Dispatches from Cleveland: Washington state GOP chairman Susan Hutchison confronts Sen. Ted Cruz over failure to endorse Donald Trump.
CLEVELAND — Washington state GOP chairman Susan Hutchison was among the delegates angry that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz didn’t endorse Donald Trump in his speech to the Republican National Convention Wednesday night.
Hutchison ran into Cruz, the former Trump rival for the Republican presidential nomination, near an elevator at the Quicken Loans Arena.
She said she told him his speech was “inexcusable” and called him a “traitor to the party.”
The encounter was awkward given that Washington’s delegation is stacked with Cruz supporters.
RELATED: More on the Hutchison/Cruz encounter: Live updates from the final day of the Republican National Convention
Hours earlier on Wednesday afternoon, most of the state’s delegation joined hundreds of Cruz loyalists bused to a waterfront restaurant to be with their conservative hero.
The gathering was billed as a chance for Cruz to thank his army of supporters — as well as previewing his highly anticipated speech to the convention later that night.
The afternoon message was not an endorsement of Donald Trump. “Our party now has a nominee,” Cruz said, just as Trump’s jet flew overhead, sending the crowd into a chorus of laughter and boos.
“That was pretty well orchestrated,” Cruz joked.
Cruz said he did not know what the election year would bring, and he seemed to signal to his supporters they should vote how they choose.
“What I do know is that every one of us here has an obligation to follow our conscience,” he said. “There is a lot of talk about unity. I want to see unity, and the way to see unity is to unite behind shared principles.”
Shouts of “2020” rang out from the crowd, and one man shouted “God’s not done with you, Ted Cruz!”
After his speech Cruz and his wife, Heidi, spent the better part of an hour embracing supporters. They also made a special detour to take a photograph with the Washington delegation.
His message and time spent was well-received by Washington delegates.
“It was incredible,” said Jennifer Fetters, a delegate from Bellevue. She said she was glad Cruz did not endorse Trump in the afternoon speech, “which was good for me because I am not a Trump fan.”
Fetters said Trump “has until November to convince me” but regardless of her presidential choice, she won’t sit out the election and will definitely vote for GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant.
All of Washington’s 44 delegates were awarded to Trump, because of his huge win in the state’s May primary, which came days after Cruz suspended his own campaign.
But Cruz supporters dominated the state GOP convention that selected delegates to send to Cleveland. Some have spent the week agitated by Trump’s ascension.
When House Speaker Paul Ryan pounded the gavel Tuesday, formally declaring Trump the nominee, Yakima’s Michael McCrary walked out of the convention.
McCrary, an alternate delegate, said he has no plans to return. “I have no interest in using my credentials to go to a Trump coronation,” McCrary said Wednesday morning in an interview at the state delegation’s daily breakfast.
Speakers at the breakfast, including Fox News contributor Mercedes Schlapp, urged delegates to put aside their frustrations and unite behind Trump.
“He’s our guy and our guy is better than that girl (Hillary Clinton),” she said. “The enemy is mainstream media and the Democrats.”
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But McCrary was having none of it. He remains angry Republican leaders quashed a demand for a roll-call vote on convention rules. “I don’t intend to go back in the door,” he said.
When state GOP chairman Susan Hutchison announced Washington’s votes for Trump in the traditional roll call of the states Tuesday, she talked about wheat fields, volcanoes and Boeing planes.
She didn’t mention the Space Needle, the Seahawks or any other reference to the state’s biggest city.
That was no accident, Hutchison told delegates at Wednesday’s breakfast meeting.
“I specifically left out Seattle this year,” she said, citing the state’s “massive Democratic votes” year after year. “It’s just time for the people of the rest of the state to recognize how important they are.”
Giving up on the reliably progressive Emerald City, Hutchison said the GOP will focus on boosting turnout in the rest of the state. She noted depressed turnout in more conservative areas was a big problem for the party four years ago in Rob McKenna’s loss to Jay Inslee.
“If they had voted at the statewide average, we would have a Republican governor,” Hutchison said.