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Louisiana convention delegates wrestle over whether to return home to prepare for hurricane

It wasn’t exactly a hurricane party at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club Monday night, but the Louisiana delegates who remain in Florida for this week’s Republican National Convention were having a grand time whooping it up with their colleagues from three other states while Isaac spins closer to their homes.

The head of the Louisiana delegation told Fox News that about 20 percent of the state’s 89 delegates and alternates returned home ahead of the storm. More could leave, but the time to make a quick escape before the storm hits is quickly fading.

“I came for a purpose, and the storm blew in and the family’s back home,” delegate Wallace Lucas of New Orleans said at the party. “They’ve [gone] through it before, so everything will be OK.”

None of the Louisiana delegates Fox News talked to said they’d go back before the storm. One, Diane Hollis, admitted she was torn by the decision but concluded it was more important for her to stay in Florida than return home and wait for the hurricane.

“As a mother, even though you have adult children, there is that conflict,” Hollis explained. “That’s why I felt anxious yesterday…but you make that decision and I prayed about it. And I said, OK, God, I have faith and I’m leaving it in your hands."

Hollis spoke warmly of her encounters with the other delegates at the party from Minnesota, West Virginia and North Carolina, whom she said were saying prayers for the people in her state. “That brings chills to me. And so, I think that’s happening all across the country.”

The delegates face a strange quandary over what to do with the approaching storm, return to make sure family, friends and property are safe or stay away from the danger while conducting the business of nominating Mitt Romney for the presidency.

“It’s hard to be here when your life is over there,” Derek Babcock said over the multitudinous conversations from several hundred partygoers and the Cajun music of the Pine Leaf Boys band, who were flown in from Lafayette. But he noted that having his family with him in Florida made the decision to stay a bit easier.

George White’s wife of 42 years stayed behind in New Orleans. He says he’s been married long enough to know that she’ll do just fine and retreat to Baton Rouge if the winds get too strong.  After all, they’ve seen plenty of storms, including Katrina seven years ago. 

“We’ve been through a lot of hurricanes. There’s only one Katrina,” White observed. “Katrina was special. Katrina was different. [Isaac] is an average hurricane.”

The delegation was faced with the same dilemma four years ago when Gustav struck during the 2008 convention.  “It’s deja vu,” party executive director Jason Dore told Fox News.