Donald Trump wasn’t the first choice for many of the 72 North Carolina delegates heading to the Republican National Convention that is expected to nominate him for president this week.
The Republican Party gathers in Cleveland still bitterly divided over whether to support Trump’s candidacy.
Some of North Carolina’s delegates – elected by hundreds of local GOP activists from across the state – say they won’t vote for him in November. Some are reluctantly supporting the billionaire after their favorites dropped out. And some North Carolina Republican leaders are skipping the convention altogether – including Gov. Pat McCrory, who endorsed Trump ahead of the Cleveland gathering.
Trump’s victory in the state’s March primary guarantees him 29 votes on the first ballot, while runner-up Sen. Ted Cruz – who was one of the last rivals standing after a lengthy, raucous and crowded GOP primary battle — will get 27 votes. Anyone who doesn’t vote for their assigned candidate might face a $10,000 fine, under rules set by the North Carolina Republican Party to strongly discourage so-called “faithless” delegates.
But 38 of the state’s delegates – more than half – picked Cruz as their first choice when they sought support from fellow Republicans months ago in local and state meetings to go to Cleveland, well before Trump got enough delegates nationwide to become the presumptive nominee. So some Cruz backers will be required to cast ballots for Trump or another candidate instead of their first choice. Just 27 of the delegates listed Trump as their preference.
Former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr is one of the state’s nine votes for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a candidate who many thought would emerge as the establishment’s rival to Trump, but never did.
“I will proudly cast my vote for Gov. Kasich and will not support Mr. Trump,” Orr said Friday. “I think he’s unqualified to be president and commander-in-chief of the military.”
Orr said he’ll leave Cleveland before Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday. And he worries that days of pro-Trump speakers in a national spotlight will harm the GOP. “I think that the people who have elected Trump aren’t really representative of the Republican Party, and if they are, we’ve got a real problem.”
But Orr represents a minority voice in the state’s delegation in ruling out support for Trump.
“Mr. Trump has to be the winner because that’s who got voted in by the people,” said a Trump delegate, state Sen. Ronald Rabin of Harnett County, one of the first elected officials in the state to endorse Trump.
He said Republicans who won’t back the nominee “put their own power and pride before the welfare of this nation. I would never, ever support those people again.”
The 72 delegates
29 votes for Donald Trump
27 votes for Ted Cruz
9 votes for John Kasich
6 votes for Marco Rubio
1 vote for Ben Carson
6th largest delegation in the country
10 state legislators
2 members of Congress
1 former N.C. Supreme Court Justice
N&O’s convention coverage
News & Observer reporter Colin Campbell will be in Cleveland this week to cover the Republican National Convention. Follow his reports at newsobserver.com and on Twitter @RaleighReporter