Although the Washington delegation to the Republican National Convention were almost exclusively supporters of Ted Cruz in the state’s caucuses, many were shocked and angry the Texas senator failed to endorse nominee Donald Trump in a speech last night.
State GOP Chairman Susan Hutchison reportedly went so far as to call Cruz a “traitor” during a chance meeting with him after the speech, when the two ran into each other at an elevator at the convention center.
BuzzFeed News quoted an unnamed source that said Hutchison went “bananas” on Cruz before he was hustled into the elevator. Hutchison told KUOW news that she wouldn’t use that term but was “reflecting the anger” of many people in the convention hall.
She said she did call Cruz a “traitor to the party.”
“I just told him I thought his speech was inexcusable, and I was so disappointed in him,” Hutchison told BuzzFeed, adding she didn’t recall Cruz’s response. “I was angry, everybody was angry. You heard everybody booing him. We were astounded at what he did.”
Hutchison could not be reached Thursday for further comment.
Grant Peterson, who served as Cruz campaign chairman for Eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District, wouldn’t comment on reports of Hutchison’s calling the former presidential hopeful a traitor. But he did say he was disappointed and saddened by the speech.
Cruz’s failure to endorse Trump after previously signing a pledge to support the party’s nominee may be “political suicide,” Peterson said in a phone interview, adding:
“He broke protocol, he did not bring the party unity. He actually fractured it further.”
He recalled that, in 1976, Ronald Reagan took the stage at that year’s convention after losing the primary fight to Gerald Ford, endorsed the sitting president and walked off the platform with the vast majority of the delegates cheering.
“He set the stage for what he did four years later,” said Peterson, who was active in the Reagan campaigns in 1980 and 1984.
Cruz, who has hopes of running for president in 2020, walked off the stage with the vast majority of delegates booing, said the former Spokane County commissioner who now serves as Stevens County Republican chairman.
“It was very self-serving. He looked very small,” said Peterson, who predicted that despite Cruz’s speech, the party would come out of the convention very united behind Trump and efforts to “get our country back on track.”
Kelly Lotze, an alternate delegate from Spokane, estimated that more than half of the Washington delegation currently take the position of “never Trump.” He wouldn’t go that far, but added “Trump was my 17th pick” when the primary season started and there were 17 candidates. He’ll concentrate on getting Republicans elected up and down the ticket this fall.
Reports of Hutchison’s run-in with Cruz circulated through the delegation Thursday morning, and while some members were angry, “breakfast was fairly civil,” Lotze said.
But some in the delegation were upset with Hutchison, the Associated Press reported.
“I think it was very poor form by her,” delegate Eric Minor told the AP. “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.”
Delegate Jennifer Fetters, who had served as Cruz’s statewide campaign coordinator, said Hutchison’s confrontation with Cruz “embarrassed our delegation.”
“It’s stuck in her craw the whole time that her delegation supports a constitutional conservative,” Fetters said. “Her final back stab to our delegation was to embarrass us like that.”
Many of the Washington delegation attended a Wednesday event near the Cleveland airport in which Cruz thanked them for their support. It was at that event, as he was wrapping up his comments, that Trump’s plane flew by in the background.
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