By Mike Salinero | The Tampa Tribune
PALM HARBOR -- Florida Republican officials are pointing fingers at the national party for foul-ups in the bus system used to cart delegates to and from the convention on Tuesday.
Some delegates said they sat on parked buses for two to three hours Tuesday night after the convention was gaveled to conclusion. They finally got back to their hotel rooms at 3 a.m. Wednesday.
"The (Republican National Committee) needs to fix this bus problem … We need to take care of our delegates," said state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is hosting the Florida delegations this week at the Innisbrook Resort.
"It's my understanding the return trip is RNC-controlled," Putnam said after Wednesday's breakfast. "It was a complete breakdown."
Delegates who were stuck in the parked buses waiting to return to their rooms differed on what they thought caused the hold-up. Some said the drivers would not leave until the buses were full. Others thought the traffic jam outside the Forum was the problem.
"It was everybody; everybody was in the same situation," said Dana Swanson, a delegate from DeBary. "You could see it was taking time for the buses to get through the transportation areas. It was slower than what they expected. There were massive amounts of people."
But there were also problems with the buses that were supposed to take delegates to the convention Tuesday afternoon.
"It was time to go to the convention and we didn't have buses to come pick us up," said Clint Pate of Graceville in Jackson County. "They recruited some Republican Party of Florida buses to come get us and take us to the convention. They were 40 minutes late."
Pate said the delay in the afternoon buses made him reconsider taking one home right after the convention. So he went to the Trace Adkins concert and took a late bus."
"It worked out great," he said. "I think we might have beat the ones home who went from the convention."
Most of the delegates were good natured about the problem. Jeff and Carlie Rogers of Melbourne said the delay gave them time to think about the speeches by Anne Romney, wife of the presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, and keynote speaker Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey.
Because of the glitches, the Republican Party of Florida will be expanding its bus system to include transportation to and from the forum, said RPOF spokeswoman Kristen McDonald. However, the bus company contracted by the state party doesn't have clearance to get through the security perimeter, so delegates and their guests will have a 15 minute walk to the convention, McDonald said.
This article first appeared in the Tampa Tribune.