Delaware Republicans pick national convention delegates

DEWEY BEACH – Delaware Republicans selected their delegates to the national convention Saturday at a statewide gathering.

The 16 men and women chosen by local Republicans will represent the state at the nominating convention in July in Cleveland, when the GOP’s presidential candidate will be formally selected.

Attendees Saturday spoke of a unified Republican Party that will take back the White House behind Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump, who garnered 61 percent of the vote in Delaware’s presidential primary Tuesday, has a solid lead in the race for Republican Party mantle but may not be able to clinch the nomination ahead of the national convention.

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Sen. Colin Bonini

While all 16 of Delaware’s delegates are sworn to Mr. Trump, they would be released to back whomever they choose should the billionaire fail to gain the needed 1,237 delegates on the first ballot. That would lead to an free-for-all not seen in recent presidential politics.

Talk of a contested convention dominated Saturday’s gathering, but supporters of Mr. Trump and state party officials expressed confidence Delaware delegates would stick with the man the state supported by an overwhelming margin.

“In the end, it’s about the will of the people. It’s not about the will of 16 individuals,” said Rob Arlett, a Sussex County councilman who is chairman of Mr. Trump’s Delaware campaign.

“We, as a committee, have elected them to represent the people of Delaware at the national convention. So there’s no question in my mind that they will be credible in their selection and ensure that the will of the people is carried out throughout the entire process.”

The 16 delegates include three automatically included by virtue of their positions within the party: Chairman Charlie Copeland, National Committeeman Laird Stabler and National Committewoman Ellen Barrosse.

The other 13 include one for each of the Northern New Castle, Western New Castle, Colonial, Kent and Sussex regions and eight at-large delegates. They were selected by the party’s executive committee and approved Saturday by large margins.

Among them are Milford Sen. F. Gary Simpson and Delaware Treasurer Ken Simpler.

Dozens of representatives for each of five regions approved the slate as a whole Saturday with little objection.

Despite angst and reluctance from many in the national Republican establishment over backing Mr. Trump, Mr. Copeland described the state party as “very unified.”

“We’re here to beat Hillary Clinton,” the likely Democratic nominee, he said.

Mr. Arlett said he believes 15 of the 16 delegates would support Mr. Trump on a second ballot. He declined to say who the dissenter might be.

Mr. Copeland dismissed concerns about a split should a brokered convention arise. He said he expects Mr. Trump to clinch the nomination with 1,237 delegates beforehand.

Robert Stout, from the Colonial district, is one of the 16 who will attend the July convention on behalf of the state party. Though he was initially a supporter of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who had clashed with Mr. Trump before dropping out of the race in February, Mr. Stout said he will support Mr. Trump if a second ballot is needed.

“The people of Delaware have spoken,” he said.

The attendees also voted to endorse state Dover Sen. Colin Bonini for governor over political newcomer Lacey Lafferty. Despite endorsing him, the party will not spend resources helping Sen. Bonini.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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