Trump loyalty test for delegates may shut out many in CT GOP
Washington – Donald Trump’s big win in Connecticut means he’ll take dozens of Connecticut delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to support his presidential bid, but some state GOP insiders won’t be in the mix, and others will be screened for their loyalty to a candidate they had not openly endorsed.
Although there are calls for state Republicans to rally round the party’s front-runner, those who openly backed Trump’s rivals probably will not be invited to attend July’s nominating convention as delegates even if they have a change of heart.
State Rep. Themis Klarides, the General Assembly’s House minority leader, is one member of the state’s GOP establishment who has endorsed Trump, waiting until he won the state Tuesday to do so.
A veteran of previous Republican national conventions, she has expressed interest in being a Trump delegate in Cleveland. Most state delegations are composed largely of state and federal officials, big donors and lobbyists.
Yet her spokesman, Pat O’Neil, said the mix of delegates she would serve with in Cleveland is likely to be somewhat different from those at previous conventions – composed of fewer members of the state’s Republican establishment.
“We’re now dealing with someone who has never held elected office,” O’Neil said of Trump. “So the idea that there would be a different mix would be inevitable.”
Meanwhile, the Connecticut Democratic Party is trying to put heat on state Republicans who have been squeamish about openly supporting Trump through a “CT Trump Tracker,” which it describes as “a valuable tool to help voters stay informed about where Connecticut’s GOP politicians stand on their party’s standard-bearer.”
Rep. John Frey, a Republican national committeeman from the state, is, under party rules, one of three GOP delegates who automatically attend the national convention. The other two are National Committeewoman Pat Longo and J.R. Romano, the head of the Connecticut Republican Party.
They are pledged to Trump, but only on the convention’s first nominating ballot.
The state’s remaining 25 GOP delegates, and the 25 alternates who would replace them if any are unable to vote, are being selected by the Trump campaign in Connecticut and will be vetted by the Trump national campaign before the slate is ratified at the state party convention on May 9.
Frey said he is supporting Trump out of duty more than conviction. He supported New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker before those candidates dropped out of the race.
But the delegates chosen by the Trump campaign will not be able to say Trump was their second or third choice, Frey said.
He said he knows of 50 names of potential delegates the Trump campaign has collected in Connecticut and of the strenuous vetting process they are going through, “and I’m not aware of any who had endorsed (Texas Sen. Ted ) Cruz or (Ohio Gov. John) Kasich.”
“Any candidate who won Connecticut is going to be certain of their loyalty,” Frey said. “They are not going to pick someone who once supported someone else.”
Justin Clark, the head of the Trump campaign in Connecticut, declined to comment.
Trump needs 1,237 delegates to win the nomination, and he’s well on his way to the magic number. After Tuesday’s primaries, Trump has 957 delegates, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has 546, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich has 154.
But if Trump doesn’t reach the 1,237-delegate mark, there could be an open convention in Cleveland and a chance for someone else to snare the nomination.
That’s because not all of Trump’s delegates have gotten the scrutiny that will be given those who represent Connecticut.
About two-thirds of Republican delegates overall are named through a series of local and state caucuses, conventions or party meetings. Trump supporters are concerned there are a number of “Trojan Horses” among those delegates who would vote for someone else – most likely Cruz – on a second ballot.
In addition, each state or territory has three national committee members, like Frey, Romano and Longo, who automatically get delegate slots. They account for about 7 percent of the delegates.
Former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, who is now the first selectman of Stonington, has been to four Republican national conventions, but expects to sit this one out.
“My party has not made any particular effort to get me to the convention,” he said. “Maybe that’s because I did not endorse Trump.”
Simmons refrained from endorsing anyone, although he said he was asked to back Kasich, because of the “heated and disagreeable” tone of the campaign. He’s ready to support the front-runner, and says the Trump campaign’s focus on loyalty is understandable because many of his GOP colleagues were endorsing the idea of “Never Trump.”
“I’ve heard high-ranking Republicans say, ‘If it’s Trump, I’m not going to support him, and I’ll do everything at the convention to screw it up for him,’” Simmons said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Republican National Committeewoman Pat Longo as Pat Llodra.
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