Republican Convention 2016

Utah Delegates Still Not Sold on Donald Trump, May Vote for Gary Johnson

On final night of RNC, 2 Utah delegates tell Reason they're still mad their votes for Ted Cruz went to Trump, and are receptive to voting Libertarian.


The sadness of Cleveland
Reason/Anthony L. Fisher

CNN's Dana Bash reported from the floor of the Republican National Convention (RNC) that a number of delegates (she didn't name the state) were planning on endorsing Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson tonight.

Bash described her source as a Vice Chairman of the GOP in his state, and that he was almost shaking while telling her of the possible mutiny in the arena where Donald Trump would later give his acceptance speech. Thus far, it does not appear that a rogue group of Republican delegates in Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena has made a public pledge to vote for Johnson.

As convention attendees were filtering out of the arena, Reason asked a number of delegates from states whose delegations didn't appear to be enthusiastically cheering Trump during the applause lines of his speech if they had any plans to endorse Johnson. Five delegates from Johnson's home state of New Mexico (including current Lt. Gov. John Sanchez) all told Reason they were 100 percent in support of Trump and had no plans to vote Libertarian, as did a delegate from Ted Cruz's home state of Texas. 

But two delegates from Utah admitted that their delegation is still "smarting" over the fact that they had pledged to vote for Cruz, but because the Republican National Committee would only record votes for candidates still officially running, all 40 of Utah's votes became Trump votes. Utah delegate Brian Halliday told Reason they felt "disenfranchised from the Republican Party," and also mentioned Cruz's admonition from his Wednesday night speech at the RNC for Republicans to vote their conscience.

"I could consider voting Trump," Halliday said, but he would also consider voting Johnson. "I'm not on the Trump train yet."

Another Utah delegate, Bill Lee, told Reason, "We were elected to come here as Cruz delegates…and we're still smarting a bit." Lee also would not commit to voting for Trump, and voting Libertarian was something he would consider. Lee said that although he liked Trump's speech he was skeptical on Trump's ability to deliver on his promises. Lee was particularly concerned with Trump's repeated rhetoric about "fixing" perceived issues.

"That means government is going to fix it," Lee said. "When I hear 'we're going to get this done immediately,' that usually means war to me, and those things rub me kind of funny." Of the "law and order" part of Trump's speech, Lee said "that sounds like a police state." Lee added that he is unimpressed with calls for party unity, which he described as forced "group-think" and a demand to "kiss the ring." 

"Not gonna happen," Lee insists. 

Halliday and Lee aren't the only distinguished Republicans from the Beehive State who refuse to commit to voting for Trump and haven't ruled out voting for Johnson.

Earlier this week in Cleveland, Reason's Matt Welch spoke with Utah Sen. Mike Lee who said that Trump missed an opportunity to win over Utahans—who despite being solidly Republican voters for more than 50 years are essentially split down the middle between Trump and Hillary Clinton, according to present polling. Sen. Lee said Trump and the RNC should have allowed for a "open robust frank dialogue on the floor of the convention, rather than having that dialogue squelched before it even begins."

When asked if he would consider voting for Gary Johnson, Sen. Lee said he has "never anticipated voting for anyone who is not a Republican, particularly in a presidential contest," but that Trump "has yet to win me over."

Lee added, "I'd love to be won over, and there are a whole lot of people like me who would like to be won over, but I'm not there yet."