With one of the most divisive presidential primaries in recent memory at an end, Illinois Republican officials are hoping the party comes together next week in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention.
This, despite the fact that some of the delegates who are set to cast their vote for the presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, are likely not going to attend.
Joliet resident Anthony Anderson told “Chicago Tonight” he would stay home out of anger at the Illinois Republican Party for failing to strongly unify behind Trump. NPR reports that others have found the costs associated with lodging and delegation events to be prohibitive.
Trump Illinois campaign chairman Kent Gray says the delegates were aware of the costs early on.
“Some of them brought up the issue of cost in November,” Gray said. “Some of them will be camping, some are taking an RV, some have VRBO homes they’re renting.”
Gray denies that any of the delegates may have mistakenly thought the party or the Trump campaign would pay for the trip.
“Nobody was told that it would be covered,” he said. “I did tell some of them that, if it got down the road that the cost was going to be a problem, then maybe we could help out. But nobody’s asked for that so far.”
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider told “Chicago Tonight” that he expects that 64 out of 69 total delegates pledged to either Trump, Ted Cruz, or John Kasich will be in attendance at the convention. He sought to downplay some of the expected absences.
“Unless there’s a roll call, which is really unlikely, it doesn’t really matter if they’re here or not,” Schneider said. “The delegate count that Trump has amassed stays the same whether or not they are physically in the arena.”
But others see a potential problem brewing. Pat Brady, the state’s former GOP chairman and an outspoken member of the Never Trump movement, says Trump’s nomination is not a foregone conclusion at this point.
“If what’s happening in Illinois happens across the country, if 10 percent of his delegates fail to show up, then there should be a roll call and he might not have the votes to proceed as the candidate,” Brady said.
Gray says there are enough alternate and at-large delegates to cover those who may be missing next week. Brady says he had hoped that the RNC Rules Committee would allow at-large delegates to “vote their conscience” and decide on a candidate other than Trump. But Schneider and Trump delegate Mark Fratella say it’s probably not going to happen.
Another unusual aspect of this year’s convention will be the absence of some usual suspects. Already, Gov. Bruce Rauner and Republican Sen. Mark Kirk have vowed not to show up. Ditto Republican State Comptroller Leslie Munger.
Some Illinois congressmen have only recently decided that they would attend. On Monday, Congressman Randy Hultgren issued the following statement:
“I met with Donald Trump when he visited the House and I was encouraged that he listened to what we had to say. I look forward to hearing more in Cleveland as our party convenes to select its nominee. Let me be clear: I will support the Republican nominee. I stand strong in my belief that Hillary Clinton is the wrong choice for President. I look forward to working with a President who respects Congress’ lawmaking authority and who can willingly engage with Congress to pass solutions that fix our nation’s problems.”
A spokesperson in Hultgren’s office said his schedule was still being firmed up and wasn’t sure if he’d stay all the way until Trump’s keynote address on Thursday.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger said he would likely not stay for Thursday’s keynote speech.
“He wants to speak to the delegation on foreign policy issues and just generally support the down ballot races,” said Kinzinger spokesperson Maura Gillespie.
A spokesperson for Congressman Peter Roskam says he will go for two or three days.
North Shore Congressman Bob Dold, locked in a re-election battle with the person who formerly held the seat, Democrat Brad Schneider, still says he will not attend the convention. Instead, he says he will have a full slate of events in his district next week.
Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz
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