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Despite contentious floor debate, Whatcom delegate vows unity

Washington state delegates Dino Rossi, left, Charlie Crabtree and Susan Hutchison attend opening day at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 18, 2016. Crabtree is Whatcom County GOP chairman.
Washington state delegates Dino Rossi, left, Charlie Crabtree and Susan Hutchison attend opening day at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 18, 2016. Crabtree is Whatcom County GOP chairman. For The Bellingham Herald

Donning a white “Make America Great Again” ballcap festooned with pins he has collected from trading with other delegates, Charlie Crabtree walked onto the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena early in the afternoon Monday, July 18, and soaked in the excitement of the Republican National Convention.

“Wow, this is different from Tampa. The arena’s unbelievable,” the Whatcom County delegate said. “Trump has brought an ambiance, a vibe. ... that’s cultural, not necessarily political.”

This week, Crabtree is focused on pushing for unity under Donald Trump – when he’s not trading state pins with other delegates and searching for a coveted Ronald Reagan pin. He said he believes the other Washington delegates have the same goal of unity in mind.

“Trump will have an unanimous vote from Washington,” he said. “At the end of the day, we want to come out of here as united as possible. I don’t want walk-outs.”

Crabtree remained confident despite a late-afternoon rebellion by some “dump Trump” delegates from Washington state and elsewhere – which he did not join — chanting for a roll call that would have allowed delegates to vote their conscience, and not follow the primary and caucus votes in their states. RNC officials ruled their effort had fallen short.

The longtime Whatcom County delegate says he is energized by so many new faces in the Washington state group, many of them “30-somethings,” he said. He credits the involvement of new, younger delegates to the Ted Cruz and Trump campaigns exciting people not previously involved at this level.

And even though this is likely his last convention, he says the younger delegation “makes me feel like I can leave … (and it will) be in new, excited hands.”

Crabtree said one of the main early topics among delegates was the deadly shooting of three law enforcement officers in Louisiana.

“My heart was with Baton Rogue ... it burns my butt,” he said. “People are talking about it. People are much more outgoing towards the police. We are trying to make them feel comfortable.”

Crabtree said a Trump presidency would bring more reassurance of safety, as opposed to the Obama administration, which he feels doesn’t defend police officers.

On Sunday night, Crabtree had his first run-in with protesters. He saw a Black Lives Matter march, which was “three to four (people) wide and 50 to 60 deep.” He said he quickly found a taxi in Cleveland’s downtown.

“I ain’t looking for it,” he said of the protesters. At convention events, fences and even snowplows are blocking off the perimeter.

Crabtree said he is looking forward to Wednesday night, when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will give his acceptance speech as the party’s vice president nominee.

“One of the smartest things (Trump) did was get Pence on board,” Crabtree said, citing Pence’s stances against Obamacare and supporting the tea party as positives the governor of Indiana brings to the ticket.

“In one fell swoop it was like that,” Crabtree said, clapping his hands together, signifying the closing of the gap between conservatives (especially tea party Republicans) and Trump’s stances on issues.

“For me, this thing is about the vice-presidential candidate,” Crabtree said. “ I align a lot with him.”

When asked about the final platform, Crabtree said it’s “pretty much a done deal” and he says it remains close to his conservative ideals.

“There was no big argument with the Trump people on fiscal responsibility, social issues,” including marriage between a man and a woman, despite an attempt by some delegates to allow language more inclusive to the LGBT community.

As for defending the platform, he said Republicans will “make a stand when and where we can. ... and Trump will do that.”

Alexandria Clarke is a journalist and a student at Case Western Reserve University. This month, she will be reporting on the Republican National Convention from Cleveland as part of a groundbreaking project allowing students to cover the event for local newspapers, TV stations and digital outlets. Follow her on Twitter: @ARClarke7.

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