I guess they didn’t get the memo.
Defying the GOP unity trend, Washington Republicans, meeting at their state convention, voted Ted Cruz 40 of the 41 delegates they are sending to the GOP convention in Cleveland later this summer.
The vote was symbolic. Washington’s delegates are bound by party rules to vote for the winner of the state’s primary, which will be held this Tuesday. Trump is expected to waltz to victory as the only active candidate on the ballot.
But the gesture reflects some lingering disappointment with presumptive nominee Donald Trump and demonstrates that, while most Republicans are lining up behind the nominee, there are still pockets of resistance that Trump needs to overcome.
While GOP leaders stressed unity to defeat Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Gov. Jay Inslee, some marquee statewide Republican candidates were declaring at the convention that they couldn’t vote for Trump — or were trying desperately to avoid the subject.
“The presidential race is its own deal,” GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant said after a Friday-night speech in which he didn’t mention Trump, but drew enthusiastic cheers as he vowed mass firings of ineffective Inslee-administration bureaucrats.
As he has all year, Bryant steadfastly refused to say whether he’d support Trump, telling reporters “the only people who ask me about it are you guys.”
Meanwhile, Chris Vance, a former state GOP chairman and current candidate for U.S. Senate, spent portions of a town-hall meeting Thursday explaining why he won’t support the likely GOP presidential nominee.
“Do you think I enjoy this? Not supporting the nominee? It’s unpleasant,” Vance said as some Republicans criticized him for failing to get behind Trump.
The state convention, which drew more than 1,600 state delegates to Pasco’s TRAC Center, was the final step in electing 41 delegates to the national GOP convention, where the GOP presidential nominee will be formally nominated. State GOP Chairwoman Susan Hutchison and two other party leaders also will head to Cleveland in July as automatic delegates.
The disciplined Cruz crowd in Pasco left even Trump’s state campaign chairman, state Sen. Don Benton, unable to nab a national delegate slot. Benton, R-Vancouver, ran unsuccessfully for at-large and congressional-district delegate positions.
Cruz backers voted in a slate of their own preferred delegates to send to Cleveland.
“The majority are taking a wait-and-see attitude” on Trump, said Saul Gamoran, Cruz’s state campaign chairman, who has also said he cannot vote for the New York billionaire.
Gamoran, who was elected a national delegate, said “constitutional conservatives” who backed Cruz are not looking to make trouble at this summer’s national convention. But he said they want to ensure their voices are heard as the party develops its platform and rules.
Some of the sentiments expressed by Cruz supporters at the convention suggest that many, if not most, will come around and support Trump in the end. That may reflect a national trend. A stark realization is taking hold among the #NeverTrump crowd that refusing to support Trump is the equivalent of a vote for Hillary. And for most conservatives, that’s just a bridge too far.
The closer to November we get, the more clarifying the choice. When the focus is entirely on Hillary Clinton as a possible president of the United States, no matter how much disgust Trump engenders in conservatives, the vast majority will no doubt give the candidate their support.