairman of one of the major platform subcommittees, the one that oversaw the abortion plank.
"I ran to be on the platform committee in 1996," recalls Ruzicka. "But the governor had already told the national people that Olene would be our delegate to the platform committee and he wanted her as a subcommittee chair. We (the Utah delegates) didn't even get to meet in person to vote. We had a conference call, and the governor said he wanted Olene and we had to vote" openly over the telephone. Walker won. Both Leavitt and Walker addressed the convention and a national cable TV audience when the platform was debated and passed.
This year, in a secret ballot, Ruzicka won, "even though the governor again asked we support Olene," said Ruzicka. Ruzicka will not address the convention, since she is not a platform committee or subcommittee chairwoman.
Fox says 74 percent of the people the Bush campaign put forward as national delegate candidates in the May 6 Utah Republican Convention won. So Ruzicka said it's clear that some of the hand-picked Bush delegates still supported her. "But I bet I didn't get the governor's vote," she joked.
The 1996 platform language on abortion is strong, said Ruzicka. It can be found on the GOP Web site, www.rnc.org. "Basically, it follows the kind of language in the Declaration of Independence — general language on our rights. It says that unborn life has the same rights as born life and cannot be infringed. It is Ronald Reagan's anti-abortion language, and we support it absolutely," she said.
Ironically, for all the work Leavitt and Walker did on the 1996 platform, then-GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole said during the convention that year that he had not read the 41-page national party platform and that he might not read it.
But Ruzicka said the platform is important and she will fight not only to keep pro-life language in it "against the best efforts of the pro-abortion Republican For Choice" wing of the party but also concentrate on freedom in education issues, other moral matters and building a strong defense.