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Peene serves as GOP delegate

Aaron Steiner | Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ryan Peene has always been interested in politics, saying he was “a little politico” from a young age.

So when Republicans congregated in St. Paul, Minn., this week for the 2008 Republican National Convention, Peene, a Notre Dame graduate student, was right in the mix.

The New Jersey resident, the youngest member of his state’s delegation, is currently in Notre Dame’s Master of Nonprofit Administration program. He arrived in St. Paul on Sunday.

“It’s been a whirlwind of a convention [so far],” Peene told The Observer Wednesday.

“Expect the unexpected – that’s been my motto this week,” he added.

“We went from not having a [real] convention to being very obviously happy that the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm,” said Peene, as the threat of Hurricane Gustav changed convention plans.

But the focus Monday night remained on the storm damage. Peene said he had spent time Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center making relief packages for those affected by the storm.

He was in the convention center when former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman spoke.

Peene said the convention was “very fortunate” to have Lieberman, a former Democrat and current independent, come to endorse and fully support the nomination and election of McCain.

On Wednesday, Peene said he was anticipating witnessing vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) give what he called “the most important speech of her life.” The New Jersey delegation, he said, fully supports Palin.

“There’s a reason that 85 percent of the population in Alaska approves of the job she’s done,” he said.

In addition to his official duty to cast his ballot for McCain Wednesday, Peene said there are plenty of advantages to being a delegate.

His free time has been spent “hitting the parties”

“It’s all about big hats and Miller Lite,” he said.

Peene would know – this year’s convention isn’t his first.

“I was a spectator for the last two conventions,” Peene said, “First as a senior in high school during the 2000 convention in Philadelphia, and again during the 2004 convention in New York City.”

Peene studied political science as an undergraduate at Rutgers, and now works for a lobbyist firm called Capital Impact Group that works with nonprofit organizations. Recognized for being politically active in his home state, Peene was nominated and elected to represent his district, earning him a delegate spot this year.

Each state has a certain number of delegates, including politicians, elected delegates and others, determined by both Republican National Committee bylaws and each state’s party rules.

Peene is not the only representative in his delegation with a Notre Dame connection. Other Notre Dame alumni are in the New Jersey delegation, and Peene said he was certain there are a number of Domers from around the country serving as delegates.

“We [alumni] are looking forward to Friday, so we can head home and watch the Irish take on San Diego on Saturday,” Peene said.

But Peene said he hopes he will return to another Republican convention in four years.