Hundreds of Republican delegates are gathered in Pasco for the Republican State Convention. Most party leaders appear ready to unite behind Donald Trump.

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What you need to know:

  • More than 1,600 Republican delegates are gathered in Pasco this week for the Republican State Convention, where the party will pick delegates to the Republican National Convention this summer in Cleveland.
  • While Donald Trump has all but sewn up the GOP nomination, many of the state delegates were supporters of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
  • Most party leaders appeared ready to unite behind Trump, but debate is ongoing for some.

Update: Saturday 11:20 a.m.

Supporters of Ted Cruz have dominated the delegate battle at the state GOP convention in Pasco. After a round of congressional district caucus votes Friday, the Cruz delegate slate picked up 29 of the state’s 30 congressional-district delegates to the Republican National Convention.

Although Cruz has dropped out of the race, his supporters remain determined to send conservatives to the convention to ensure their voice is heard in platform and rules talks.

The voting for delegates continued Saturday morning, as the convention was choosing 11 at-large delegates to the RNC. Again, the Cruz slate appeared poised to win. That slate includes Saul Gamoran, Cruz’s state chairman.

Also appearing on the Cruz slate were former gubernatorial and Senate candidate Dino Rossi, and former state Rep. Graham Hunt, who resigned from the Legislature this year after widely-reported inconsistencies with his claims of military service. Despite leaving public office, Hunt has remained active in the Cruz campaign as a volunteer, get-out-the-vote coordinator.

State Sen. Don Benton, Donald Trump’s state chairman, failed to make the cut to be elected a delegate in Friday’s congressional district caucuses. He was running again for an at-large slot Saturday. In an interview, he said he wasn’t concerned about the Cruz slate appearing to run the table.

All of Washington’s delegates are bound under party rules to vote according to the results of the May 24 presidential primary, Benton noted. He called for Cruz supporters to unite behind Trump. “We’re not gonna defeat Hillary if we have a divided house,” he said.

King County Republicans Lee and Alex Binz talk about why they can’t support Donald Trump.

 

Update: Saturday 10:55 a.m.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant avoided mention of his party’s presidential nominee, while firing up the crowd at the state GOP convention dinner Friday night with a pledge to sweep out state-government management if he is elected this fall.

“People want a government that gives a damn about them and right now they don’t think it does,” Bryant said, citing traffic jams, failing schools and unresponsive bureaucracies. He slammed Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee for running on a promise not to seek new taxes and then pushing for $1 billion in new state tax revenue.

Bryant said he’d fire top state managers and reach down as far as necessary into the management ranks in failing state agencies, saying “we’re going to have a culture change in Olympia where we focus on making government better, not bigger.”

“I will replace all ineffective leadership in every department,” Bryant said. “The days of musical chairs are over.”

Bryant said he’d launch a four-year plan to “rebuild the state budget from zero on up” and impose a moratorium on all new regulations until departments justify the ones they have now.

As he has previously, Bryant avoided any mention of his party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump. He has not said for whom is voting in the Tuesday presidential primary, or in November.

“The only people who ask me about this are you guys,” Bryant said. “The presidential race is its own deal. I’m running for governor.”

Chris Vance, GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, has taken a different approach, siding with Republicans who say they can’t vote for Trump — a stand that has drawn criticism from some party loyalists and Trump supporters.

 

Update: Friday 2:35 p.m.

If he’d stayed in the presidential race just a little longer, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would have found a friendly crowd awaiting him at the Washington state GOP convention.

Even though Cruz suspended his campaign, a sea of red Cruz shirts has been the dominant sight at the TRAC Center where Republicans are meeting to finalize their 44 delegates to the Republican National Convention. Cruz’s backers here have been coming to grips with the inevitable Trump nomination — with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Saul Gamoran, Cruz’s state chairman says he cannot support Trump.

Still, other Cruz supporters were coming around. “I don’t like him as a person,” said Gail Crabtree, of Federal Way. But, she said, “he’s better than the opposition.”

Rob Barrans, chairman of the 30th Legislative District Republicans, said Cruz delegates were determined to stay involved in the convention despite the loss of their favored candidate to have their say on the party’s rules and platform.

Barrans said he still plans to vote for Cruz in the May 24 primary.  As for the general election, he wasn’t saying. He said he wants to see Trump unify the party by reaching out to establishment Republican figures, including members of Congress who may not have backed him. That could be the difference, Barrans said, between Trump ending up as a second Barry Goldwater, dragging the party down with a crushing defeat, or winding up as a second Ronald Reagan and lifting the party to victory.

For now, Barrans said, he’s remaining in the same wait-and-see mode as U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Paul Hess, of Kenmore, said despite Cruz’s departure, he has no hesitation. “I’m going to support the nominee, Donald Trump. We’re here to unify the party,” he said. “That’s not always easy.”

“There are a lot of people who are pretty upset, but I think it’s getting better all the time,” he said.

Hess said 2016 is an unusual year, and he predicted Trump would be elected the next president.

 


Update, 12 p.m.:

Interview with Hossein Khorram, a GOP delegate who’s a Muslim, at the GOP Convention in Pasco, WA. (Jim Brunner / The Seattle Times)

Hossein Khorram is a Republican delegate from Clyde Hill. He’s an Iranian American and Muslim, and was a supporter of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. He’ll now support Trump as the presumptive GOP nominee, notwithstanding Trump’s proposal for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. “I don’t really blame him,” he said. “He’s not a racist. He’s not.”

Khorram said Republicans “need to help” Trump to ensure he understands the principles of the party. “He needs a little bit of guidance,” he said.

Read a profile of Khorram from 2012.


Update, 10:45 a.m.:

“Do you think I’m enjoying this?”

At Republican U.S. Senate candidate Chris Vance’s town hall meeting Thursday evening, it didn’t take long for the Trump question to come up.

Vance is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray this year and hoped to field questions about his plans to cut the $19 trillion federal debt, reform Senate filibuster rules and toss out most of the Affordable Care Act. And he did address those issues during his talk to dozens at the GOP state convention.

Chris Vance being questioned about Donald Trump at the GOP Convention in Pasco, WA. (Jim Brunner / The Seattle Times)

But Vance, a former state GOP chairman, also had to answer for his public refusal to support Trump, whose ideas he has called “insane.” In that, he’s taken a different tack from GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant, who has stayed silent on whether he’d support Trump.

On Wednesday night, some on the Republican state committee argued Vance’s refusal to back the top of the ticket meant he should be denied a convention speaking slot. That effort was quashed. But some at Vance’s town hall called him out.

“I read an article that you are not voting for the Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee,” a woman said near the beginning of the event. “Does that mean you are willing to let Hillary Clinton win?”

“I was wondering if this would be the first question or the second,” Vance said. “I’m not here to talk about Donald Trump. I will. But that’s not why I am here.”

Vance said he’s not part of the “Never Trump” movement and could not support Clinton. He said he’ll leave his ballot blank. Vance said he wasn’t trying to get anyone else to follow his lead, but felt he had to state where he stood personally.

“Do you think I enjoy this? Not supporting the nominee? It’s unpleasant,” Vance said.

The audience wasn’t through with him.

Nathan Mielke, of Lincoln County, said Vance’s comments were divisive for the GOP base: “We’re Republicans here. It sounds like you want to work with Democrats more than Republicans,” he said. “I like Ted Cruz. I like Donald Trump. I like Republicans. How come you don’t?”

Vance said in an era of divided government, the Congress needed people who could work across party lines. “We live in an era of divided government,” he said.

Mielke responded: “But do Republicans work with Republicans?” He said Vance should show “a little bit more unity.”

“I concur with him,” another audience member said.

Vance said, “We can yell at each other all night about this.” But he said he’d had people come up to him all day saying they agreed with him and also couldn’t vote for Trump.

That drew some gasps and an “Oh my God” from the crowd.

“Republicans are of different minds about this. It is what it is,” Vance said.

“But you are trying to get elected. You need us  to go out and wave signs,” Mielke said. “You are not giving me a good feeling in my stomach that I can go out there with a Chris Vance banner… I want to vote for you… right now you are giving me some second thoughts.”

Vance continued, “I am not going to change my views. I could lie to you, I suppose. I think a lot of politicians are lying to you right now, with this thing of ‘I am waiting to see (about Trump).’ “