Delaware GOP officials say party unified behind Trump

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Donald Trump won Delaware’s primary in April, garnering 61 percent of the vote. (Delaware State News file photo)

DOVER — Delaware Republicans will gather in Cleveland this week as the national Republican Party names Donald Trump its nominee for president.

Mr. Trump, a businessman who has made waves and gained support with brash statements, won Delaware’s primary in April, garnering 61 percent of the vote. For that he was awarded all 16 of the state’s delegates.

Despite some harsh criticism of Mr. Trump and initial angst at the thought of him as the party’s nominee, Republicans have embraced him as their last chance of denying Democrat Hillary Clinton the White House.

Delaware Republican Chairman Charlie Copeland said he believes the First State is fully supportive of Mr. Trump, noting he received not just a plurality but a majority of the votes cast in Delaware’s primary.

“Anybody that gets 50 percent in a Republican-only primary, that’s pretty strong support,” he said.

Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett, who served as the Trump campaign’s Delaware chairman, will be a whip at the convention, passing messages between the campaign and Delaware’s delegates.

“My responsibility is to ensure that the delegates are where they need to be and ensure when it comes time to voting for Mr. Trump that there is the proper organization that’s there,” he said.

Mr. Arlett was scheduled to fly out to Cleveland Saturday morning and remain there for six days, he said Friday,

Rob Arlett

Rob Arlett

expressing excitement at what he called a “historic event.”

He will be wearing an earpiece that enables him to remain in constant contact with the Trump campaign during the convention and will also be staying at the same hotel as Trump campaign officials.

The state’s delegates may have a chance to speak with Mr. Trump at some point, Mr. Arlett said.

The 16 delegates, most of whom are rank-and-file party members, are required to initially vote for Mr. Trump.

Back in April when it appeared the billionaire may not gain the magic number of 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination, there was talk of delegates splitting off and backing another candidate on a second ballot, but Delaware GOP officials said their delegates were unified.

Subsequent victories by Mr. Trump made that speculation moot.

The nomination is not without controversy. Some politicians, media members and activists have castigated Mr. Trump, accusing him of making racist and derogatory comments.

Protesters are expected outside Quicken Loans Arena, the site of the convention.

“I’m 100 percent certain that there will be. One hundred percent certain,” Mr. Arlett said.

Despite the criticism of Mr. Trump, backers in Delaware appear largely unconcerned.

Mr. Arlett said Mr. Trump “is a compassionate, caring individual” who “does care about legal residents of this country.”

State Sen. Colin Bonini, a Dover Republican who spoke when Mr. Trump visited Harrington for a rally before the primary, said too many people are focusing how he says things rather than the message.

People analyzing the exact nature of Mr. Trump’s comments are focusing on “distractions” instead of the real issues like the economy and education, he said.

Mr. Copeland had a similar viewpoint.

Charlie Copeland

Charlie Copeland

“If you want to talk about controversial comments, Clinton lying to Congress about her email, lying to Congress about Benghazi,” he said. Ms. Clinton was investigated by a House panel over a 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, and by the FBI over a private email server she maintained while secretary of state but was not charged with any criminal wrongdoing in either case.

Delaware Senate Minority Leader and convention delegate F. Gary Simpson, R-Milford, said while it would behoove Mr. Trump to speak a little less freely, bold statements are “what got him the attention in the first place.”

“He does represent a lot of people,” he said. “They’re tired of politics as usual, they’re tired of … political correctness.”

Mike Castle, Delaware’s last Republican governor and member of the U.S. House of Representatives, has not yet thrown his hat in for Mr. Trump, but he is certain of one thing: “I am not voting for Hillary Clinton, that much I know for sure.”

Mr. Trump “can be a good, strong candidate,” and he has a real chance to win, owing to strong national dislike of Ms. Clinton in some quarters, Mr. Castle said.

The state’s governor from 1985 to 1992 and sole representative from 1993 to 2011, he believes the platform laid out

Michael Castle

Michael Castle

by Mr. Trump and the party will play an important role in convincing Americans — including himself — who to vote for. In particular, he is interested in seeing more details about the candidate’s tax and education policies.

He does, however, take issue with some of Mr. Trump’s public comments, such as his proposal for banning Muslims from entering the United States, calling it an “overreach.”

“I think the position that he has taken on some issues are not commensurate with necessarily being a good president,” insisted Mr. Castle, who is not attending the convention.

While Mr. Trump has said things “which have been viewed, perhaps rightfully so in some cases, as being too strongly negative for somebody running for the presidency,” he could still adopt a different stance and attitude, Mr. Castle said.

Tom Evans, who served as Delaware’s U.S. representative from 1977 to 1983, is breaking with the Republican Party by not supporting Mr. Trump.

“We need bridges, not walls, and you don’t just send 11 million people back home,” he said, referring to the candidate’s proposal to deport all immigrants living in the nation unlawfully. “It’s unrealistic. You don’t stop all Muslims from coming in because that’s unconstitutional. You don’t do that because of someone’s religion.”

He acknowledged many Republicans do plan to vote for Mr. Trump but remains steadfast in his refusal.

“I’m concerned about him because he lashes out at people that disagree with him and if you put someone in charge of America’s foreign policy in dealing with other chiefs of state that has that type of temperament, I don’t think it’s good for America,” he said.

Like Mr. Castle, he is certain he will not be voting for Ms. Clinton.

This will be the first convention for Mr. Copeland, Sen. Simpson and Mr. Arlett.

“It’s an interesting cross-section of folks,” said Mr. Copeland, who was elected head of the party three years ago.

Mr. Arlett will be tweeting during the convention and invited anyone interested to follow along using the hashtag #DeRNC2016.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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