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Semanko offers an insider’s view of yesterday’s GOP convention ‘pandemonium’

Norm Semanko
Norm Semanko

Norm Semanko, a Cruz delegate and a rules committee member in Cleveland and former Idaho Republican Party chairman, says the media is unfairly focusing on “the ‘Dump Trump’ sideshow,” when he says many delegates at the convention, including Idaho’s delegation, just want reasonable changes in party rules. However, that push descended into “pandemonium” yesterday, Semanko writes, as a request for a roll call vote was blocked amid chaos at the convention.

“The truth is that the large majority of conservatives here at the convention, especially Idaho delegates, are united in moving the Republican Party forward, but they do want a fair and open process,” Semanko writes. “There are no efforts being organized by Idaho delegates to walk out or stifle progress or to create demonstrations that allow the sideshow to carry on as if it were the main event. Our Idaho delegation is dedicated to representing Republicans back home and we are all united in our mission to defeat Hillary Clinton.”

Here is his full piece:

Idaho delegates seek meaningful change; not part of “Dump Trump” sideshow

By Norm Semanko

The story on TV about the Republican National Convention is almost entirely focused on the disgruntled delegates who want to “Dump Trump” and/or “#FreetheDelegates,” allowing them to vote their conscience. The portrayal of the RNC as one giant attack on Trump’s status as the presumptive nominee is really the sideshow and is not the main event, nor is it why Idaho delegates have come to Cleveland.

Some might wonder why the Convention lasts all week. In addition to nominating the President, we adopt Party rules and the Party platform, which takes an incredible amount of effort. Several committees of over 100 members each draft amendments to current rules and documents, discuss, debate and vote on those proposed changes. This process all culminates with the presentation of committee reports on the floor on the first day of the Convention.

Pandemonium ensued on the 2016 Convention’s first day as the Rules & Order of Business Committee Chair moved to adopt the Committee’s report. What should have happened was that the Chair, Enid Greene Mickelsen, should have recognized the request of several states for a roll call vote on the overall package presented by the committee to the floor. The package did not even include the question of who was being nominated for President. Instead, the Chair hurriedly declared that the voice vote passed, regardless of the equally loud eruption of “nays” that followed the loud eruption of “ayes.” After she rushed off the stage in an attempt to escape the outrage of the crowd, the RNC struck up the band to delay proceedings as petition forms flew around the floor.

Rule 39 of the RNC rules provides for a roll call vote when the majority of the delegates from 7 or more states request it in writing. This process has not been used frequently. Seemingly prepared for the moment, a crew of folks in neon green hats on the floor who were identified as “floor whips” quickly created and distributed a “withdrawal form” to negate the signatures that had been previously collected on the petitions to request a roll call vote.

After the band stalled proceedings, a delegate from Utah was recognized and made a motion to call for a roll call vote. The presiding officer ruled that while the required number of petitions had indeed been submitted, several delegates’ signatures had been voided by the subsequently filed withdrawal forms. The presiding officer declared that three of the 9 states’ requests were no longer valid, and thus only 6 states had valid petitions to request a roll call vote.

Chairman Priebus made it clear at the beginning of the Convention that any requests for a roll call vote must be submitted in writing prior to the committee reports being made. There was no mention of any withdrawal form. The use of this “withdrawal form” is not part of any normal process or recognized within any RNC rule.

It was very clear to most everyone on the floor that the vote was on the rules and the rules committee. But the media reported it as an attempt by anti-Trump people to “Dump Trump.” While there are certainly a handful of delegates who are firmly, perhaps almost recklessly, dedicated to making sure that Donald Trump doesn’t get the nomination, that is not the sentiment of the large majority of the delegates who are here to make meaningful changes to how the Party operates. However, the fringe minority has commanded the media’s attention, which is unfortunate because the real story is left untold.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so there’s no doubt that much of the media’s focus will continue to be the sideshow rather than the main event. In the meantime, the delegates who spent their time and money to come to Cleveland to contribute are having their efforts silenced by a largely coopted message. The efforts by conservative delegates, who were largely Cruz supporters, were  not to “Dump Trump.” The efforts were to argue for rules changes that would increase transparency in the way the Party is run and decentralize power away from Washington D.C. to state parties and closer to the people. The efforts by this group on the floor were simply to allow for a recorded roll call vote on those issues and nothing further.

The truth is that the large majority of conservatives here at the convention, especially Idaho delegates, are united in moving the Republican Party forward, but they do want a fair and open process. There are no efforts being organized by Idaho delegates to walk out or stifle progress or to create demonstrations that allow the sideshow to carry on as if it were the main event. Our Idaho delegation is dedicated to representing Republicans back home and we are all united in our mission to defeat Hillary Clinton.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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