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Thursday, May 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cruz supporters capture Eastern Washington delegate slots to the national GOP convention

Louise Allen, 101, of Camano Island, Wash., stands to acknowledge the announcement of being the oldest guest at the Washington State Republican convention in Pasco, Wash., Friday, May 20, 2016. (Bob Brawdy / Tri-City Herald/Associated Press)
Louise Allen, 101, of Camano Island, Wash., stands to acknowledge the announcement of being the oldest guest at the Washington State Republican convention in Pasco, Wash., Friday, May 20, 2016. (Bob Brawdy / Tri-City Herald/Associated Press)

PASCO – Although Donald Trump is the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee, the delegates who will cast the votes from Eastern Washington are strict constitutional conservatives and strong supporters of his former chief rival, Ted Cruz.

When Republicans, gathered for their state convention in the TRAC Center Arena, split into congressional caucuses to choose delegates for their national meeting in Cleveland, the Cruz campaign was by far the most organized in Eastern Washington’s 5th District.

They passed out sheets with a slate of approved candidates. They wore bright red T-shirts with “Cruz conservative” inside an outline of Washington state. They captured all three delegate positions to the national convention.

Who they will nominate at the national convention is actually out of their hands. It depends on the results of the presidential primary that ends Tuesday. With Trump the only active GOP candidate still campaigning, he could easily get a majority of the votes in the state and the congressional district, and be awarded all 44 of Washington’s delegates, including the three from the 5th District.

If not, the delegates will be divided proportionally among the candidates who reach a minimum threshold.

Regardless of the primary results, 5th District delegates will be very conservative, strict adherents of the Constitution, strong supporters of the 2nd Amendment and believers in smaller government, based on the one-minute speeches would-be delegates gave.

“I have never been so afraid for my country since 1980,” when he worked for Ronald Reagan to defeat incumbent President Jimmy Carter, said Grant Peterson, chairman of the Stevens County Cruz campaign. “My heart is heavy. I think we have a last stand.”

Peterson, a former Spokane County commissioner and 1984 state chairman of the Reagan re-election campaign, received the most votes for national delegate from Eastern Washington. He’ll be joined in Cleveland by the other members of the Cruz slate, David Barnes and Joseph Swart, both from Spokane.

Barnes described himself as a lifelong conservative and a lover of America and its Founding Fathers. Swart, a former Air Force pilot who served in Afghanistan, said he was excited when Cruz got in the race because “he’s a fighter.”

If Trump gets the needed majority of 1,237 delegates before the national convention, he wins on the first ballot and it’s over, Peterson said. “We will fall in line behind our nominee.”

But Cruz supporters still have a strong incentive to go to the national convention, he said. The Texas senator swept Stevens County in the caucuses, and going to the national convention will bring their values to that meeting and the national platform, Peterson said.

“It’s the platform that says what Republicans stand for,” Peterson said. “The Cruz delegation will ensure that platform represents good constitutional principles.”

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