Most state GOP delegates favor Cruz

State Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Upperville, stands beside Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, as she speaks to Matthew Hall, of Roanoke, during the Virginia GOP convention held Saturday in Harrisonburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

HARRISONBURG – Texas Sen. Ted Cruz picked off 10 of 13 available delegates Saturday, boosting his chances of denying the presidential nomination to Donald Trump at a contested national convention.

Trump’s supporters won three delegates.

Cruz’s victory at the Republican state convention at James Madison University followed the pattern established over the past several months in many other states: Trump, the real estate developer and reality TV showman, wins a state primary, but delegates who cast the actual votes that decide the nominee line up with Cruz at a subsequent state convention.

Virginia is the latest state in which the Cruz forces outmaneuvered Trump in the delegate selection process at a convention. Trump won a narrow victory in the Virginia GOP primary in March. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who quit campaigning weeks ago, was second, and Cruz finished a distant third.

Virginia is also an example of the predicament facing Cruz, despite his mastery of the intricacies of the delegate selection process. Under party rules, Trump’s primary win commits all of Virginia’s 49 delegates to him on the first ballot of the national convention, no matter what their personal preferences may be. Cruz supporters among the delegates must hope for additional rounds of balloting before they can cast their votes for him.

John Bost, of Strasburg, holds a Ted Cruz sign during the convention. Rich Cooley/Daily

The odds of a contested convention have lengthened in recent weeks. Trump’s overwhelming primary victories in northeast and mid-Atlantic states have left him fewer than 250 delegates short of the 1,237 he needs to capture the nomination on the first ballot. As the number of remaining primaries dwindles, Trump’s commanding lead in  first ballot delegate commitments has made Indiana a must-win contest for Cruz on Tuesday.

Several area delegates to the state convention said they feared a contested national convention would rock the party. Trump, irate over efforts to block his nomination in Cleveland, has mused about the possibility that his supporters will riot if someone else wins.

Cynthia Dellinger, of Shenandoah County, spoke uneasily about a showdown after the primaries.

“I am genuinely concerned about what’s going to happen at the national convention,” Dellinger said.

She said she had doubts about Trump’s leadership abilities, but when asked which candidate she favored, she replied, “If I had to vote today, I would support Donald Trump.”

Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, left, Warren County Commonwealth's Attorney Brian Madden, center, and John Massoud, of Strasburg, watch the floor action at the convention. Rich Cooley/Daily

The state convention drew 2,610 delegates out of 5,952 who were eligible to attend. There were few signs of discord between Cruz and Trump supporters in the hours leading up to the selection of the national delegates.

Cruz drew louder cheers the first time both presidential candidates’ names were mentioned from the podium, an early indication that he would prevail in the delegate selection to follow.

All of the local delegates interviewed said they were prepared to support the party’s nominee in November.

Cruz supporter Matt Tederick, of Warren County, said he was relieved at the absence of  hard feelings preceding the delegate vote.

Tederick, who is also vice chairman of the 6th District Republican Committee, praised Cruz as “a very strong constitutional conservative,” adding,  “I have my doubts about who Donald Trump is, but if he is the nominee, I will support him and work as hard for him as I have other candidates.”

Samuel Heywood, of Mount Jackson, listens to speeches during the convention. Rich Cooley/Daily

Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, said he was supporting Cruz.

“I think Ted Cruz is a thoughtful presidential candidate who most reflects my values,” Gilbert said.

Tom Sayre, a member of the Board of Supervisors in Warren County, said he had reservations about Trump, but added “I like Donald Trump personally. I think he would be a good president.”

The delegates heard speeches from a steady stream of candidates for statewide office in 2017, one of  whom was Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Upperville. Vogel, who is running for lieutenant governor against Del. Glenn Davis, of Virginia Beach, and Bryce Reeves, of Fredericksburg, won the endorsement of the Rev. E.W. Jackson, the previous Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.

Vogel urged the delegates to reach out to women, minorities and young people, groups with histories of favoring Democrats and whose percentage of the overall vote has been increasing.

State Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Upperville, speaks at the convention. She is running for lieutenant governor next year. Rich Cooley/Daily

Vogel warned Republicans not to allow Democratic accusations that Republicans are waging a war on women to go unanswered.

“We’ve got to fight back and push back on that,” Vogel said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

Trump supporters raise signs and wave flags during an April convention in Harrisonburg. Rich Cooley/Daily