OLYMPIA — The curtain will rise Monday on the Republican National Convention, one of the year’s most anticipated political events that will culminate with the coronation of Donald Trump as the GOP’s presidential nominee.
Susan Hutchison, chairwoman of the Washington State Republican Party, predicts an energetic and entertaining convention befitting the personality and talents of the presumptive nominee.
“Mr. Trump knows people respond to the experience,” she said.
She’s not alone in expecting big thrills in the four-day political fete in Cleveland, Ohio.
“It’ll be a fun party. Trump is all about the show, the drama, the pizzazz,” said Olga Farnum, of Marysville, who is attending her second straight GOP convention as an alternate delegate. “It’s going to be historic. We are going to be reading about this for a long, long time.”
Sunday offers attendees a chance to get settled in. Washington’s 85-member delegation will gather for brunch and in the evening can head toward the Lake Erie waterfront for a welcome party for the convention’s 2,500 delegates. The Doobie Brothers are slated to perform.
The state’s contingent includes five delegates from Snohomish and Island counties: Farnum, Virginia Schloredt, of Stanwood, Kathleen Estabrook, of Mill Creek, Natalie Zook, of Everett, and Manette Merrill, of Coupeville.
Merrill also is one of the state’s two representatives on the committee writing the national party’s platform to be adopted at the convention.
Once under way, the convention promises a grind of long days with non-stop activities. There are meals, meetings and those hours of speeches in floor sessions from lawmakers, celebrities and members of the Trump family. The signature moment comes Thursday night when the roll call of delegate votes is taken and Donald Trump addresses the convention.
Much of the anticipation ahead of time is due to the words and actions of an insurgent anti-Trump movement among delegates and in the ranks of party leaders.
In the days preceding the convention, these forces pressed unsuccessfully to change a rule so delegates would not be required to vote for Trump on the first ballot. They contend delegates should be able to vote for the candidate of their choice.
Backers of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who dominate this camp, may revive the idea on the floor during the convention.
The idea resonates with some in Washington’s delegation where nearly every individual backed Cruz and several still aren’t sold on Trump.
In an interview before the outcome of the rule change effort was known, Schloredt spoke passionately of the importance of letting delegates “vote their conscience” when the formal roll call occurs Thursday .
“It is right to bring this issue to the floor. We need to protect our rights. These are our constitutional rights to free speech,” she said in an interview days before the convention rules committee considered the issue. “I am going to go to vote my conscience.”
Schloredt said she is a conservative and is deeply concerned that the Republican Party and the nation are heading in the wrong direction.
“We are on the precipice of losing this country. I am trying to help restore this Republic just as Ronald Reagan tried to do,” she said. “I need my country back. We can’t wait until 2020 for conservatives.”
Though the rule-changing effort appears to be blocked, if it resurfaces on the floor, “it will lose resoundingly,” Hutchison said. “We will abide by the vote of the people that has occurred. It’s just a matter of how long it takes.”
Trump wasn’t Farnum’s first choice. She said she backed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and when he dropped out, supported Cruz.
In Cleveland, should she need to cast a vote, she’ll abide by the rules on the first ballot.
“I am not ‘never Trump.’ I will vote for our nominee without fail,” she said.
Estabrook, a self-described Cruz conservative, said as she prepared for the trip, she was trying to “tune out” the noise surrounding the delegate voting procedures and “focus in” on the content of the party platform.
“Securing our conservative platform is important,” she said.
While Estabrook expects to cast her delegate vote for Trump at the convention, she acknowledged he may not get her vote in the general election.
“I have no idea who I will vote for in November,” she said. “If he can get a good conservative to run as his vice president, that might change my mind. I am very ‘never Hillary’ and that does play into it as well.”