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Cruz, Kasich Coalition Beats Trump Camp For A Majority Of Arizona National Delegates
Despite Donald Trump's sweeping victory in Arizona's March presidential preference election, a contest on Saturday to elect Arizona’s national delegates to attend the Republican National Convention wound up being a victory for Trump’s opponents, who worked together to secure an overwhelming majority of the delegate slots.
More than 1,200 Republicans from across Arizona descended on the Mesa Convention Center on Saturday morning for the 2016 state GOP convention. Their task was to select the 58 national delegates who will represent the state at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. Those eligible to vote had been elected as state delegates in Republican party meetings over the last two months.
The last state delegates did not leave until after 6 p.m. — some three hours behind schedule — with Trump’s Arizona campaign crying foul and calling for a revote.
Supporters of Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and John Kasich managed to pick up the majority of the national delegate slots by forming a coalition known as the “Victory” slate. Less than one-third of the winning delegates were endorsed by the Trump campaign and appeared on the Trump slate.
The leanings of these delegates will matter if Trump does not secure the 1,237 delegates he needs before the July convention.
While state law dictates that Arizona’s 58 delegates must vote for Trump on the first ballot because he won the presidential preference election here, delegates may vote for other candidates after the first ballot if there are multiple rounds of voting.
State Treasurer Jeff DeWit, who serves as Trump’s campaign chair in Arizona, said there were irregularities in the electronic voting to nominate 28 at-large delegates. He called for a revote.
“We are not happy with the results,” DeWit told reporters. “We will be filing a lawsuit. There is some kind of collusion between the Cruz and Kasich campaigns.”
Representatives from the Cruz and Kasich campaigns said they simply had more support by working together.
The Trump campaign is not contesting a separate paper vote taken earlier in the day to select three delegates from each of the nine congressional districts. In that race, the slates showed 14 of the winning delegates were listed on the Cruz/Kasich slate, 10 were listed on the Trump slate, and three were listed on both.
Each camp, however, had its own way to tally how many delegates they had won, since some delegates appeared on multiple slates and some appeared on one slate but had loyalties to a different candidate. Trump’s campaign insisted 14 of the winning delegates in the congressional districts were Trump supporters. The Cruz/Kasich campaign calculated 16 winning delegates were loyal to Cruz, two were loyal to Kasich and nine back Trump.
The controversy stemmed from the vote over 28 at-large candidates, in which the Trump campaign suffered a devastating loss.
Because there were more than 600 candidates, the vote had to be done electronically on voters’ cell phones or a limited number of laptops. Complaints surfaced early on that two of Trump’s strongest backers, former Gov. Jan Brewer and Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, had been left off the electronic Trump slate.
Only a single at-large delegate candidate who was listed solely on Trump’s slates wound up winning: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Secretary of State Michele Reagan, Attorney General Mark Brnovich and former Maricopa County Schools Superintendent Sandra Dowling won after being listed on all the slates, and the remaining 24 at-large winners were listed on the Cruz/Kasich slates.
Arpaio said he was excited to go to Cleveland to support Trump, but said he was puzzled by the Trump slate’s poor showing.
“I can’t understand why more Trump guys didn’t make it,” Arpaio said. “I am not a mathematician. But I have a little suspicion that everyone is after Trump across the nation.”
DeWit complained to reporters that the electronic results showed the Trump slate was selected more than any other slate, and yet those on the Trump slate did not win. But Cruz’s Arizona campaign chair, Constantin Querard, said that was a misleading argument because there were separate slates for Cruz and Kasich that were almost identical.
“If you add up the Cruz and Kasich clicks it far exceeded the Trump clicks,” Querard said.
Querard accused the Trump campaign of a pattern of claiming the system is rigged against it rather than admit defeat.
“They want you to ignore what a whole bunch of voters actually voted for so their narrative of ‘Oh, we got cheated’ fits, and it doesn’t actually fit,” he said.
Cruz supporter Joshua Askey served on the electronic voting committee and said the Trump campaign had its own representative on the committee who approved the system in advance.
“The reality is they didn’t have the votes to really win,” Askey said. “We knew that we had a lot more Cruz state delegates here.”
Many Cruz supporters in attendance admitted it may not matter who the delegates from Arizona support, because they expect Trump to secure the nomination long before the convention. Phil Cook, a state delegate who supports Cruz, said it was important for him to come out anyway to vote for his preferred candidate’s slate of delegates.
“If you are going to throw a Hail Mary pass, you throw the Hail Mary and see what happens,” Cook said. “I think Trump might lock it up but I support Cruz before Trump."
State delegate Domingos Santos said he was backing the Trump slate of delegates on Saturday because he respected the will of Arizona’s voters who weighed in on March 22. He said he was disappointed by Saturday’s outcome.
“Donald Trump received 249,000 votes plus from people who waited hours in line, and what we are seeing here today is that the delegates that are being elected to represent the state of Arizona and to represent Donald Trump — the winner of the state of Arizona — are not Donald Trump delegates,” Santos said. “So on a second round of balloting the will of the Arizona people will not be represented accurately.”
Santos said he still remained concerned even though many in his camp say they believe Trump will be able to win on the first ballot.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, so I don’t know,” Santos said. “What I do know, and what I care about is that I care about the voice of 249,000 people.”
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect that there were more than 600 candidates on the ballot for at-large national delegates and the correct spelling of Domingos Santos.