This weekend, Republicans across the state choose their county leadership and representatives to their state convention where delegates to the Republican National Convention are elected. The national convention held in Tampa, Florida on August 27-30 will formally choose the Republican nominee for President. The state convention held in Jackson on May 19, chooses the Republican State Executive Committee (which elects the MSGOP Chairman), the National Committeeman and National Committeewoman, makes by-law changes for the MSGOP and approves the state Republican platform and resolutions.

Typically, members of the state committee and national delegates are voted on as a slate chosen by party leaders. The last time a slate was even partially defeated was twelve years ago when there was no sitting Republican Governor. While it is not unusual for county leadership to change through an insurgent movement, every step through the process becomes more difficult for those not currently in leadership to break through. That isn't so much a nefarious plot as a practical result. If you're in leadership, you've been through the caucuses and conventions and know how they work; that is an advantage over someone not previously involved. Current MSGOP Chairman Joe Nosef conducted a series of regional public meetings in February and March in Greenville, Hattiesburg, Columbus, McComb, Oxford and Jackson to explain the party organization process to those unfamiliar or needing a refresher on the precinct caucuses and county conventions.

(During the process, do not confuse the delegates. Precincts elect delegates to the county convention. County conventions elect delegates to the state convention. The state convention elects delegates to the national convention. These are not the same delegates.)

The process begins at the precinct level on Saturday, April 28. At 10 a.m., any registered voter declaring to be a Republican can meet at their regular voting precinct. The precinct caucuses choose county delegates to the county convention. In some counties, like Madison, each precinct chooses one delegate. Other counties, like Rankin, apportion delegates according to the total number of votes for John McCain in 2008 - with each precinct getting one delegate and larger Republican precincts getting more.

The process for electing national Republican leaders
begins this Saturday at your local precinct.

A precinct caucus could last 3 minutes or an hour. Individuals or factions wishing to control the county party - and the county's delegates to the state convention - must turn out supporters at the precincts. If one person shows up at a precinct, that person can elect himself a delegate. If 50 people show up, then 26 choose the one or more delegates from that precinct. Usually, caucuses are routine. But when there is an intraparty struggle for control, they provide the most basic grassroots interpersonal political entertainment and mischief you'll likely never read about.

At 3 p.m., on Saturday, the county delegates meet at county conventions, usually held at the courthouse. Delegates choose the members of the county executive committee, vote on resolutions and select state delegates to the state convention. Each county receives at least one state delegate, but for every 10,000 citizens another delegate is awarded. So while Claiborne, Kemper and Greene counties have only one delegate; Hinds has 24.5 delegates, Harrison has 18.5 and DeSoto has 16. There are 281 total delegates to the state convention divided among the four congressional districts.

State delegates meet in congressional district caucuses at the May 19 state convention. Within the district caucus, state delegates elect their district's members of the Mississippi Republican State Executive Committee. The district caucus also chooses three national delegates (and three alternates) to the Republican National Convention. National delegates are bound to support the presidential candidate who won the apportioned delegates during the March 6 Republican Primary. Mitt Romney, the presumptive nominee won 12 delegates from Mississippi; Rick Santorum who suspended his campaign won 13 delegates; Newt Gingrich who has not met the threshold for the RNC ballot also won 12 delegates.

Anyone wishing to be a national delegate must file a statement of candidacy with the MSGOP by May 9 which includes the statement, "I declare that, if elected as a delegate or alternate delegate to the RNC, I will be bound to support the nomination of the following candidate for president of the US on all ballots until released by said candidate publicly or in writing: [candidate's name]." According to the MSGOP, delegate candidates can choose to write "uncommitted" for the candidate's name and presumably be assigned a slot. After the district caucuses, the full convention with state delegates from all 82 counties will elect 25 at-large delegates (and alternates) to the national convention.

At the conclusion of the state convention, Mississippi's three votes on the Republican National Committee (National Committeeman, National Committeewoman, State Chairman) and the delegates to the Republican National Convention to choose the GOP's nominee for President will be decided. The process for these national Republican leaders begins this Saturday at your local precinct.

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at