Donald Trump’s Arizona supporters threatened Saturday to challenge the results of delegate voting at the state Republican convention, after Ted Cruz’s team locked up most of the delegates to the party’s national convention in Cleveland.
State Treasurer Jeff DeWit immediately announced the campaign of the Republican presidential front-runner was unhappy with the Arizona Republican Party’s “new electronic system” used to select 28 at-large delegates and alternates, a process that was marred by technical glitches.
DeWit, Trump’s Arizona chairman, and Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, another Trump supporter, said only two of the victorious delegates and alternates are Trump supporters. They characterized that as unheard of given the celebrity billionaire’s convincing victory in Arizona’s March 22 presidential preference election.
Others said Trump may have only one firm at-large delegate: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has endorsed Trump and campaigned with the candidate.
“We will be filing a lawsuit,” DeWit shouted to reporters as the day-long convention drew to a close. “There is some sort of collusion between the Cruz and (John) Kasich campaigns. Our slate button was checked more than any other and yet our people are not getting in. … We are asking for a re-vote and we are hoping that the party will allow us to have a re-vote.”
DiCiccio blamed “back-room-dealing politics” for the Trump setback.
“This is what America hates. This is why the voters have turned to Trump,” DiCiccio said. “They’re turning to Donald Trump because they are tired of the backroom politics, and that’s what occurred here today.”
Former Gov. Jan Brewer, another high-profile Trump supporter, lost her bid to become a Trump delegate at both the statewide and the congressional-district level.
“I got cheated,” Brewer fumed afterward. “And the people of Arizona got cheated.”
But backers of Cruz, the conservative Texas U.S. senator, said the Trump campaign reliably cries “unfair” following its defeats.
“Donald Trump never loses. He’s only ever cheated,” said Constantin Querard, Cruz’s Arizona director. “It’s just his pattern. They’ve been laying the groundwork for this loss for a couple of weeks with … ‘the fix is in’ and all of that nonsense.”
Passions were high all day as more than 1,200 Republican state delegates packed the Mesa Convention Center to elect 55 delegates to the July 18-21 Republican National Convention.
Because Trump won the GOP presidential preference election, or primary, state law requires Arizona’s delegation to support his nomination on the first ballot. If a contested convention ensues, however, the state’s delegates could switch to second-running Cruz on subsequent ballots. Most of the slots are now filled with Cruz supporters.
Delegate selection has played out similarly elsewhere, putting more pressure on Trump to clinch the nomination outright and not leave the outcome undecided heading into the convention. To do that, he needs 1,237 convention delegates nationwide, which would give him a first-ballot victory at the convention.
State delegates elected three delegates and three alternates from each of Arizona’s nine congressional districts. They then elected 28 at-large delegates and alternates, but problems with the online voting system caused delays and resulted in a period of late-afternoon restlessness among the assembled GOP activists. Some left.
The process was also confusing. State delegates could choose slates that were pro-Trump, pro-Cruz or pro-Kasich, the Ohio governor who also is still in the race.
The at-large slates for Cruz and Kasich were almost identical, with only two people on each slate who were not on the other.
There was also a compromise “Unity” slate offered by state party leaders, adding to the overlap among the slates.
Anti-Trump delegates dismissed the Unity slate as a ruse to mask some senior party members’ support for Trump. Others said the Unity slate was an effort to hurt Trump.
Adding to the confusion, the online voting glitches left Brewer and DiCiccio’s names off the Trump slate. Both were listed on the Unity slate.
Querard said the similarity between the Cruz and Kasich slates helps explain why the Trump delegates lost.
“The silly story here is that ‘we had more clicks than the Cruz campaign, we should have won,'” Querard said, referencing DeWit’s suspicions about the vote. “If you add up the Cruz clicks with the Kasich clicks, it crushes the Trump clicks, which is what happened. So the mathematics is easy. They just want you to ignore what a whole bunch of people in the room did.”
It was unclear exactly how the delegates line up for Trump, Cruz or Kasich.
Trump’s team claimed only two of the 28 at-large delegates were theirs.
Of the 27 delegates elected from the nine congressional districts, tallies varied because both camps claimed some of the same delegates as theirs.
Querard said his tally showed 16 Cruz delegates, 9 Trump delegates and 2 Kasich delegates.
Angered by the outcome, Trump supporters held an impromptu news conference following the convention, with DeWit, DiCiccio and Arpaio speaking.
At points, Trump and Cruz supporters shouted at each other, and at DeWit. One woman screamed Trump “was screwed,” while another yelled that the results were “outrageous.” In the background, supporters chanted, “Trump, Trump, Trump!”
DeWit said Trump would file a lawsuit — or some other legal action — over the results. He said the campaign would demand the vote be taken again because of the problems with the voting system.
Arpaio said, “It’s sad when he wins this state and we can’t even get delegates to go” to the convention.
DeWit and DiCiccio even got into a shouting match during the news conference after DeWit suggested Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s staffers had pushed the Cruz slate. DiCiccio angrily said DeWit’s remarks were “not true.”
DeWit shot back: “Just ‘cause you love the governor.”
Brewer stood between them, appearing uncomfortable.
The state convention audience heard from the three Republican presidential candidates either via video or surrogate speakers.
DeWit elicited both boos and chants of “Trump” when he made the case to support the Trump slate. “Donald Trump did win here by a very, very healthy margin. I would like to see us send Donald Trump delegates … It does seem as though he is the presumptive nominee and he will win,” he said.
Querard introduced a video touting Cruz as the conservative choice. “I know there’s a lot of folks out there who don’t think we should be doing this, that this is over, and you all should just go home and not say much,” Querard said. “But I’m glad you showed up, because this is an important thing we do. We don’t just do these votes. We’ve got (national) committeemen to elect.”
Via video, Kasich asked the audience for its support: “Our party has a choice to make. One path is filled with negativity about America. It drags us down, divides us. The other path is one that I’ve focused on my entire campaign and my career. It’s one that offers American families a positive vision for the future of our country.”
Earlier in the day, Ducey gave a speech calling for Republican unity. It was time to put a Republican in the White House and to put Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton “in the Big House,” the governor said.
Ducey appeared on both the Trump and Cruz delegate slates. The governor traditionally leads the delegation at the national convention.
As he has for months, Ducey refused to reveal whether he would vote for Trump, saying he is focused on state issues, not presidential politics.
“I am going to be supporting the Republican nominee for president,” he said. “I’m looking forward to going back to Cleveland to have all the healthy debate that’s necessary in our process and then electing a Republican to the White House in November.”
Asked if he could get behind Trump given some of Trump’s comments about women, Muslims and immigrants, Ducey responded, “I’m going to support the Republican nominee when that nominee is decided upon.”
As for Brewer, she not only had her name left off Trump’s at-large delegate slate, she also received another unexpected defeat in the election of delegates from the 8th Congressional District. Brewer tied with several delegates for fourth place, missing out on the district’s three slots.
“It’s the first election I’ve lost since 1970,” Brewer said.
She also lost a coin flip that would have made her the first-alternate delegate. She picked tails.