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RNC: LA Mayor is Democratic lamb in GOP lion's den on a quiet day one

AirTalk host Larry Mantle interviews Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida on Aug. 27, 2012.
AirTalk host Larry Mantle interviews Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida on Aug. 27, 2012.
Gina Delvac/KPCC

Today’s nominal first day of the convention featured an eerily quiet Tampa Bay Times Forum — where the prime time convention events will take place — and a bustling Radio Row in the Convention Center across the street. 

Republican officials with a free day took advantage of row after row of broadcasters vying for the chance to interview them. It’s extremely competitive, and an oddly paradoxical environment of tension and revelry.

An example of that was when L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa arrived on the Row late this afternoon. I was in our distant workspace doing a post-show wrapup with our producers, when producer Jasmin Tuffaha called to let us know the mayor was in the house. 

I walked over to say “Hi” and found the Democrat in the lion’s den surrounded by about a dozen journalists clamoring for interviews. I caught the mayor’s eye, and he stopped mid-sentence to call out a greeting. The other journalists didn’t look too thrilled, so I quickly moved out of sight. The mayor agreeably answered the questions fired at him, then quickly pivoted to sit down for a scheduled interview with Univision radio.

Afterward we briefly caught up, then sat down for an unscheduled interview that you’ll hear tomorrow morning in the 10 a.m. hour. I was certainly surprised that the Chairman of the Democratic convention next week would be on enemy turf a week prior to make his party’s case to reporters.  

An intense arrival

It’s been an intense 48 hours for our eight-person KPCC crew since our arrival in Tampa to cover the GOP convention.  Nearly overriding the political content for the week was the specter of tropical storm Isaac. 

All day Sunday, while we were setting up our broadcast booth on Radio Row and equipping our separate workspace several hundred feet away, we were coordinating with KPCC management what our contingency plans were for a hurricane. Fortunately for Tampa, the impact of the storm was minimal. It appears a portion of the Gulf Coast won’t be so lucky.

Our team of four “AirTalk” producers has been diligently working to book our guests, just as our two-man engineering team has handled a few challenges to get us on the air this morning. A couple of power surges overnight caused our digital equipment to glitch and kept us from confirming a good line to KPCC until just 20-minutes before airtime.  Thankfully, they rebooted and got us on.

Speaking of storm-related power surges, as I write this, we’ve just received a tornado warning that everyone needs to take shelter for the next 30-minutes. We’re well protected from a tornado inside the large Convention Center where I’m writing.

Tomorrow we’ve got a busy couple of hours at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.  We’ll talk with former Governor Pete Wilson, hear from California delegates, and look deeper into the GOP’s intraparty debate over defense funding – obviously a huge issue for Southland defense contractors.  Frank Stoltze will also report on the roll call nomination vote to be held tomorrow afternoon.