Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee for president. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Black District Republicans aren’t excited about their presumptive presidential nominee and don’t plan to push District statehood at their national convention next month.
The Republican National Convention will be held in Cleveland from July 18-21 at the Quicken Loans Arena but some District Republicans aren’t planning to attend and are uneasy about the likely nomination of billionaire Donald Trump to lead the party in the November general election.
“I was not elected as a delegate in March so I won’t be going to Cleveland,” Ralph Chittams Sr., senior vice chairman of the District’s Republican Party, told the AFRO. He was referring to the party’s delegate selection process on March 12. “The party insiders do not support Trump being the nominee. They don’t think he has the right temperament to be president and some even question whether he is a real Republican.”
The District Republican caucus was won by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in March but he suspended his race for president on March 15. Rubio was followed closely by Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and each has 10 and nine delegates at the convention, respectively. Trump won no delegates at the caucus.
Bob Richards, a longtime GOP activist living in Ward 7, told the AFRO that party rules stipulate the delegates bound to a candidate stay with that person until after the first ballot or the candidate releases their delegates. “We are committed to Rubio or Kasich on the first ballot and what happens after that who knows,” Richards said.
Richards said that Trump doesn’t have any significant support among District Republicans. “There are many D.C. Republicans who are in the ‘Never Trump’ category,” Richards said, “but he still has won the nomination fair and square and we should get behind him in the Fall.”
Getting behind Trump for the general election isn’t an option for Ron Moten, a Republican and co-founder of the anti-gang violence organization, Peaceoholics. “As a Black man, I would find it hard to support Donald Trump for president,” Moten said.
Moten, a 2012 candidate for the Ward 7 D.C. Council seat, said that Trump’s presence in the presidential contest has been destructive. “Donald Trump has broken up the Republican Party,” he said. “While there are some things he says that I agree with, his delivery and temperament will divide the country. Plus, he gets away with saying nothing.
“When you ask him about his agenda for Black people, he says ‘I will treat them better.’ What does that mean? I can tell Donald Trump has never played chess because he doesn’t think before he moves.”
While Moten won’t embrace Trump, he is hostile toward Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. “At least with Trump, you know what you are getting but you don’t know what you are getting with Hillary Clinton,” he said.
Trump does have supporters who are District residents. Crystal Wright, a Black female conservative blogger living in Ward 4, is receptive to a Trump candidacy. “As Hillary struggles to knock Sanders out of the race, Trump is uniting GOP support behind him,” Wright said in a May 20 post on her blog, Conservative Black Chick. “Even people within the GOP who expressed loathing for Trump are now supporting him because they want him to win in 2016 and end Democrats’ eight-year stranglehold on the White House.”
Trump will have difficulty winning the District because it is a Democratic bastion with a 10-1 voter registration advantage over the Republicans. The District’s Electoral College jurisdiction has voted only for the Democratic presidential candidate since residents began voting in national elections in 1964.
D.C. Republicans told the AFRO they won’t press their delegates to speak in favor of District statehood at the convention. D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At Large) has tentatively pledged to carry the message and signatures of support for statehood to both the Democratic and Republican conventions, but Orange will get no assistance in Cleveland. “The D.C. GOP position is for the U.S. Congress to grant the District full representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and if not, exempt District residents from federal taxation,” Chittams said.
Richards agree with Chittams. “Many Republicans favor voting rights but not D.C. statehood,” he said.