J.R. Romano, center, at the 2016 Republican convention where Donald J. Trump was nominated. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG
From left in front row, Connecticut delegates J.R. Romano, Patricia Longo and Mary Ann R. Turner.
From left in front row, Connecticut delegates J.R. Romano, Patricia Longo and Mary Ann R. Turner. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

Cleveland — The Connecticut delegation stood with Donald J. Trump on Monday as the Republican National Convention opened with an unsuccessful rules fight by delegates still hoping to find a path to throw open the GOP nomination for president.

“There is a small minority of people who have a problem with what’s going on, and that’s fine,” said Benjamin Proto of Stratford, a Trump delegate who serves with Linda McMahon as one of Connecticut’s two representatives on the Rules Committee. “You have to understand that, while the minority has the right to be heard, the majority will prevail at the end of the day on those issues.”

From their front-row seats at stage right, the Connecticut delegates loudly supported the Trump campaign on voice votes ending the rules fight.

“You have to be able to speak over airplanes in my neighborhood,” said Mary Ann R. Turner, the GOP chairman of Enfield, not far from the flight paths into Bradley International Airport.

One of the last opportunities for dissidents to speak out may come Tuesday night, when the roll is taken and the head of every delegation gets a brief moment at a microphone. It also would be a time for dissidents to walk out, if they wanted to convey on television that there remain Republican activists unwilling to accept Trump as their nominee.

But after losing the rules fight, delegates are bound to reflect the results of their primaries or caucuses, and those contests produced more than enough delegates for Trump to become the Republican nominee for president. Trump is the only candidate whose name will be placed in nomination.

J.R. Romano, the Connecticut chairman and leader of the state’s delegation, said the rules fight was a last gasp.

“It’s an act of petulance. They lost, and they can’t accept it,” Romano said. “They are going after their 15 minutes of fame, not what’s right for the country.”

Turner said the delegates owed it to the primary voters to reflect their votes. Coming from Connecticut, where Trump carried 165 of 169 municipalities, she said her decision was easy.

“I’m here because I have the privilege to bring their votes to the floor,” she said.

Greater opportunities for dissidents are outside the Quicken Loans Arena.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has refused to endorse Trump and will not address the convention, has a full schedule of events outside the arena, including a press event Tuesday afternoon at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. He can be expected to reply to the Trump campaign’s sharp criticism of his refusal to follow Ted Cruz, the last of Trump’s GOP competitors, in backing the ticket.

Paul Manafort, the New Britain native and Washington power broker who is now running the Trump campaign, accused Kasich of being “petulant.” Manafort is expected to address Connecticut delegates Tuesday.

Gov. John Katich campaigning in Connecticut.
Gov. John Kasich campaigning in Connecticut earlier this year. CTMIRROR.ORG

Former Congressman Chris Shays, whose loss in 2008 left Connecticut without a Republican in Congress, said the Trump campaign was being shortsighted in not making room for dissent, especially if it comes from Kasich, the popular governor of a swing state. Shays campaigned for Kasich in Connecticut, where he finished a distant second in a three-way primary with Trump and Cruz.

“He is being respectful of the Republican Party and faithful to his view of the party, helping other Republicans get elected,” said Shays, who is not in Cleveland. “He is faithful to his heartfelt beliefs, faithful to his family. How would you tell your daughter you are going to support a man who says the things he does?”

Proto downplayed Kasich’s absence, saying he was not sure the governor sought a speaking role. He acknowledged, however, it is unusual for a governor of the host state not to make a brief appearance welcoming delegates from the stage.

“It was very clear, if you want a speaking role you can’t be just semi-supportive, but on board and enthusiastic,” Shays said.  “It’s not worth selling yourself just so you can speak to the convention.”

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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