2 from Michigan on RNC’s rules panel to back Trump

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Michigan’s two delegates on a powerful national convention committee that begins meeting Wednesday oppose any effort to change the Republican Party’s rules to deny Donald Trump the GOP presidential nomination.

National convention delegates Judi Schwalbach of Escanaba and Matt Hall of Grand Rapids arrive in Cleveland on Wednesday for three days of potentially contentious Rules Committee meetings, where delegates will hash out the formal rules for the four-day national convention that begins Monday.

Both Hall and Schwalbach said they won’t support a fledgling insurgency of Republican Party activists who have been pushing for the committee to eliminate rules requiring delegates bound to vote for Trump on the first ballot at the convention.

“Any rule change is going to be perceived as rigging the game, and that’s not something I want to be a party to,” said Schwalbach, a 1st Congressional District delegate for Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Hall, a 3rd Congressional District Trump delegate, said the New York businessman “won fair and square.” Allowing delegates to shirk their duty to vote for Trump at the convention would disenfranchise voters back home, he said.

“We probably wouldn’t have had a state taxpayer-funded primary if we weren’t going to bind the results to our state,” said Hall, a 32-year-old law school student.

Michigan has 59 delegates attending the Republican National Convention. Based on the results of Michigan’s March 8 primary that Trump won, 25 of the delegates are bound to vote for the real estate mogul at the convention; Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Kasich each won 17 delegates in the Michigan primary, but fell far short of 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination.

Despite Trump’s decisive victory in the primaries, an undercurrent of Republican activists have been discussing abandoning Trump and picking a new candidate at the national convention of 2,472 delegates — a daunting task that has not gained steam among most elected GOP leaders.

“It’s a useless and fruitless cause. They have no shot on earth of being successful and they need to get behind our nominee,” said state Sen. Joe Hune, a Hamburg Township Republican and Trump delegate.

Each state and territory has two delegates on the 112-member Rules Committee. Under party rules, the so-called “Dump Trump” delegates would need 28 members of the Rules Committee — or 25 percent — to force a vote on unbinding delegate votes for Trump.

Anti-Trump groups like Free the Delegates Super PAC have been throwing around numbers for weeks claiming they’ve got enough supporters on the Rules Committee to force a vote on the issue.

But Politico.com recently surveyed the entire 112-member Rules Committee and found at least half of the members were committed to advancing Trump’s nomination.

“That’s going zero, going nowhere,” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette recently told reporters, reaffirming his support for Trump over Democratic presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Howell Republican activist Wendy Day is the leading voice in Michigan’s delegation for letting delegates vote their conscience if they don’t support Trump. She worked for Trump’s closet primary rival, Cruz, and is Cruz’s delegate for the 8th Congressional District.

Day said there’s an undercurrent of “quietly supportive” delegates who fear retribution if they publicly oppose Trump.

“Anyone who has dared to question Mr. Trump faces immense pressure and bullying,” Day said. “I’m not ready to roll over and give up, because I want a better choice if we can get it.”

Meshawn Maddock, a Trump delegate from Milford, thinks the plot to block Trump’s nomination is a mirage.

“I think the whole thing is hogwash,” said Maddock, who is one of Michigan’s two members on the GOP’s policy platform committee. “They’re trying to get all of the lemmings, the people who want to be on a winning team … but I don’t think they have anything.”

For the past month, Schwalbach’s phone at her Escanaba home has been ringing off the hook and her email inbox has been chocked full of form letters from fellow Republicans lobbying her to change the party’s nominating rules and push Trump off the general election ballot.

“That’s not going to cut it with most people, and it’s certainly not going to cut it with me,” Schwalbach said of the form letters.

Ronna Romney McDaniel, chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and a Trump delegate herself, has joined Schuette in publicly opposing a convention coup to oust Trump from the Nov. 8 ballot.

“I don’t know how you could disenfranchise those voters by suddenly changing the rules,” McDaniel told The Detroit News last month. She is the niece of 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who has opposed Trump’s nomination.

Schwalbach, a former mayor of Escanaba, said she’s “very reluctant” to change the rules in a way that denies Trump the nomination he captured during the primary season.

But the 61-year-old Schwalbach acknowledges she’s reluctantly getting behind Trump, even as the presumptive nominee has continued to attack fellow Republicans and make controversial comments about racial minorities.

“This past month was a rough one. People are hesitating but there’s a reality that one of these two people is going to win — it’s either going to be Hillary or Donald Trump,” she said. “You can wish what you want, but you’re going to get one of those two.”

Schwalbach also said she’s not happy that the Republican National Committee scheduled the Rules Committee meetings just before the convention convenes at Quicken Loans Arena.

“I think the rules should have been set months ago,” she said. “I don’t like the fact that they’re set a day or two before.”

Hall is more enthusiastic about Trump and the billionaire’s chances of becoming the first Republican since then-Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1988 to win Michigan.

“We’re kind of seeing a resurgence of some Reagan Democrats in Macomb County,” Hall said. “I felt like he was the type of candidate who could make Michigan competitive and that’s what we’re seeing right now.”

clivengood@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3661

Twitter: @ChadLivengood

Mich. contingent

Michigan’s 59-member GOP delegation elected the following members in April to represent the state on Republican National Convention committees:

Platform Committee

■ Sen. Joe Hune, at-large delegate for Donald Trump

■ Meshawn Maddock, 11th Congressional District Trump delegate

Credentials Committee

■ Chuck Yob, at-large delegate for Ohio Gov. John Kasich

■ Mary Balkema, at-large Trump delegate

Rules Committee

■ Matt Hall, 3rd Congressional District Trump delegate

■ Judi Schwalbach, 1st Congressional District Kasich delegate

Committee on Permanent Organization

■ Scott Hagerstrom, 8th Congressional District Trump delegate

■ Yavonne Whitbeck, 8th Congressional District Kasich delegate

Note: Trump and Kasich’s delegates formed an alliance at a state GOP meeting April, denying delegates of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz any seats on national convention committees.