Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s convention speech, with an ominous call to “vote your conscience” and a missing endorsement of Trump, sent shock waves through the Washington delegation and chipped away at the already tenuous hope for resolution within the party.
In a tense breakfast meeting Thursday at the Crowne Plaza outside Cleveland, the delegates peppered speakers — which included the general manager for Trump Winery, Kerry Woolard — with questions. They asked if Woolard would “vote her conscience,” what kind of boss Trump is and if it’s a “good thing” that there are two Trumps — public persona and regular guy.
Finally, one disgruntled delegate told the questioners to “grow up.”
Cruz, a top contender for the GOP nomination during the primary season, spoke Wednesday night during a prime-time spot at the Republican National Convention.
Delegates anticipated an endorsement of Trump from Cruz in the hopes that it would erase the tension from Monday’s roll call vote controversy and move the party forward as a unified front supporting Trump. But his speech offered no such reprieve. As he ended his remarks, boos and chants of “say his name” could be heard throughout the convention space.
I said what he did was inexcusable and I felt he was a traitor to the party.
Susan Hutchison, chair of the Washington State Republican Party, calling her remarks to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz
The chair of the Washington Republican Party, Susan Hutchison, confronted Cruz on his way out with his wife in a chance encounter near the elevator.
“I said what he did was inexcusable and I felt he was a traitor to the party,” Hutchison said. “I feel that I was representing the anger that so many people felt who were in the convention hall.”
Hutchison said her delegates felt similarly about Cruz’s speech, and a number came up to her after hearing of the encounter and said they were behind her “200 percent.”
Olga Farnam, a state committeewoman from Snohomish, said she was a Cruz supporter until Trump became the presumptive nominee, and is disappointed Cruz “went back on his word” to support whoever the party chose.
“As soon as he said you should vote with your conscience, I knew he wouldn’t (endorse Trump),” she said. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t vote with your conscience, you absolutely should. But they’re using it as a catch phrase to say ‘don’t vote for Donald Trump,’ in my opinion.”
I’m not saying you shouldn’t vote with your conscience, you absolutely should. But they’re using it as a catch phrase to say “don’t vote for Donald Trump,” in my opinion.
Olga Farnam, state committeewoman from Snohomish
But Thursday morning, some Washington delegates echoed Cruz’s language, that if they truly “appealed to their conscience,” they couldn’t vote for the nominee. Several were upset with Hutchison.
“I think it was very poor form by her,” delegate Eric Minor of Gig Harbor said. “It’s her First Amendment right, of course, but I was not impressed by it.”
“Ted’s speech was awesome,” Minor said Thursday. “A clear articulation of conservative principles that should really enjoy widespread support.”
Richard Sanders, a Tacoma lawyer and a former state Supreme Court justice, said he will instead vote for Libertarian party nominee Gary Johnson rather than Trump. Sanders said he was not surprised by Cruz’s lack of endorsement and said it would be “irrational” to vote for someone he couldn’t trust to do a good job.
Sanders said Trump won the primary because of his celebrity. He also said that some of his major campaign proposals, such as building a wall on the Mexican border and deporting millions of undocumented immigrants, are not realistic.
“I think he could accomplish a lot if he wanted to, but I’m not sure he wants to,” Sanders said.
Mike McCrary, a self-described “Never Trumper” and alternate delegate from Yakima, caused a stir Tuesday night when he walked off of the convention floor after Trump’s official nomination. He said he hasn’t been back to the convention center since that night.
This whole campaign has forced a lot of us to boil things down to our core convictions and it’s got us in touch with them. And party loyalty can only go so far.
Mike McCrary, alternate delegate from Yakima
He watched Cruz’s speech live on television and said it would have been too much to expect for the Texas senator to offer a formal endorsement.
“It would have been a betrayal to all of us who supported Ted Cruz who felt just as abused and bullied by Trump,” McCrary said.
“This whole campaign has forced a lot of us to boil things down to our core convictions and it’s got us in touch with them,” he added. “And party loyalty can only go so far.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Hannah Rank and Siri Bulusu are graduate students at Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. They are covering the Republican National Convention for The News Tribune and The Olympian.