A determined insurgency among some of the delegates to the Republican National Convention is growing, a last ditch effort to sidetrack the nomination of Donald Trump.
The efforts focus on fighting state laws and party rules that bind delegates from states with winner-take-all primaries on the first ballot at the upcoming national convention.
“If we were in a position where we didn’t have a divisive or a controversial candidate going into Cleveland we probably would have been ok,” explains Arizona GOP delegate Jarrod White. Like several states, Arizona law requires delegates to vote for the primary winner, who in this case happens to be Trump.
White is part of an organization calling itself “Free the Delegates”which is calling on delegates to vote at the convention as their conscience dictates.
Arizona Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham will have none of it.
“I have the law and the rules on my side,” he said. “And it’s not to be unfair it’s just to manage this entire process and maintain a professional decorum.”
Graham says delegates who have decided they can’t support the presumptive nominee as promised, should step aside in lieu of an alternate delegate. “Let somebody who’s enthusiastically engaged in the process to go and participate.”
“That’s him saying, you know, ‘sit down and be quiet,'” White says. “That’s not who we are as grass roots activists.”
“Here in Arizona there’s a lot of infighting within the statewide GOP,” comments a bemused Sheila Healy, Executive Director of the Arizona Democratic Party. “I would say it’s uh, it’s not unhelpful for our cause,” she adds with a hearty laugh.
Yet the Arizona GOP is certainly not alone when it comes to conflict over presumptive nominee Donald Trump.
On the other side of the country, a lawsuit filed in federal district court in Richmond on Friday, June 24 seeks to declare Virginia’s delegate binding law unconstitutional.
The suit lists Virginia delegate Carroll (Beau) Correll, a former Ted Cruz supporter, as lead plaintiff. But his attorney David Rivkin explains it was, “brought on behalf of all of the delegates, Democrat and Republican, from Virginia.”
The lawsuit seeks a temporary injunction before the conventions start, and asks that Virginia’s law ultimately be stricken down as a violation of First Amendment rights to free speech and association.
“There are approximately 20 other states that have such binding laws in various versions,” Rivkin points out, predicting that a win in Virginia, “…in effect will tell everyone in the nation that these types of binding laws are unconstitutional.”
Yet another group calling on GOP delegates to vote for someone, anyone, other than Trump in the first round has released a television ad. The spot by Delegates Unbound called “Follow Your Conscience” shows clips of Ronald Reagan and Trump side by side making starkly contrasting comments. The 30 second spot ends with the written words, “GOP Delegates: follow your conscience.”
In the face of these efforts to take the nomination away from him, Trump reminds Fox News that the largest number of primary voters in history got him where he is today.
“Listen I have millions of people out there, almost 14 million to be exact that will be extremely unhappy if that happens,” he said.
The GOP official heading the RNC’s permanent Rules Committee agrees.
“I wasn’t a Trump supporter to begin with,” Bruce Ash says while explaining why he sent a letter (link to letter here, i will include a pdf attachment to my email) calling on his fellow members to take a firm stand against the dump Trump campaign.
In the letter Ash implores, “We at the RNC must stand by our presumptive nominee’s side and defend against all who would threaten our legitimacy as a national party. What is more important than anything else is uniting and defeating Hillary Clinton in 2016.”
Arizona delegate Talmage Pearce, also affiliated with the Free the Delegates group, says uniting to defeat Hillary is now secondary.
“If Donald Trump does become the nominee and loses to Hillary Clinton, and (yet) we’re able to accomplish what we’re able to accomplish, by freeing the delegates and allowing them to vote their conscience, that’s something we can be proud of.”
Arizona’s Chairman Graham points out that all of Arizona’s delegates knew the rules going in.
“At the very beginning of our state convention we have a vote on our rules. It was unanimous…and guess what one of the rules are? That they need to sign the pledge.”
Arizona’s 2016 Republican National Convention Delegate and Alternate Delegate Pledge of Support reads in part, “…do hearby pledge my vote and support for the nominee who received the greatest number of votes in the Arizona Presidential Preference election…”
“So if they go there and try to change the rules,” Graham says, “they are deceiving a million three hundred thousand voters that voted openly. They should actually let that weigh in on their conscience.”
He assures Fox News that, “The state of Arizona will announce 58 votes for Donald Trump,” at the GOP convention. And if any delegates, “try to disrupt that or do anything along those lines the RNC has told us in writing that they will credit 58 votes to Mr. Trump.”
Unhappy delegates like White, remain undeterred. “I don’t think we’re going to lose at the convention and I think it’s going to be a historic moment.”