HARRISONBURG, Va. — Supporters of Ted Cruz dominated a slate of delegates that Virginia Republicans chose Saturday at their state convention, further demonstrating the Texas senator’s mastery of the delegate-selection process.
Of the 13 national delegates picked by party activists here, 10 are Cruz supporters and three support Donald Trump. The tally represents the biggest chunk up for grabs of the 49 total delegates who will represent the state at the national convention in Cleveland this summer.
Despite bruising primary losses around the country, Cruz is betting that Trump will not make it to the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the party’s nomination, and he is working to woo delegates who would be loyal to him at a brokered convention.
Cruz came in a distant third in Virginia in the March 1 primary but had enough supporters among the 2,610 party activists who filled an arena at James Madison University on Saturday to win critical delegates.
Ken Cuccinelli II, a Cruz surrogate and former Virginia attorney general, boasted that they could have picked up even more if they wanted to.
“This was an olive branch,” he said after the final vote. “If we wanted a 13-zero slate we could have had one.”
Trump doesn’t see it that way. His campaign team wanted a slate that reflected the primary outcome, but not enough activists agreed.
“Mr. Trump just wants a fair allocation of delegates. We won the state handily over Senator Cruz,” Trump senior adviser Ed Brookover said before the final vote.
In the end, he accepted the result. “The convention voted. We certainly accept the votes. We most look forward to everyone working together this fall to beat Mrs. Clinton,” he said.
The delegates include Cuccinelli; Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; national committeewoman-elect Cynthia Dunbar; Del. Kathy J. Byron (Bedford); Del. Timothy D. Hugo (Fairfax) and Subba R. Kolla of Loudoun County, who is the state’s first Indian American delegate to a national convention.
“I’m really excited,” said Kolla, a supporter of Marco Rubio before he dropped out of the race. “My community is looking for that. We are grateful for the Republican Party who recognizes Indian Americans.”
Yet the process exposed how much Trump’s presence in the race has transformed the political landscape.
At one point, the crowd booed Cuccinelli for supporting Cruz’s delegate-selection strategy. “I’m not sure how many times you have to sue President Obama to show you’re not a part of the establishment,” he said from the stage.
Earlier in the day, Corey Stewart, the chairman of the Trump campaign in Virginia, lashed out at the state GOP for leaving him off the slate.
He said the party bowed to the will of Jim Beamer, chief lobbyist for Dominion and a member of the nominations committee. Stewart has tangled with the utility giant over environmental issues in Prince William County, where he is chairman of the Board of County Supervisors.
“What this shows is RPV is a big rotten, corrupt organization that has been bought off by Dominion Virginia Power,” Stewart told The Washington Post.
A Dominion spokesman, David Botkins, said: “Jim Beamer is a man of impeccable integrity and honor and is at the convention in his role as a private citizen. The allegations sound unusually harsh and disgruntled about both Jim and Dominion.”
In an emptying arena, Del. Robert G. Marshall (Prince William) noted the seeming violation of democratic principles in a process where the candidate with fewer votes can come out on top. He was a Ben Carson supporter and is now undecided.
“I’m waiting until all the blood stops flowing and then I’ll go with whoever is standing last,” he said.