Trump wasn't first choice for some Illinois delegates

 
 
Updated 7/18/2016 6:52 PM
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  • Republican Donald Trump won the primary, but not every Illinois delegate in Cleveland supports him.

    Republican Donald Trump won the primary, but not every Illinois delegate in Cleveland supports him. Associated Press File Photo

Sitting in Illinois' section for Donald Trump's multi-day nomination party at the Republican National Convention is a group of delegates who, in the primary election, backed someone else.

It'll be the same at the Democratic convention next week as supporters of Bernie Sanders watch Hillary Clinton accept the nomination.

For each side, convincing the doubters before the Nov. 8 election will be a key challenge, though not an impossible one. After all, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the presidential primary, and now he's Trump's running mate.

State Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican and elected delegate for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, said bringing GOP voters on board is up to Trump, who is expected to accept the nomination in the convention finale Thursday evening.

"The speech that he gives Thursday night, that could set a real tone going into the November election," Harris said.

Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar, who ran as a delegate in March for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said he nevertheless is in Cleveland to vote for Trump.

"I'm not going here to be convinced," he said.

Claar agrees Thursday's speech is "extremely important" and gives Trump a chance to clarify some of his controversial statements over the course of the election, particularly about immigration.

"I think some were distorted a bit," Claar said. "But some of them were just perhaps the wrong choice of words. I think he needs to clarify that, and he will."

Divisions were on display on the convention floor Monday as a group of anti-Trump delegates tried to force a vote on convention rules. But their effort failed, and Trump's show will go on.

Trump won Illinois' primary and most of its elected delegates. The state party picked a dozen statewide delegates to go to the convention, too. They're set to vote for Trump at the convention, and the group includes some like Claar who backed someone else in the primary.

Other examples in the Illinois delegation: Former state party chairman Jack Dorgan of Rosemont ran as a Bush delegate candidate. Former Cook County GOP Chairman Aaron Del Mar of Palatine ran to back Kasich. And Todd Ricketts, of the Chicago Cubs owning family, helped run a national political committee during the primary focused on stopping Trump.

Few have been as outspoken as former state party Chairman Pat Brady of St. Charles, an elected Kasich delegate who participated in the long-shot effort to try to change the convention rules in an attempt to upend Trump's nomination. He said before the convention that he worried about Trump's low poll numbers among young people.

"Those are Rod Blagojevich-like numbers," he said, referring to the disgraced former governor.

The Illinois delegation's youngest member, high schooler Carl Miller of Downers Grove, said Trump's Pence pick is a good nod toward people like him, who backed Cruz in the primary.

"Donald Trump needs to reach out to conservatives, and I think choosing Mike Pence is a first step in doing that," Miller said. "I think he made a great selection.

The week's Republican convention in Cleveland could be a preview of the campaign to come and a highly televised chance for Trump to win people over before Democrats get the same shot next week.

"Even with the Trump unease, I think there's greater unease about Hillary Clinton among Republicans, there's no question about that," Harris said.

•The Washington Post contributed.

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