Some Illinois Trump Delegates Skipping Convention In Protest Of State Republican Party
Updated at 3:10 p.m.
An Illinois Republican Party spokesman, Aaron DeGroot, released a statement Wednesday afternoon in response to this story.
“The Illinois Republican Party is committed to supporting the Republican nominee, Donald Trump. In addition to working with the RNC, we are working with the Trump campaign to fill those vacancies in compliance with state law, which makes it very difficult to do within a short time frame. Additionally, Illinois' RNC National Committeewoman, Demetra Demonte, is one of the leading figures in the state party and is serving as an adviser to the Trump campaign. She has been very involved with the Trump campaign in the convention planning process and making preparations for Illinois' delegation as well.”
Some Illinois delegates for Donald Trump are not going to go to the Republican National Convention next week to nominate their candidate. They say their decision is at least in part because of the tepid support Trump has received from the Illinois Republican Party.
Rich Nordstrom was elected to be a delegate for Donald Trump by almost 25,000 voters in Illinois’ 17th Congressional District. Nordstrom is the mayor of Galva, Ill., a town of about 3,000 people between Peoria and Moline, Ill.
Nordstrom is enthusiastic about Trump as the Republican nominee for president, but he’s not so enthusiastic about going to the Republican National Convention next week, where delegates like him are supposed to cast a vote to officially name Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee.
He said he was let down when he heard a lot of his own fellow Illinois Republicans won’t be there.
Gov. Bruce Rauner, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and a few congressmen from Illinois have said they won’t go to the convention. Some of those top-ranking Illinois Republicans have been vocal in saying they won’t endorse Trump.
“Now that we finally have a Republican governor after years of not having one, then basically kind of blowing off the convention - I thought it was kind of a letdown, a slap in the face,” Nordstrom said of Rauner.
Nordstrom added that time and money also are a factor for why he may skip the convention.
Delegates have to pay their own way to the convention. Nordstrom said he didn’t get a room at the hotel where the Illinois delegation is staying earlier, thinking the price of about $300 dollars per night was too much for him. Now, he said, he’s finding prices are closer to $500 a night.
Nordstrom said he’ll see how he feels on Sunday - the day before the convention starts - while keeping his eye on rooms available on AirBnb. Although he’s quick to note he’s not excited about the prospects of sharing a room.
Anthony Anderson is another Trump delegate. The Joliet resident was elected to represent Illinois’ 11th Congressional District in Cleveland to vote for Trump.
Anderson said he is not going to the convention out of protest of the Illinois state Republican Party not supporting Trump.
“There’s absolutely no room for me to change my mind for the simple fact I’ve thought long and hard,” he said. “I just don’t like what I see; what I see is a delegation that’s ready to go to Cleveland and undermine the process, at least so far as the Illinois delegation is concerned.”
Anderson pointed out that the former chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, Pat Brady, said he won’t ever support Trump.
“A former party chairman is going to go to Cleveland, Ohio and do everything he can to undermine the process and make the Illinois delegation look bad; and it really will make the Illinois delegation look bad and tattered,” Anderson said.
“I’m not going to undermine the candidate,” Brady said of Anderson’s comments. “I’ve been a Republican for 45 years. I’m going to try to help the party and I think Donald Trump is going to be a trainwreck for the Republican Party.”
Brady won election to be a delegate for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, which means Brady has to vote for Kasich at the convention.
Brady said he’s not happy to hear Trump delegates like Anderson are skipping the convention - but he also acknowledges that their absence helps his cause of trying to stop Trump from receiving the Republican nomination.
“If 10 percent of the delegates don’t show up or don’t get viable replacements or valid replacements, I think his nomination could be in jeopardy,” Brady said.
“I would think that that’s pretty unlikely,” said John Fogarty, the general counsel for the Illinois Republican Party.
Fogarty said the party already knows at least five delegates who are not attending.
And there could be more.
A party spokesman said things are still in flux. Party leaders are trying to contact alternate delegates who won election in March. “Delegate and alternate delegate vacancies are routine and occur nationwide every Presidential election cycle,” Illinois Republican Party spokesman Aaron DeGroot said in a statement. But the party had no comment on criticisms from its own delegation about its own party not supporting Trump.
Fogarty says when Trump delegates fail to show up in Cleveland, the odds for people like Pat Brady to prevent Trump from becoming the nominee are better - but he said they’re still very long odds to overcome.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.