For Many Arizona Delegates, Trump's Speech Exceeded Expectations

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Friday, July 22, 2016 - 10:13am
Updated: Friday, July 22, 2016 - 11:25am
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(Photo by Jude Joffe-Block - KJZZ)
Thousands of balloons drop on the RNC crowd in Cleveland following Trump's speech.
Jude Joffe-Block/KJZZ
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio addresses the Republican National Convention on Thursday, July 21, 2016.
Jude Joffe-Block/KJZZ
Arizona GOP delegates applaud Sheriff Joe Arpaio when he took the stage at the RNC.

Many members of the Arizona delegation left the Republican National Convention optimistic after candidate Donald J. Trump accepted the party’s nomination in a 75 minute speech.

After a bumpy convention, there was anticipation heading into the speech about whether Trump would be able to bring the factions of the Republican party together.

Several Arizona delegates who did not consider themselves Trump fans left the arena Thursday night saying the speech exceeded their expectations. They were hopeful the fractured party would be able to finally come together around the candidate.

“I am surprised by how much I truly loved the speech—I wasn’t expecting to,” said state Rep. David Livingston, an Arizona delegate who also serves as the majority whip in the Arizona House of Representatives. He wore an Arizona flag around his shoulders on the convention floor.

Livingston backed Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the primary but Thursday’s speech solidified his enthusiasm for Trump.

He said he liked Trump’s emphasis on law and order and the candidate’s line about giving children in poor cities the same opportunities as elsewhere resonated with him.

“I think the Christian conservatives, and I think the moderates, and I think the liberals, can all vote for the same man: Donald Trump,” Livingston said.

Kathy Petsas also backed Cruz in the primary and was impressed by what she heard from Trump. She said she appreciated that he displayed empathy in his speech and showed he could even be self-deprecating at times.

At one point Trump thanked the evangelical Christian voters for their support, and acknowledged he may not deserve it.

“I did not come to the convention a big Trump fan— and we are Trump all the way,” Petsas said.

Not all of Arizona’s skeptical delegates were convinced by the speech. There are some in the delegation who say they still are doubtful they will vote for him in November.

But delegate Ron Ludders, a Trump supporter for some time, said he felt the cloud that hung over the convention on Wednesday evening had disappeared by Thursday. On Wednesday delegates booed Cruz off the stage when he finished his speech without endorsing Trump.

Ludders said he thought the mood on Thursday was actually better because of what had happened the day before.

“It helped Trump a great deal because people who were not great Trump fans coalesced around him,” Ludders said. “A lot of people thought [Cruz] was very unfair and childish.”

Ludders praised Trump for going after Democrat Hillary Clinton’s slogan “I’m with her.” Trump told the crowd instead that his pledge was, “I’m with you, the American people.”

“And that is what America wants,” Ludders said. “We want to be empowered. We want citizens to be empowered— not politicians to be empowered.”

Hours before Donald Trump took the stage, the Arizona delegates cheered on one of their own, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, with chants of “Joe, Joe, Joe.”

An image of Arizona’s border fence was shown behind Aripaio with the evening’s slogan, “Make America One Again.”

In a five-minute speech before the crowd, Arpaio said helping elect Trump president is his greatest mission. He also spoke about policing and his trademark issue, illegal immigration.

“We are the only country in the world whose immigration systems puts the needs of other nation’s ahead of ours,” Arpaio said. “We are more concerned with the rights of illegal aliens and criminals than we are with protecting our own country.”