Republican leaders Monday thwarted a push by delegates opposed to Donald Trump’s nomination for president – including several from North Carolina – to change the rules of the Republican National Convention.
The convention delegates sought a roll call vote instead of a voice vote on the convention rules. Action at the Quicken Loans Arena was briefly disrupted by chanting and shouting. In the end, party leaders held a second voice vote and ruled that the majority supported the existing rules.
If the rules had been voted down, any number of changes were possible, including a long-shot effort to derail Trump’s nomination by declaring that delegates wouldn’t be bound by state primary results.
Daniel Rufty of Charlotte, a delegate for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, was among those who wanted to change the rules and “unbind” the delegates.
“We don’t bind our congressmen when we elect them,” Rufty said. “It’s kind of ridiculous to bind a delegate, because things change. Our primary was in March. A lot of things can happen, and a lot of things can go really bad, and it kind of has.”
He said that “a lot of Republicans back home are disgusted” with Trump’s campaign.
But Tom Stark, a Trump delegate from Chapel Hill and a member of the rules committee, said the issue was settled when the rules were drafted. To force a roll call vote, seven states must petition for the move, but only six did – and North Carolina wasn’t among them.
“They were real loud, but there was a much larger group” that was happy with the current rules, Stark said. “At this point, what you’re doing is, you’re damaging the (Republican) brand.”
Roger Farina, a Trump delegate from Harnett County, said delegates who want to “vote their conscience” aren’t representing primary voters.
“It pains me because I feel like they’re saying, ‘Your vote doesn’t matter – my vote is more important than yours,’ ” Farina said. “I’m not here voting for myself or my beliefs; I’m here voting for whatever the factor is for those 29 Trump delegates.”
N.C. Sen. Ronald Rabin of Harnett County, a Trump delegate and one of the first state politicians to endorse him, described the people trying to change the rules as “malcontents.”
“To me, the core of the issue is either ‘we the people’ rule – which means the people who gave all the votes to Mr. Trump – to have their way with the delegates, or you have superdelegates like the Democrats, which I absolutely believe is wrong,” Rabin said. “What they did today didn’t do any good for anybody except to create a false vision of disunity, when in fact we’re very unified.”
Rufty said he thought that roughly 40 percent of North Carolina’s delegation voted against the proposed rules. But Rabin said he saw “less than 10 percent” of the state’s delegates weighing in loudly on either side.
“Most of us were sitting and trying to absorb what was going on,” he said.
Farina said the disruption, in which the chairman left the stage for several minutes and the house band struck up a jazzy tune, was confusing.
“We were all sitting there wondering what’s going on, because we didn’t really know what was happening,” he said. “There was so much noise and commotion going on.”
Rufty said the delegates spent thousands of dollars to travel to Cleveland so they’d have a voice in the process. “If (the primary outcome) was binding, we could just send the RNC an email with the primary results,” he said. “We don’t have to come here to give them a vote.”
Rufty said he thought Monday’s vote was the final chance to unbind the delegates. “I think that’s it,” he said. “If Cruz would have stayed in to the end, we would have had a much bigger fight.”
Stark also said that “there’s not a real opportunity” in the rest of the week’s convention agenda for dissenting delegates to spark further debate.
Rabin said the dissenters need to join Trump or Republicans will risk a Hillary Clinton victory in November. “If they really love their country, if they really don’t want a Clinton follow-up to Obama, then I think they must come on board and must help.”
N&O reporter Colin Campbell is in Cleveland this week covering the Republican National Convention. Follow his reports at newsobserver.com and on Twitter: @RaleighReporter
A roll call vote on Donald Trump’s nomination is expected Tuesday.
Speakers Tuesday include Trump’s children Tiffany Trump and Donald Trump Jr.; Kerry Woolard, general manager at Trump Winery in Virginia; U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia; former presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson; and soap opera actress Kimberlin Brown. U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan is scheduled to speak at a breakfast meeting of the North Carolina delegation.