State GOP Chairman Susan Hutchison’s role in one of the biggest controversies of the 2016 Republican National Convention left Washington delegates divided this week.
CLEVELAND — State GOP Chairman Susan Hutchison’s role in one of the biggest controversies of the 2016 Republican National Convention left Washington delegates divided this week.
Hutchison’s moment came Wednesday night when she confronted Texas Sen. Ted Cruz near an elevator in the Quicken Loans Arena.
Cruz had just exited the convention stage to a shower of boos and jeers after he’d pointedly refused to endorse Donald Trump, telling Republicans to “vote your conscience.”
Introducing herself as head of the Washington GOP, Hutchison said she told Cruz, “I think what you did was inexcusable, and I think you’re a traitor to the party.”
Cruz appeared “kind of surprised,” Hutchison said. His wife, Heidi, stepped in between them.
“[She] kind of grabbed me and said, ‘You’re wrong, you’re wrong,’ ” Hutchison said. “I said, ‘Oh, Heidi, I love you.’ I do — I think she’s fantastic.”
News of the incident rocketed across the internet, with one witness telling BuzzFeed News Hutchison had gone “bananas” on the senator. In an interview with The Seattle Times, Hutchison said she was “animated” but not threatening.
Hutchison made no apologies, saying Cruz had “an opportunity to be a statesman” but “he blew it.” Cruz didn’t have to use the word “endorse,” Hutchison said, “but he could have said, ‘Let’s unite around our ticket and let’s make sure they beat Hillary Clinton in the fall.’ ”
The encounter was the talk of the Washington delegation that night at the Middleburg Heights hotel bar where delegates have gathered each night after the convention. And delegates were still chattering about it on Thursday.
Some defended Hutchison, saying they, too, were angry at the chaos on the convention floor spurred by Cruz’s speech.
“I think she’s my hero, because Ted Cruz needed to be confronted,” said Jeff Kent, a Republican National Committee member from Whatcom County.
Cruz was reneging on a pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee, Kent noted. At a meeting with his own Texas delegation, Cruz defended his speech, pointing to Trump’s attacks on his father and wife during the campaign.
Kent argued that was no excuse. “Bad things are always said in campaigns,” he said. “He signed a document saying he’d support the nominee and now he’s doing everything he can to worm his way around that.”
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“Susan speaks her mind. Susan doesn’t mince words,” said Olga Farnham, an alternate delegate from Snohomish, who said she had supported Cruz but was disappointed in his speech.
But some Cruz supporters criticized Hutchison’s behavior.
Braedon Wilkerson, a delegate from Olympia, said Hutchison and other GOP leaders had put heat on Cruz supporters to respect decorum and avoid embarrassing the party during Trump’s convention.
“For her to then turn around and call a sitting U.S. senator a traitor … seems a little hypocritical,” Wilkerson said.
Kalup Veneman, an alternate delegate from Vancouver, said he didn’t see anything wrong with Cruz’s speech. “He endorsed constitutional conservatives,” Veneman said. “So if he [Trump] is a constitutional conservative, people should support him.”
But, Veneman said, “I don’t believe he is.”