Jim Jerow may be 79, but that has not slowed the longtime Republican from packing his bags and driving to Tampa to cast a vote for Mitt Romney at this week’s Republican National Convention.
Jerow, a Pawleys Island resident and the chairman of the Georgetown Republican Party, is one of 52 S.C. delegates and alternates taking part in the once-every-four-year event, which – after a one-day delay because Tropical Storm Isaac – now is scheduled to run from Tuesday through Thursday.
Jerow is the oldest member of that delegation, which includes 18 small businesspeople, six educators, five members of the General Assembly, three engineers, two physicians, two former candidates for Congress, two former S.C. GOP chairmen and a retired Air Force pilot.
Twenty-two are attending their first national convention. But two are attending their sixth.
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The delegation includes Jim Jerow’s wife, Joyce Jerow, 74, an alternate who will cast a vote should a delegate be unable to vote.
“At our age, we looked at our bucket list and realized we hadn’t done this. We decided we better get it done,” Jim Jerow said. “We’ve always been involved in the community, wherever we lived. And we’ve been very active in the Republican Party here locally. We feel like we need to be involved and help bring back pride in our country along with patriotism and unity.”
Joyce Jerow hopes more people of all ages get involved in politics.
“It is easy for everyone – young and old – to sit on their bums and complain. My retort to them is, ‘Do not complain. If you are unhappy, change the situation. Get involved.’ ”
‘Not a spectator sport’
Getting involved is a message that delegate Adam Piper of Columbia takes to heart.
At 28, Piper, who works in the state Attorney General’s office, is already a veteran of more than a dozen S.C. and Virginia political campaigns. Most recently, Piper worked for former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s unsuccessful GOP presidential campaign, leading up to South Carolina’s January primary.
Despite his earlier support for Huntsman, Piper said he is “excited about getting a little R&R in Tampa and casting a vote for the two Rs, (GOP presidential nominee Mitt) Romney and (vice presidential nominee Paul) Ryan.”
“You look at the fact we have a $15 trillion debt and what that means to people of my generation,” Piper said. “It’s a load we cannot afford. If we don’t elect Romney and Ryan, we’re in serious trouble.”
Piper’s interest in politics dates back to his middle-school years, when his parents, who owned a small restaurant 11/2 hours from Washington, D.C., let him skip school for three days to visit the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress and other government spots around the nation’s capital.
“I don’t think that’s normal for a 12 year old,” Piper teased. “But I fell in love with the idea of representative government. Anyone with a dream and a work ethic, a little luck and God’s will can accomplish anything they set out to achieve in this country.”
Two years later, Piper lost his mother to cancer. A few weeks after her death, he found himself flipping through TV channels and stopped on a march on Washington. The marchers were rallying to find a cure for cancer.
“(Former Republican presidential nominee) Bob Dole was speaking, saying people need to get involved and make their voices heard. I took it as a calling,” said Piper, who later started a Republican Club at his high school.
Piper’s participation this week as a first-time delegate to the Republican National Convention comes on the heels of his attendance at the Teenage Republican National Convention in 2001 and 2002, the College Republican National Convention in 2003, and the Young Republican National Convention in 2009.
“You realize politics is not a spectator sport,” he said.
‘The same hopes’
As a high school English teacher in Colleton County, Janis Blocker relished any chance to attend conferences and other events where she met teachers from other parts of the country.
“It didn’t matter what part of the country we were from. We were all dealing with the same issues of being in the classroom, and we could talk together and learn from each other,” Blocker said. “And when I came home, I felt like my world is smaller, that we have some comradery.”
Blocker is hoping to find that same sense of unity at this week’s GOP convention as she mingles with other Republicans from around the nation.
“We’re all sharing the same worries and concerns,” said the former member of the Colleton County Council, who retired from teaching last year. “It’s electrifying to be around those who are, pretty much, all on the same page with the same ideas, generally, and the same hopes for this country.”
This is Blocker’s second convention. In 2008, she attended the GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn. Its schedule also was tossed into uncertainty by the possibility of a hurricane – a post-Katrina storm that made landfall along the Gulf Coast.
But Blocker isn’t worried about Tampa’s inclement weather or the fact that the number of S.C. delegates to this year’s GOP convention has been cut in half.
Late last year, the S.C. Republican Party moved the date of its primary up to January, breaking national rules, in response to Florida leapfrogging its primary forward on the calendar. The result? The national party punished both states, cutting their delegates to the convention in half.
“We’ll make enough noise to make up for the smaller number,” Blocker promised.