Tennessee approves final delegates over Trump supporters' objections

Story highlights

  • The Tennessee GOP approved its final slate of 2016 delegates over the objections of Donald Trump's supporters
  • Trump won Tennessee's primary with 38.9% of the vote on March 1

Washington (CNN)The Tennessee Republican Party on Saturday approved its final slate of 2016 delegates over the objections of Donald Trump's supporters, who claimed party leaders were trying to unfairly appoint delegates who don't support the GOP front-runner.

Trump won Tennessee's primary on March 1 with 38.9% of the vote, capturing 33 of the state's 58 pledged delegates. But those delegates are only bound to Trump through the first two rounds of balloting at the Republican National Convention in July, meaning that delegates who aren't loyal to the GOP front-runner -- or any other 2016 hopeful -- could switch to a different candidate on a third ballot.
And Tennessee rules offer delegates pledged to a candidate who has withdrawn from the race -- such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who picked up nine delegates -- "the right to attend the convention." But in the event they should choose not to travel, the state GOP chairman has the power to select a replacement.
    As part of the state's GOP delegate allocation procedures, Tennessee Republican Party officials met Saturday to appoint individuals to serve in 14 of the delegate slots won by the candidates at the March 1 primary. Trump and Cruz were each awarded six delegates, while Rubio was awarded two, according to state party chairman Ryan Haynes in an interview with CNN's Poppy Harlow on "CNN Newsroom."
    "(Trump) gets the same number of delegates" that he received in March, Haynes said, adding that "what happened is he put forth a slate of individuals that he wanted to see go under his name, but unfortunately, we are not able to accommodate every one of his requests."
    Earlier in the day, Dan Scavino, the Trump campaign's social media director, tweeted that the Tennessee Republican Party wants to "steal your vote today," urging supporters to call Haynes and pressure him into approving a delegate slate friendly to Trump.
    The Tennessean newspaper reported that dozens of Trump supporters could be seen protesting outside the Nashville office where the state GOP's executive committee was meeting.
    But Brent Leatherwood, executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party, told CNN that the party had been in conversations with all three Republican campaigns on the delegate process.
    "I can say all three campaigns were consulted in the creation of this slate," he said.
    Haynes previously told CNN he received a letter from Rubio's campaign stating that his decision to suspend his campaign was "not intended to release any national convention delegates bound to me as a result of the 2016 delegate selection process that took place in your state."
    "It is my desire at this time that the delegates allocated to me by your rules remain bound to vote for me on at least the first nominating ballot at the national convention," said the letter, which was signed in Rubio's name.