Maine's governor is a Donald Trump supporter
On Friday, he accused the Ted Cruz campaign of lying
Once again, Ted Cruz’s campaign has used the Republican Party delegate selection process to outperform his results on Election Day in hopes of wrangling a nomination during the national convention in Cleveland this summer.
This time, in Maine, Cruz secured 19 of 20 delegate slots filled at the state convention over the weekend. The sweep frustrated rivals Donald Trump and John Kasich – as well as Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Trump supporter – and prompted accusations of backstabbing and deception after an effort to agree to a “unity slate” of national convention delegates fell apart.
While the Maine GOP awarded 23 total delegates proportional to the vote in the state’s caucus on March 5 (12 to Cruz, 9 to Trump, 2 to Kasich), those delegates are bound to a presidential candidate only on the first nominating ballot at the national convention.
As a result, they can flip their support to another candidate if there are multiple rounds of balloting at a contested convention, a possibility if no candidate can secure 1,237 bound delegates on the first vote at the national convention.
That makes the individuals selected to fill those Maine delegate slots – 20 in total, since 3 of the spots are automatically filled by state party officials – critical in the event of a contested convention.
Under the failed “unity slate” plan – which LePage had said each campaign had agreed to – each campaign would have selected the individuals to fill the delegate slots they won at the caucus. In theory, those delegates would remain loyal to those candidates upon subsequent ballots.
But controversy flared on Friday when LePage accused the Cruz campaign of going back on efforts to agree to the “unity slate.” That’s because ahead of the state convention vote, the local Cruz campaign threw its support behind a different slate of delegates comprised entirely of Cruz-approved individuals likely to flip support to the Texas senator.
“Cruz’s Northeast political director David Sawyer lied to us and broke the deal. Sawyer stabbed us in the back, reneged on the unity slate and betrayed the people of Maine,” LePage said.
Though he singled out Sawyer in his statement, LePage said the actions were emblematic of the Cruz campaign.
“As we have seen throughout the country, Cruz’s national campaign is run by greedy political hooligans,” he said.
LePage – who ultimately took the only delegate slot not filled by a Cruz supporter – also said the Cruz campaign had tried to block him from joining the delegation, which is normally a courtesy afforded to governors, according to a report from the Lewiston Sun-Journal.
Cruz’s campaign dismissed LePage’s criticism since he had already backed the real estate mogul.
“It’s no surprise Gov. LePage stands with Donald Trump, he endorsed Donald Trump,” said Alice Stewart, Cruz’s communications director.
Meanwhile, aides from the rival campaigns strongly disputed whether the Cruz team had ultimately agreed to the “unity slate.”
“The Cruz campaign reneged on the deal and instead instructed their supporters to steal Mr. Trump and Gov. Kasich’s delegate slots,” said Brian Jack, one of the Trump campaign’s delegate managers.
A Cruz aide, however, said that while the campaign had worked to develop a “unity slate” of delegates with the other campaigns and LePage, no deal was ever formally agreed to.
The aide said that despite the fractious state convention, the Cruz campaign will continue to work in good faith with all sectors of the party.
Josh Dunlap, a Cruz delegate from 1st Congressional District, also rejected the idea that the Cruz camp had formally agreed to a “unity slate” idea.
“There’s been a lot of misinformation handed out that – in fact, there was no final agreement. We had a consistent Cruz slate that we’ve always been backing and continue to back, and so unfortunately there’s been some misinformation, but the Cruz slate has remained the same,” Dunlap told CNN.
Ben Carson, a former 2016 candidate and Trump supporter speaking at the Maine convention, discussed the roiling delegate slate dispute with reporters on Friday night.
Saying “of course” LePage should be one of Maine’s delegates, Carson added, “What we have to recognize is that right now, the reason that the populists are so upset is they feel that they can’t trust government, can’t trust political parties – the last thing we need to be doing is engaging in subterfuge and things that aren’t transparent, and utilizing tricks and saying, ‘Well this is the rules.’ “
“Whether they are the rules or not, we need to be sensitive to the perception of the populists. And we need to be doing things in an open and fair way,” he said.
After the Cruz slate victory on Saturday, Alex Willette, a Trump backer and the Republican National Committee member who filled one of the three automatic Maine delegate slots, expressed resignation at the results.
“The Cruz campaign’s clearly got a very aggressive strategy across the country, in that they know they’ve been mathematically eliminated from winning the nomination the right way – through actually getting votes from the people – so they’ve got to do it this way to have a chance at winning the nomination,” he said. “And that’s the way they’re doing it, and that’s the way they succeeded this weekend.”