Today in New West news: Utah delegates lead thwarted roll call vote at Republican National Convention over Donald Trump, Colorado delegates walk out in protest, and U.S. Rep Ryan Zinke (R-MT) speaks at RNC.
The Republican National Convention kicked off in Cleveland, Ohio yesterday, and is expected to be one of the most contentious in recent memory. Indeed, on day one, tensions were already high, as some Republican factions strove to quash Donald Trump’s apparent ascendency. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, an initiative spearheaded by U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and the state’s GOP delegates to make a roll call vote was shouted down, to the apparent rage of the Utah contingent:
The chaotic effort erupted after convention chairman Steve Womack, an Arkansas congressman, refused to recognize Utah delegation chairman Phil Wright as he demanded a roll call vote on the rules and then walked off the stage to roars of protest from Utah and other delegates.
“Turn on the mic!” Wright shouted, alongside Lee and his wife, Sharon, who were members of the Rules Committee. “You are ignoring delegates who have been elected to represent the 50 states!”
“I can’t fathom what they are thinking,” an angry Lee told reporters after being denied a chance to speak. “Those who are calling for unity, keep that in mind. If what they want is unity, treat us with respect. … We are now in uncharted waters.”
He also described the scene as “surreal.”
The chairman of the convention returned, this time recognizing Wright, who demanded the roll call vote.
A majority of the delegates in nine states — including Utah — had signed petitions demanding a roll call vote in a move aimed at opening the door to the convention considering other candidates. But Republican National Committee staffers worked furiously to persuade delegates to withdraw their names from the petitions.
In the end, the effort worked, as enough delegates withdrew that three of the nine state petitions were rescinded and two additional petitions that were submitted were deemed to have been turned in too late, leaving the anti-Trump forces short of the seven states needed to force a vote.
Lee made futile efforts to demand to know which states withdrew, but was ignored by the chairman.
“It’s strange this is a political convention. People have taken time off from work, they’ve come from all over the United States to be here,” Lee said. “People can be unheard anywhere. … They don’t travel hundreds or thousands of miles to be unheard at their own party’s national convention.”
The Tribune added, in a separate story, that some Trump supporters honed in on select Utah delegates, lashing them with jibes and verbal abuse. Some told the Utah delegates: “You should die … You should all die.” Stefani Stone Williams, another Utah delegate, told the Tribune she received an email from Trump’s New York campaign organizer Cal Paladino saying she should be “hung for treason.”
According to the Denver Post, while the Utah delegates were calling for a roll call vote, members of the Colorado delegation reportedly walked out on the proceedings—in protest of chairman Womack’s actions:
“We were just completely robbed,” said Kendal Unruh, a Colorado delegate and a leader in the “Free the Delegates” movement that is part of the Delegates Unbound coalition scheming to upset Trump.
Moments later, Arkansas U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, the convention’s presiding chairman, reconsidered the voice vote, and the Colorado delegates returned to the floor.
The anti-Trump forces filed a petition signed by a majority of nine state delegations to force a vote on the rules, more than the seven required. But the convention officials ruled it insufficient after three states backed down amid arm-twisting from the Trump camp.
“It was pretty clear it wasn’t a fair and open process. And instead of trying to create some unity at the convention, all they did was create acrimony,” said Justin Everett, a state lawmaker and Colorado delegate. “Without having that transparency, it’s going to be real difficult to sell that candidate that may or may not be valid come November. There’s going to be contentious questions there … because we didn’t get an up or down vote.”
While several New West lawmakers and delegates made news for opposing Trump, some have gained attention for supporting him. Indeed, freshman U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) made news for announcing he would not only support Trump, but speak at the convention. His chance to speak came last night, according to the Billings Gazette, where he spoke about his military experience and how it would relate to a Trump presidency:
“Donald Trump isn’t afraid to talk about radical Islamic terrorism, and he won’t be afraid to destroy it,” the Montana Republican and former U.S. Navy SEAL told the GOP convention meeting in Cleveland, according to a copy of his remarks supplied by his staff. “We need a commander in chief who will support our troops rather than abandon them in Benghazi.”
Zinke spoke to the Republican National Convention meeting in the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland near the end of Monday’s session, after most of the crowd had left. He was preceded by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and veteran Jason Beardsley, and spoke just before the benediction, offered by televangelist Paula White.
“Ever heard of a place called Gitmo?” he asked the delegates, referring to the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. “Let’s just say that I’m personally acquainted with many of the individuals now experiencing those accommodations. Let me tell you, they need to stay there forever.”
Zinke closed out his speech by calling President Obama “weak” and calling presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton “the architect of Benghazi.” He closed out with a spin on Trump’s presidential catchphrase: “Make America Safe Again.”
Zinke is up for reelection this year, running against Democratic challenger Denise Juneau. If Juneau trumps Zinke, she would become Montana’s first Native American congressional representative in the House—and only the second woman in the state’s history.