RENO — Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald kicked off the state GOP convention Saturday by calling for the party to unite behind presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“It wasn’t too long ago we weren’t shining so bright,” McDonald told the more than 1,000 delegates at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
Four years ago the party eventually came together behind Mitt Romney but fell short, he said.
“I’m asking you again, Nevada, unite behind your presumptive candidate, and this time we will win, and we will take the White House,” McDonald said as the crowd broke into a chant of “Trump, Trump, Trump.”
Trump, the billionaire and reality television personality, won Nevada’s GOP presidential caucus in February before going on to dominate the primary selection process.
He became the presumptive GOP presidential nominee after handily winning the Indiana primary earlier this month, prompting U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to suspend their campaigns.
State convention delegates will choose 27 delegates to go to the National Republican Convention in Cleveland in July, where they will be bound to vote on the first ballot according to the results of the Nevada caucus.
But even though Cruz, Kasich and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida suspended their presidential bids, they have not “released” their state delegates. Retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson released his two delegates earlier.
Trump’s political storm has caused angst around the country with some Republicans, who say they cannot support his often-divisive comments about women and immigrants.
The Nevada state GOP convention, however, was Trump territory.
“We’re putting our delegates together, and we’re going to take this nation back,” said Robert Crooks of Las Vegas.
Crooks, who identified himself as the founder of Mountain Minutemen, is a backer of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy and his supporters. Bundy and others remain jailed on federal charges for conspiring to assault Bureau of Land Management agents on April 12, 2014, and take back impounded Bundy cattle that had been grazing on federal land.
“When Donald Trump wins, they will be released from prison,” Crooks said. “We have to take our government back. Donald Trump will do that.”
While Trump’s support was on full display, there were some who did so reluctantly
“He’s the ultimate insider,” said state Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, R-Gardnerville, a former Cruz supporter who said he’ll back Trump to put a Republican in White House.
About 3,000 delegates were chosen at the county level to attend the state convention, but only about a third — 1,086 — were seated in Reno.
“This is a Trump convention,” said David Gibbs, former Clark County GOP chairman. “There are Cruz and Kasich supporters who probably would have been here” if the nomination were still a contest.
Others, he said, may have skipped because of the cost to travel to Reno for the weekend.
Delegates re-elected Diana Orrock of Clark County and Elko County GOP Chairman Lee Hoffman to represent Nevada on the Republican National Committee. Orrock, Hoffman and McDonald will round out Nevada’s 30 delegates to the national convention.
Hoffman conceded he wasn’t a Trump supporter from the start but is now in the corner of “anybody by Hillary.”
The GOP convention continues Sunday when delegates will vote on a state party platform.