RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Republicans will pick 16 delegates this weekend Apr 29 -30,to send to the national convention, delegates that could help decide the GOP presidential nominee.
While Republican front-runner Donald Trump has declared himself the “presumptive nominee,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is hoping to push the race to a contested convention decided by delegates.
On Saturday, Virginia Republicans will vote for 13 at-large delegates and three other positions that are automatically delegates at the national convention. Those positions are the state party chairman as well as a Republican National Committee committeeman and committeewoman.
It’s the biggest one-day haul of delegates in Virginia. The other 33 delegates are elected by congressional district, with each of Virginia’s 11 districts getting three delegates.
Trump won the March 1 primary in Virginia and will get 17 of Virginia’s 49 delegates during the first vote at the national convention this summer in Cleveland.
But Virginia’s delegates will be able to vote for whomever they want after the first round of votes at the national convention, and the Cruz campaign is working to make sure that most of them will support the Texas senator. Cruz has won support of five out of six Virginia delegates who have already been elected in congressional district contests, including two out of three in the Southwest Virginia congressional district that went heavily for Trump in the March 1 primary.
State Sen. Bill Stanley, chairman of the Cruz campaign in Virginia, predicted that there will be a strong pro-Cruz turnout at the state convention and the campaign will do well among those selected to be delegates.
“It’s fair to say we’re confident we would have a majority of those delegates,” Stanley said.
The two-day convention kicks off Friday at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, with the elections slated for Saturday afternoon.
A nominating committee made up of party insiders will propose the 13 at-large delegates. The full convention will then vote whether to accept the committee’s selections.
Corey Stewart, head of Trump campaign in Virginia, said there is a loose agreement that the state chairmen of each of the remaining presidential hopefuls will be included among the 13 proposed by the nominating committee. Stewart said he’s hopeful all of the delegates selected will at least be open to the possibility of voting for Trump.
Some former statewide Republican officeholders are among the more than 100 people who have applied to be at-large delegates or alternates.
Former Gov. Jim Gilmore, who dropped his presidential bid earlier this year, said his experience in office and his time spent as the Republican National Committee chairman should auger well for his chances of being selected. He said he plans to make his case before the nominating committee in person on Friday.
“With those kind of credentials, it’s kind of tough for them to turn me a way, but I’m not taking it for granted,” said Gilmore, who said he is undecided in which candidate he vote for in a contested convention.
Other former officeholders include former Virginia attorneys general Ken Cuccinelli and Jerry Kilgore.
The most acrimonious fight over the weekend could be for state party chairman. The current leader, John Whitbeck, is seeking re-election while Vince Haley, a former state Senate candidate, is looking to unseat him.
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