Politics & Government

Some merchandise at Texas Republican Convention is made in China

It's not all politics at the Republican state convention.

Delegates are crowding concession booths to haul off everything from "conservative" children's literature to glittery elephant-shaped brooches and nonpartisan $75 neckties with armadillos and oil-field pump jacks instead of pachyderms.

Despite all the patriotic flag-waving at the gathering, many of the goods were made in communist China. And an "I Palin" T-shirt for women was sewn in Nicaragua -- led by President Daniel Ortega of the socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front, against whom President Ronald Reagan armed the contra force.

"I never looked at the label," said Michael Franks of Huntsville-based TexasGOPStore.com, a convention sponsor that imprints and sells the $15 Anvil-brand T-shirts. But few care, if they are even aware.

The "official" pink convention T-shirt, which Franks also sells, was made in Honduras. But his bumper stickers, including those declaring "Secede" over a Texas flag and parodies of Barack Obama slogans ("NOPE"), are American-made. He regretted selling the "Secede" stickers for just a buck: "I could have gotten $5 here easily."

Over at the Aspen Design booth, Lisa Body says the top sellers are $12 elephant and American flag brooches, emblazoned with fake diamonds.

"We don't say, 'tacky,' we say, 'blingy,'" said the Maryland resident, who is in Fort Worth for the convention.

All were made in China, Body added.

"What difference does that make?" asked Harry Hingst, 63, a retired Lockheed Martin worker and a delegate from Comal County, who then repeated a widely expressed Republican view that Obama is effectively a "socialist" head of state.

"It's one communist country versus another," he said as his wife, dressed in an identical Texas flag shirt, looked over the sparkly costume jewelry.

Ron Paul a big seller

Campaign buttons were a hot item.

Perhaps because Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, was speaking Thursday, the $5 buttons carrying the presidential contender's likeness outsold those depicting Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, said Sharon Young of politicalshop.com, based in Kansas City, Mo.

"On Friday, I bet we'll be selling more of Romney."

In the next lane, Jonathon Michaels of Arkansas was selling $2 political buttons with somewhat different messages: "Single and conservative, looking for Miss Right" and "Republican women like men."

Most in demand was a button depicting a slew of early presidents with the slogan: "Original right wing extremists."

But merchants like Michaels and Young have to compete with politicians giving away buttons and other items.

State Comptroller Susan Combs was giving away, yes, combs, emblazoned with her name.

Rep. Warren Chisum, one of the more colorful state House members, showed up at his booth in full cowboy gear -- and armed with a 19th-century musket.

The Pampa Republican, who is in a runoff for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission, handed the weapon to people who wanted their photo taken with him -- as did two Time Warner Cable Media representatives at the show selling airtime to candidates like Chisum.

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