TAMPA, Fla. – Celebrities don’t typically overwhelm Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr but not so Tuesday as he entered the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“I walked in the same time as Chris Christie … I got star struck over him,” confessed Darr to Arkansas delegates to the Republican National Convention at a breakfast meeting Wednesday.
Christie, governor of New Jersey, delivered the final address of the Tuesday night session. But, it wasn’t the speech that had Darr in awe.
“I got star struck over him because I feel like he’s Tony Soprano. And also too, anyone who is bigger than me and still popular — I love,” Darr said.
The early morning breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn in the Ybor District of Tampa was not as packed as a day earlier. Some slept in, while others opted to attend a breakfast fundraiser honoring Ann Romney. That was also true of Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, the scheduled speaker.
With Carroll missing, speaking duties turned to Darr who had prepared simply to introduce Carroll, the first African-American woman elected to a statewide office in Florida.
Darr listed off a number of her accomplishments but what got his attention most was that her son is a member of the Miami Dolphins football team.
“Because she’s not here I’ll say it ‘Free tickets for everyone’,” he joked.
Darr said he had hoped to have Tom Cotton replace her as the morning speaker. Cotton, the Republican candidate in the 4th Congressional District, had poked his head in the breakfast before heading to another event.
With Cotton out of the room, Darr took a friendly jab at his prolific fundraising ability. Cotton’s campaign took in more than $1.5 million by July.
“I told people yesterday that I was from Arkansas and they asked me ‘Are you Tom Cotton?’ I said ‘Yes’ and immediately they just started throwing cash at me,” Darr joked.
Darr said he and his wife have been having a good time at the convention. Many of the events he said “are just a party” and they’ve seen a few concerts.
The fun, however, is tempered by the weight of the moment, which Darr said he felt profoundly during a drive to a pro-life luncheon.
Darr was in the front seat with his police escort at the wheel and noticed a picture on the officer’s laptop of a young man in uniform.
He asked if the photograph was of his son and whether he was serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. The driver told him that his son had died in service in 2004.
“To be honest with you, it really put things in perspective really quick,” he said. “So as you are going through your routine this week and how we just want to crush the Democrats and all that, at the end of the day it really is that we want to advance freedom for future generations.”