How I got to be a Delegate from Wyoming to the Republican National Convention

I am certain you’ve never heard of me, unless you are a friend or relative, because I am just a beginner at politics. Yet somehow, in this most contentious political year for Republicans, I am going to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland as a delegate. Here’s how it happened.

Wyoming, the least populated state, sends 29 delegates to the Republican National Convention, but that number varies every four years, depending on how well the Republican Party is represented in the state (i.e. legislative seats held, governorship held, party membership per capita).  The same system exists at the state level.  Depending on how well your respective county does in representing the party both in elected positions and in registered active party members, your county is awarded a certain number of delegates to go to the state convention.

Of the 29 delegates that are sent to the RNC, 3 are automatically awarded to state Republican party elected positions: chair, national committeewoman, and national committeeman, respectively; 12 are chosen at the county conventions, and 14 are chosen at the state convention.

It all begins at the precinct level.  Precinct caucuses are called and advertised and occur statewide on the same evening.  Ours were on Super Tuesday this year. Because of Republican National Committee rules, we aren’t allowed to choose our delegates on that evening – that is why even though we were a part of Super Tuesday, nothing really happened as our 29 delegates were to be chosen at two later dates (county conventions for 12 and state convention for 14).  At the precinct caucuses, resolutions, platforms and bylaws are brought forth and debated and voted upon to advance to the county level upon 50% +1 approval.  Delegates are also chosen to represent the precinct at the county level.  Delegates are required to declare whom they support as the Republican nominee for President (though an undeclared status is also allowed which also is considered a declaration).  At the county convention, delegates from all the precincts do the exact same business (platforms, bylaws, resolutions) that was done at the precinct level and they choose delegates (the number of which is assigned based on county Republican representation as explained above) to represent the county at the state convention.

One other item of business occurs at the county convention.  An election is held where one individual is chosen to represent the state of Wyoming at the Republican National convention.  Counties are paired together, and depending on the year, the county-elected national delegate will go to the RNC as an official delegate or as an alternate.  This year, my home in Teton County got to send a delegate (pledged to Trump) and Lincoln County sent an alternate (pledged to Cruz). 

At the convention this year, held on April 16th, there were 467 delegates from around the state.  Thursday and Friday were days that the party’s business was done (platforms, bylaws and resolutions) by delegates -- one per county per committee.  Saturday the whole body met for a committee of the whole where the delegates listened to presidential candidates or their representatives (only Ted Cruz came in person) and congressional candidates (I think there are 11 running for Lummis’ open seat).  Votes are taken from all 467 delegates to elect next year’s national committeeman and woman (who represent Wyoming at the national level in quarterly party meetings and are automatic delegates to national convention, as explained above).  Votes are also taken from all 467 to elect the remaining 14 national delegates to the convention.  Every state delegate got to vote for 14 delegates from the list of around 60 nominated state delegates (nominations came from the floor or from the counties – anyone can be nominated to be on the list).  The top 14 vote getters earned the right to be Wyoming’s national delegates at the RNC.  The next 14 vote getters earned the right to go to the RNC as alternates.

This is where it was interesting but completely legal, moral, and ethical.  Any accusation otherwise is either ignorantly done or intentionally playing on the emotions of the people and trying to incite them to anger and frustration by touting the idea that their voices aren’t being heard.  (I believe Donald Trump falls into the latter category as he knows how the process works and knows he was outmanned and outplanned in Wyoming, so instead of fighting and showing up for delegates he played the lazy card of calling the system corrupt.)

People’s voices were heard at the precinct, county and state levels.  In a self-government system, government goes to those who show up. It does not go to those who want to sit it out when heavy lifting is required, and then at the end demand that their voice be heard because they deserve it. 

Quite frankly, the way to “deserve” it – at least in Wyoming – is to show up and be involved and convince others that you are the one they should send on to represent them at higher and higher levels of decision making.  This is the foundation of a republican form of government and it is essential to good governance, since populist arguments – that every vote should count – make it too easy for the masses to be swayed with high-priced ad campaigns, empty campaign promises and hollow rhetoric that appeals to the emotions without any basis in fact or reality.  Our entire system is set up based on representative government where extremely complex and important issues are given the appropriate time to be considered and debated so that that best conclusions are made and actions are taken. (There’s my mini soapbox sermon for you.)

Okay, back to the national delegate vote.  Because there were over 60 candidates that wanted to go to the RNC, there wasn’t time to hear from them all, so we heard from none of them.  Different candidates and different interested parties put together slates (a list of 14 names) that they wanted in order to promote their candidate or cause.  Of the 60 candidates for national delegate, probably 70% were pledged to Cruz.  (On the ballot it indicated which candidate you were pledge to or if you were undeclared.)  The Cruz campaign put together a slate of their chosen 14 so as to not dilute the vote by the other pledged Cruz supporters and not getting enough votes to be on the final 14 voter approved national delegates.  When Cruz came, he held up the list and told people to vote for them.  This is not shady, it’s how things work. 

For Cruz to just have asked people to vote for delegates pledged to him, and left it at that, would have been woefully ignorant of the process. That could easily have ended up with none of them on the final list.  So, Trump had a slate, Kasich did not (very little support or organization), Cruz had a slate, and then I worked with some friends to put together a pro-life slate, a pro-family slate and a pro-gun slate.  I was on the original Cruz slate of 14 but got bumped to make room for other more well-known names in the state whom the Cruz campaign figured would have a better chance of being voted for. 

I wasn’t fully convinced that 3 or 4 on the official Cruz slate were really with him on principle, but that they were actually more establishment leaning and saw supporting Cruz as their best ticket to Cleveland.  So I and some friends decided to create our own issue-based slates in order to see if I could still get the vote, even though I wasn’t on the official Cruz slate.  As it turned out, Taylor Haynes (who had previously run for governor) and I were the only two to make the final list of 14 who were not on Cruz’s official slate of 14 (2 on the official Cruz list were bumped down to 1st and 3rd alternate.  I was #14, and won by the slim margin of 3 votes).  All 14 national delegates were Cruz-pledged delegates and the majority of alternates were as well. 

There was a strong push for an undeclared slate where locally prominent big names were being pushed.  Their strategy was to go undeclared to the RNC in order to have the leverage they needed to receive concessions from the different campaigns that would favor and benefit Wyoming.  There were several of these big names elected as alternates but none that made the top 14.  To my knowledge there was not a single alternate pledged to Trump or Kasich. 

As far as the national convention goes, as everyone knows, if Trump ends up with 1,237 delegates who are pledged and obligated to vote for him on the first vote, then he will win the nomination.  That is far from being a certainty, though.  First, he has to get those delegates.  Second, they have to stay true to their pledge amidst intense pressure from party establishments who will do everything they can to sway them otherwise.  And, third, the national convention will have to resist the temptation of party insiders to change the rules in order to avert giving the nomination to Trump.   If things do get crazy because Trump doesn’t secure the nomination due to lack of delegates or intrigue in the party, things will get very interesting.  I am pledged by my signature to not only support Cruz on the first vote but on all remaining votes until released by the Cruz campaign.  This type of pledge I don’t think is legally binding (I believe only first votes are legally bound – though some even argue that isn’t so) but it is something I chose to do on my own. 

I am of the strong opinion that if Trump doesn’t get the 1,237 necessary delegates then it is fair, moral and ethical to leave the vote up to the delegates.  He, and everyone else, knew the rules going in.  I am very opposed to the RNC changing the rules to favor their establishment choice.  I will not favor an outsider who is nominated at the convention and I will work hard to oppose such a nomination.  It certainly will be interesting to see what occurs at the convention.  The grassroots of the party have spoken up strongly against the establishment.  The establishment doesn’t want Cruz or Trump, but if they carry out any shenanigans to get someone else nominated they must know that the 70% or so who support those two candidates will abandon the party en masse and the Republican Party will cease to exist.  Interesting times!

Overall, it was a great experience.  This was my first year getting involved at any level in politics.  I am seeing a shift in the conservative direction in the Republican Party.  It was rewarding to me to know that what I am teaching is taking hold in other parts of the state as I was still able to garner enough support to be elected even though I wasn’t on the Cruz slate.  I look forward to the convention.  I believe it will be historic.  I don’t think the establishment will allow things to play out regardless of whether Trump gets the 1,237 or not.  I just hope it isn’t too historic!

Jeff Hymas is the founder and president of “In the Constitution,” a non-profit educational organization dedicated to teaching the principles of freedom to America’s families.  Its Constitution Bee has enjoyed national acclaim.  Learn more at www.constitution-bee.com