Backers of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump accused the Arizona GOP convention of cheating after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz pulled out a strategic victory Saturday.
Cruz won virtually all of the 28 at-large national delegates and roughly split the 27 delegates selected by congressional district. Cruz’s Arizona campaign organizer says simple math led to the at-large victory. Cruz offered a nearly identical slate of candidates as John Kasich backers, and the combined votes led to a win.
State Treasurer Jeff DeWitt, who chairs Trump’s Arizona campaign, said a challenge is possible after calls for a revote were rejected by the party.
“The Trump campaign is very unhappy with the results,” DeWitt told reporters. “We don’t feel that this was a fair process. The Trump button got checked more than any other, so why do we have so few delegates?”
Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio blamed “back-room-dealing politics” for the loss Saturday, according to The Arizona Republic.
“This is what America hates. This is why the voters have turned to Trump,” DiCiccio said. “They’re turning to Donald Trump because they are tired of the backroom politics, and that’s what occurred here today.”
Former Gov. Jan Brewer lost her bid to become a delegate and said afterward that she was cheated.
“I got cheated,” Brewer told reporters. “And the people of Arizona got cheated.”
State party Chairman Robert Graham said the election was run fairly, and the Kasich-Cruz slates just combined to get the win.
“Mr. DeWit is making a habit of making outlandish comments to try to crush the integrity of a great meeting,” Graham said. “This was a very pronounced victory for the Cruz-Kasich slates. If it was close, then you might say ‘Hey, one person here, one person there,’ but this was a commanding victory.”
Constantin Querard, Cruz’s Arizona campaign chair, struck back against claims from DeWitt.
“They lost because of math, not because of malfeasance. If you take the people that want Cruz, and you add to them the people who don’t want Trump, that’s a majority in just about any room in America.”
Saturday’s victory was mainly strategic for Cruz since all 58 Arizona delegates are required to vote for Trump on the first national ballot because he won the state’s primary. If there is a contested convention, the state’s delegates can switch to back Cruz. There are three automatic delegates, including Graham.
With Trump at nearly 1,000 national delegates out of 1,237 he needs to win the presidential nomination outright after recent sweeps of five eastern states, even Cruz’s Arizona backers believe Saturday’s effort is likely to be for naught.
“It’s most likely that Trump will be the next president, but I’m trying my hardest for it to be Cruz,” said state Rep. David Livingston, who is unabashedly backing Cruz.
The battle at Saturday’s convention goes back weeks, when Cruz backers were wrangling at local party meetings to nail down delegates to the state party.
Gov. Doug Ducey opened the convention by calling on the party faithful to end Democratic control of the White House.
Ducey called the past eight years “the most futile in modern American history” and said that it’s time to “put a Republican in the White House and Hillary Clinton in the Big House.”