A Sedate Arizona Republican Convention Crumbles into Rancor
By USAF Maj (Ret) Bob Colvin
A day that started placidly with small discussions between Trump and Cruz supporters, a smattering of good natured boos, and zero protesters outside, deteriorated into shouts of protests and hard feelings by the Trump camp.
Arizona Republican activists, including 750 candidates to be delegates to the National Convention in Cleveland, assembled on Saturday, April 30, 2016, to select 27 CD (congressional district) delegates, three from each of nine districts, and 28 delegates at large, plus one each National Committeeman and Committeewoman. The various campaigns had drawn up “slates” of candidates they believed would support their presidential candidates: Trump, Cruz, Kasich, and a Unity Slate drawn up by the party. The vast majority of 750 candidates did not appear on the slates but this caused no apparent problem.
In the morning session the state delegates who had been elected in district caucuses in March and April, voted by paper ballot for the CD delegates in their districts and for the committee persons. The ballots were scanned as had been done in elections past. There was only one male candidate for committeeman and, after he got one vote, he was elected. None of the three women running for committeewoman got 50% plus one so the top two were scheduled for a runoff in the afternoon. In the CD elections 14 Trump-leaning and 13 Cruz-leaning national delegates were elected. This did not create a protest at the time.
In the afternoon session, the party announced that paper ballots would not be needed for the runoff or the at large voting because a new electronic system would be used “to allow for total transparency” of the voting process. The system used a web site humorously titled NeverHillary.SimplyVoting.com.
Trouble began as soon as the electronic at large voting was opened. After a short while the system crashed. There was talk that some names did not appear on the “slates”.
Party assistants helped the voters complete the CD vote and the voting was closed. The runoff was opened and was completed quickly. The winner of the runoff was announced first while the at-large votes were totaled. That was the last calm moment at the convention.
As soon as the at-large results were posted, the Trump Arizona campaign chairman, State Treasurer Jeff DeWit, began complaining to the media and The Arizona Republic’s national political reporter Dan Nowicki tweeted:
Fuming @JeffDeWitAZ: Of the 28 at-large delegates, only two are Trump people; the rest are Cruz's. We don't feel this was a fair process.
— Dan Nowicki (@dannowicki) May 1, 2016
Trump supporters began to shout that they had been cheated. The convention was quickly gaveled closed amidst loud protest.
DeWit held a news conference outside the convention center accompanied by former governor Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, both Trump supporters. DeWit repeatedly insisted that the Trump Slate button on the electronic system had been pushed many more times than any other and that Brewer, who was on the Trump slate, got zero votes. Brewer emphatically stated that she and the voters of Arizona had been cheated. Sheriff Arpaio expressed his anger and praised the hard work of the Trump supporters.
DeWit said that there would be a protest, possible legal action, and a request for a revote. He was careful not to blast the National Republican party, admitted there were glitches in the system, and theorized that there may have been collusion between the Cruz and Kasich teams. Cruz and Kasich were reported to have submitted identical slates.
At one point during the press conference a harsh argument began between a Cruz and a Trump supporter but abruptly ended when police and sheriff’s deputies repositioned themselves nearby. No blows were struck.
State party chairman Robert Graham said the election was fair, and the combined Cruz and Kasich slates added together to get the win. “Mr. DeWit is making a habit of making outlandish comments to try to crush the integrity of a great meeting,”
In what has become a familiar occurrence in this campaign season a calm, upbeat, session turned into a spectacle, and raised more questions than it answered.
First published at SavingOurFuture.com
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