A Richland man who's going to the Republican National Convention as a delegate for Washington says the state isn't as blue as it once was -- and will earn more attention from presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the two months leading up to the November election.
David Hedengren has been a Romney supporter -- both of Mitt and his father George -- for countless years.
He cast his vote for George Romney's gubernatorial campaign in Michigan, where Hedengren was on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During that time, Hedengren said, he met the woman who later would become Ann Romney, but it wasn't until years later at a Bellevue fundraiser that he met Mitt.
"Ann is a real top-notch individual," Hedengren said.
He supported Mitt Romney in the 2008 presidential race until John McCain won enough primaries to get the GOP nomination.
Now Hedengren is excited to be one of delegates to help seal the deal for Romney's nomination in Tampa, Fla., once the convention starts Aug. 27.
"I'm excited about Mitt's chances (of winning the election)," Hedengren told the Herald. "I think they'll be enhanced a lot. He's got a great VP pick in Paul Ryan. It brings a lot of enthusiasm to the campaign."
Hedengren, who serves as the chairman for the Romney campaign in the 4th Congressional District, said the campaign is taking a fresh look at its chances in the state in the wake of close statewide races run by Dino Rossi for governor and a seat in the U.S. Senate.
"Originally the Romney campaign thought Washington was going to be a blue state," he said. "More recently they've thought they could carry Washington. We will see more from the campaign."
This will be the first time at a national convention for Hedengren and fellow delegate Douglas Gale of Benton City.
Stephanie Swanberg of Pasco rounds out the trio of delegates representing Washington's 4th Congressional District at the convention.
Brenda High of Pasco, Insook Landon of Richland and Laurel Young of Yakima are serving as alternates for the district, which covers Adams, Benton, Franklin, Grant, Okanogan and Yakima counties, and parts of Douglas and Walla Walla counties.
Also attending from the Mid-Columbia are Lisa Wagner of Walla Walla, who is an alternate for Eastern Washington's 5th Congressional District, and Helen Lavoie of Richland, who is an at-large alternate.
Washington is sending 40 delegates and 40 alternates to the national convention.
Gale told the Herald he's excited about the roster of speakers, which includes Rick Santorum, one of Romney's challengers through the Republican primaries who dropped out of the race earlier this year; Marco Rubio, the junior U.S. senator from Florida; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Like Hedengren, Gale approves of Ryan as Romney's pick for a running mate.
"I think it's outstanding. I think it forces the other party to start focusing on the issues and not just diversions," Gale said.
He said he looks forward to hearing the Romney/Ryan ticket's plan for the nation's future, which he hopes includes a message that the United States needs a return to individual choice and accountability.
He said he believes that social programs such as welfare have stifled entrepreneurialism and innovation that the country needs to return to prosperity.
"The biggest cost we're facing is not the money cost, it's the people cost," Gale said. "Putting them on the government dole tells them they're not good enough to do anything. ... When you tell people that they have to be taken care of, then they don't put forth the effort or imagination to enhance their own position. I think there's huge things not being done because people are being put into boxes."
Gale said he's also eager for a Romney presidency to tackle the national debt and spending in Washington, D.C.
"I taught my kids if you don't have it, you don't spend it," he said. "I think the nation ought to follow the same policy. The debt is totally unmanageable."
On issues near and dear to the Mid-Columbia, Hedengren and Gale said they would like to see Romney looking at nuclear power and restarting work toward a repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev., which the Obama administration has shut down. Hanford had planned to send its high-level radioactive waste there once it has been vitrified.
"We need to re-open the issue of waste storage at Yucca Mountain so we can get the waste out of here," Gale said.
The GOP national convention is Aug. 27-30.