WASHINGTON – Heightened threat or not, delegate Sandra DePriest says she plans to be in New York later this month for the Republican National Convention (search), confident that security will provide protection.
"It's kind of nerve-racking," DePriest, a Columbus, Miss., delegate, said Monday of the elevated terror warnings and increased security at financial sites in New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. "But I'm not going to change my mind — absolutely not. All that can be done, will be done."
It is a view shared by many delegates and attendees to the four-day convention, which begins Aug. 30. More than 30,000 people will be on hand, including President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney (search) and dozens of top government officials, governors and members of Congress.
Although several delegates expressed reservations about traveling to New York City — site of the World Trade Center attacks nearly three years ago — from locales far removed from terror talk, none said they would cancel their plans to attend the gathering.
"Certainly there are concerns that everybody should have, but I'm sure that it's something that will be taken care of by the current plans in place," said Timothy LeFever, 43, a lawyer and delegate from Dixon, Calif.
Convention security was a major concern even before Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge (search) announced the heightened terror alert at a Sunday news conference. The Secret Service has been coordinating security with federal, state and local officials for more than a year, and Congress has allocated $50 million to secure the convention.
When asked Sunday whether the convention should proceed, Ridge would only say that New York already operates under an extraordinary blanket of security, and that additional measures would be taken by the government because of the convention's designation as a national security event.
Authorities in New York said Monday that none of the intelligence related to the increased terror level involved specific threats against the election process or the convention, nor would the new warnings affect security plans already in place.
Leonardo Alcivar, a spokesman for the GOP convention, said officials had "full confidence in the collective efforts of law enforcement agencies to protect the safety of the convention.
"No city is better prepared or has a history of addressing changing security measures than New York," Alcivar said.
Last week's Democratic National Convention in Boston drew fewer protesters than expected and proved to be safe overall.
The GOP gathering may be a far tougher test given that Bush will be in attendance and a larger number of protesters, particularly those opposed to the Iraq war, are expected.
"There are no guarantees in life, but I'm absolutely convinced that New York City will probably be the safest city in the world," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., a member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security whose district encompasses New York City suburbs on Long Island.
Republican National Committee officials never had qualms about security measures in New York, said delegate Rosie Tripp, 57, of Socorro, N.M., who served on the RNC's site selection panel.
"We have felt very confident that it will be fine," Tripp said.
Rick Aguilar, 55, a delegate from West Saint Paul, Minn., said he flew on one of the first flights after the Sept. 11 attacks and isn't concerned about convention security.
"I would have been more concerned if (former New York City Mayor Rudolph) Giuliani hadn't cleaned it up," said Aguilar, referring to the quality-of-life initiatives promoted by Giuliani in the city during his tenure.