Something stinks in the state of selecting GOP delegates.
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I grew up believing in the need for such things as honesty and fair play, particularly in our institutions, such as school, the work place, and the nonprofit groups we participate in. This includes our political parties, including the “The Grand Old Party” of Honest Abe Lincoln. However, my perspective has corroded over the last few years. For example, the GOP has held the Congress for the last couple of years, yet cannot seem to accomplish anything of merit which is disappointing to a lot of people.
More recently, the Republican electoral process has come under fire, most notably by businessman Donald Trump who accuses the party of rigging the delegate system. Off-hand I would scoff at such accusations, but recently I experienced the delegate selection process first hand here in Florida.
Following Trump’s primary victory in Florida on March 15th, party members were allowed to submit an application to become a delegate. Some Republican friends who follow my column encouraged me to do so. Consequently, I downloaded the paperwork and processed it accordingly for my district.
I then waited almost a month to go through the delegate selection process. As this was a first for me, I really didn’t know what to expect. I had heard something about an interview but was given no guideline as to how this was to work. Through the grapevine, I heard each delegate was to be interviewed by a committee of local officials who would ask why we wanted to participate in the convention and what experience we possessed. To this end, I formulated a Republican resume and put it to paper. In it, I highlighted my Republican activities over the years, my management consulting experience, and writing skills.
The interviews were conducted, Saturday, April 16th, at the GOP Headquarters in Clearwater. We were told by officials approximately thirty people applied to be delegates, of which three delegates were to be selected and three alternates (backups). Interestingly, only ten were present to be interviewed. Hearing how important it was to be present, those in attendance thought our chances weren’t too bad for being picked.
The selection committee consisted of about seven people, including local party officials. Interestingly, no observers were allowed to sit in to assure “transparency” of the selection process, this included both Republicans and members of the press who were on hand to cover the event.
The applicants were told we would have two minutes to make our case as to why we should be selected. I felt fortunate to have prepared the resume in advance and distributed copies to the committee before doing my shtick. Following my brief presentation, I was asked two questions:
1. Do you understand you will be responsible for assuming all of your own travel expenses at the convention?
2. Would you be willing to be either a delegate or alternate?
It seemed obvious, if you didn’t answer both questions correctly, you were removed from the list. No other questions were asked.
I was in and out of the interview in less than three minutes, as were the other applicants.
After interviewing the ten people present, a spokesman came out and announced the names of the delegates and alternates. My name was not selected, nor most of the people who attended the meeting. I can only guess why I wasn’t selected as they didn’t give any explanation, but interestingly, three of the people selected were not present for the interview, but had strong connections to the party. As for me, maybe my media contacts scared them off.
Of the six selected, one was a county committeewoman (and her husband), another was a state representative (who failed to attend the interview), and another was a board member of the county GOP organization (also not in attendance).
Let me be clear on something, I wasn’t surprised I hadn’t been selected, but very disappointed in the process. It appeared obvious to me qualifications didn’t matter, it was who you knew. I could be wrong, but it also seemed Trump supporters were ignored. Because Mr. Trump won Florida, our delegates must support him for the first three ballots. Following this, the delegates are free to support someone else, and I suspect this does not include Donald Trump. I say this because local Trump officials had also applied to become delegates for other districts but were not selected.
Conducting the selection process was far from a model of efficiency. In hindsight, the applicants should have been asked for a resume or questionnaire in advance, thus saving us all a lot of time. The fact it was conducted behind closed doors does not bode well for the sanctity of the selection process.
This column should not be construed as “sour grapes,” as it is immaterial whether I attend the Republican convention. Instead, it is intended to question the fair play of the party and why such tactics are practiced.
Incidents like this are causing the party faithful to question the integrity of GOP officials. Maybe Trump is right after all; perhaps the system is rigged. The only way we’ll know is at the convention in July and, if there are more than three ballots, how the Florida delegates will then vote. It should speak volumes.
Keep the Faith!