Lucky No. 13

Ruthie Johnson headed to Republican national convention ... again Call her ... conventional

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Ruthie Johnson will be attending the Republican National Convention for her 13th time this year. Johnson is a valued member of the North Idaho Pachyderm Club and was recently awarded with a $500 check from the club to cover her travel cost for the trip to the convention in Florida.

COEUR d'ALENE - Ruthie Johnson doesn't mind telling people she's 88 years old. The embarrassing part, she said, is her birthday is Aug. 4 - same as President Barack Obama.

"At least I have a birth certificate," Johnson said.

That's not surprising talk. She's among the hardest core Republicans in a hard-core conservative state.

And her Republican loyalty is paying off this month.

The GOP grande dame was presented with a $500 check by a local Republican group, covering her round-trip airfare to attend her 13th - consecutive - Republican National Convention.

"I was just floored," she said about receiving the money.

She is one of Idaho's 32 delegates at the Aug. 27-30 convention in Tampa, Fla., and she has her Mitt Romney buttons ready to go.

"The thing that I've been impressed by is that he took over those Olympics in Utah," she said. "They were losing money, (and) they were going to cancel the Olympics. Not only did he make a success out of it, he made money on the thing."

With a country that is $16 trillion in debt, she said, Romney is the man needed to turn it all around.

The North Idaho Pachyderm Club decided to pay for her trip to repay her for all she has done for the local chapter.

Johnson is one of the founding members, was a longtime chapter board member, and has a nearly 100 percent attendance record, arriving at meetings even when she had to hobble in with a fractured foot.

Pachyderm Club president Bob Brooke said Johnson's national convention attendance record is extraordinary.

"She's known as 'Mrs. Republican' in Idaho," Brooke said. "She deserves it, and it's something we could do. We're a Republican group and she does a lot for the Republican party."

He added, "I would submit to you that probably, if any, only one or two other people have done what she did when she goes to Tampa."

Johnson said she has been a delegate 10 times, an alternate delegate twice, and attended once as a guest, at her first convention in 1964. That was when Barry Goldwater was nominated in San Francisco.

Johnson, a Hayden Lake resident and Wallace native, has been a party precinct committeeman for 62 years and was former Idaho Congressman and U.S. Sen. Jim McClure's Coeur d'Alene office representative for 24 years.

Johnson has been married for 69 years to her husband, Wayne, who supports her political involvement. They have three grown children, two sons who are doctors and a daughter who has nine children.

"I have an awfully patient husband," she said. "He would encourage me to go (to conventions) if I wanted to, and he always found it interesting."

For all her political passion, she has only met one man who became president - Ronald Reagan.

She sat at Reagan's right-hand side at a dinner meeting in Salt Lake City in 1980, months before the presidential candidate captured the White House. (Salt Lake City was not the national convention site in 1980. Detroit was.)

"(Reagan) was so easy to talk to, unbelievably easy to talk to," Johnson said. "He's got a good sense of humor, and was just so relaxed."

At conventions, she loves connecting with friends and meeting new people - Dick Armey, Pat Buchanan, and journalist David Broder, to name a few - and discussing politics. She enjoys learning about legislation, and helping to form the party platform.

The travel to conventions has been great, but she hasn't seen much of the cities she has visited.

"If you're interested in what's going on at the convention, you go and you stay in the hotel, you're picked up in a bus, (and) you go to the convention center," she said. "Then you get picked up in a bus and you get taken back to the hotel."

The days can be long and stretch late into the night.

Johnson grew up in Shoshone County, which was very Democratic at the time, like her family, she said.

"I became Republican when I learned to read," she said. "I always thought my family were Republicans and didn't know it, because they wouldn't ask for help from anyone."

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