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John Gregg: Vermont Republicans to Vote on Convention Delegates

Published: 4/28/2016 12:18:25 AM
Modified: 4/29/2016 3:16:09 PM

Vermont Republicans are gearing up for their state convention next month, where delegates will be chosen to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.

Although Donald Trump appears to be gaining steam in the quest for the 1,237 delegates needed for the presidential nomination, Vermont Republicans, like many of their counterparts around the country, are preparing for the fallout if the delegate tally goes to a second ballot.

Trump narrowly won Vermont’s March 1 presidential primary with 32.5 percent of the vote, outpacing Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who had 30.2 percent. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz finished a distant fourth, with 9.2 percent, behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, 19.2 percent, who was then still in the race.

Jeff Bartley, the executive director of the Vermont Republican Party, said there is strong interest among Republicans who hope to go to Cleveland or send a delegate who would support their candidate if it goes to a second ballot.

“We are having a record number of people who are interested in running,” Bartley said. “I’m sure there are lots of differences of opinion on the national campaign.”

Both Kasich and Trump are slated to get eight delegates apiece from Vermont on the first ballot, but after that, if Trump hasn’t secured the nomination, delegates in Cleveland are free to vote for the candidate of their own choosing.

The Kasich campaign last week announced a “delegate leadership team” in Vermont that included former Gov. Jim Douglas; Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who is running for governor; Bruce Lisman, another gubernatorial candidate; and Pomfret travel executive Scott Milne, the 2014 nominee for governor.

Among the delegates to the May 21 Vermont GOP convention at the Sheraton Conference Center in South Burlington is Windsor County Republican Chairman John MacGovern, a co-chair of the Cruz campaign in the state who hopes to be elected as a delegate to Cleveland.

MacGovern said the eight-and-eight vote for Trump and Kasich will happen almost automatically on the first ballot, and “then after that delegates are free to pick who they feel is the best candidate to unite the party and support principle. Barring any extraordinary situation, if Trump does not win on the first ballot, I would be supporting Cruz, and if that does not work, trying to get someone who would unite the delegates.”

MacGovern said he rejects the suggestion from Trump backers that such a scenario would be stealing the election, as Trump has asserted.

“I have to tell them that I think this process has been laid out for years, if not generations, and anyone can work at it,” MacGovern said. ”We’re simply following the rules that are in place at the time.”

Reached by email, Douglas, the former governor who lives in Middlebury, said he plans to run as a Kasich delegate. “Yes, I plan to run ... remember that Gov. Kasich tied Trump in delegates in our primary, so I could vote for him on the 1st ballot,” Douglas wrote.

Hartford Republican Town Chairman Dan Hillard, who said he now backs Trump, will be a delegate at the state convention, but is not seeking a seat in Cleveland.

He said the state convention could be lively if Trump’s campaign slows. “My sense is you are going to get the Cruz group and the Kasich group butting heads,” Hillard said. “There’s a lot of anti-Trump sentiment in this particular state, but that’s Vermont.”

In New Hampshire, which has 23 delegates, Trump won 35.3 percent of the vote and will get 11 delegates. Four are going to Kasich, 3 apiece to Jeb Bush and Cruz, and 2 to Rubio.

Claremont resident Cynthia Howard, Trump’s Sullivan County chairwoman, and her husband, Phillip, are both alternate delegates headed to Cleveland. She said she is confident the New York developer will reach the magic 1,237 number, and Republicans “would be opposing the will of the people” if it goes to a second ballot.

“He has won the majority of the vote, he has won the majority of the states,” she said. “I think he’s in sync with what most Americans are feeling and are afraid to say. And I think he will get a lot of support from Democrats and independents.”

Briefly Noted

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, will be holding a “meet and greet” on May 11 in Weathersfield. A pasta dinner will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Martin Memorial Hall in Ascutney.

State Sen. David Pierce, D-Lebanon, was the lone Upper Valley senator to vote in favor of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana last week in a 14-10 vote that killed the bill. Sen. Jeanie Forrester, a Meredith Republican running for governor as a conservative, and Newport-area Republican Sen. Jerry Little, the incoming banking commissioner, voted against the measure.

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John P. Gregg can be reached
at jgregg@vnews.com.




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