SAN JOSE – Republicans from throughout California gathered Friday for the state convention, where they will try to overlook their differences with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and unify behind his re-election effort this fall. While a number of key party members are disappointed with several moves the governor has made recently – most notably his hiring of Democrat Susan Kennedy as chief of staff and his support for increasing the minimum wage – most said they could put them aside for the sake of the GOP. “OK, so I disagree with that,” said Marvin Jones, former chairman of the party’s San Benito County committee. “I’m still going to vote for him. I am going to campaign for him. I am going to walk precincts. I am going to make phone calls on his behalf.” For the most part, delegates feel they have no choice. As another noted, “I’m not happy about it, but who else am I going to vote for?” Two former GOP chairmen had authored a resolution asking the party to withdraw its pre-primary endorsement of Schwarzenegger because of Kennedy’s hiring, but that effort failed to gain much support. Conservative critics were told they would get a chance to air their grievances in exchange for not seeking to pull the endorsement. Most of the other resolutions to be debated this weekend praise the governor for his fiscal and public safety policies, though a few disagree with his positions on increasing the minimum wage, borrowing to fund his infrastructure program and failing to pay down the budget deficit. But Mike Spence, president of the conservative activist group California Republican Assembly, said his latest discussion with party officials indicate he and other critics may not get much chance to speak. “The way it’s been twisted around we won’t have as much time as we would’ve liked, if we get time at all,” Spence said. “We wanted to express our concerns, so we know the governor heard us about some of these things. I’m not sure he’s going to hear us.” Party Chairman Duf Sundheim said debate is “healthy” for the party and leaders are not trying to squelch dissenters, although he was uncertain how much time the critics would have. “If the issue is are we united behind this governor? The answer is absolutely yes,” Sundheim said. “Do we agree with the governor on every position he has taken on every issue? Obviously that’s never been the case for any elected official.” The governor spoke to convention participants in a sold-out dinner banquet Friday night, but is not scheduled to stay for the rest of the convention. Schwarzenegger, who declared a state of emergency Friday over the state’s levee system, is scheduled to fly today to Washington, D.C., where he expects to meet with President Bush to talk about levees and other issues. He is also attending the winter meeting of the National Governors Association. In his speech to the party, Schwarzenegger harkened back through the party’s history, citing Abraham Lincoln for eliminating slavery, Teddy Roosevelt for fathering the environmental movement and Dwight Eisenhower for building interstate highways. “We will continue to fight for recovery and for reform,” Schwarzenegger said, according to excerpts released in advance of the speech. “For pension reform, education reform, redistricting reform and for budget reform.” In general, the mood on the convention’s first day was festive, as activists greeted colleagues they hadn’t seen since the last convention, and browsed among tables hawking political merchandise. At one table, bumper stickers proudly declared “Charter Member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy” and “Gun Control Is Using Both Hands.” Nearby, brochures urged people to support the “drafting” of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to run for president in 2008. [email protected] (916) 446-6723 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!