Charlie Crabtree, chairman of the Whatcom County Republican party, arrives in Cleveland this weekend for perhaps his last convention as an official delegate.
He hopes the Republicans, somewhat fractured over Donald Trump’s candidacy, will be a unified party when the balloons fall next Thursday night.
A Whatcom County native, Crabtree has spent most of his adult life in Bellingham. He first became involved in local politics through his son’s school district, with a simple desire to be helpful. He served on the Meridian School Board when he was asked to speak and then ran as precinct committee officer in 2002, eventually managing candidate campaigns and working on political committees.
In his current position as chairman of Whatcom County Republicans, he said he spends “right close to 50 percent of my available time” committed to representing the party. He will continue party work even after the presidential election, he said.
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Are you excited for the convention?
“This is an exciting one to attend. So I’m excited for that part of it,” he said. “I get to choose when to be on the floor” and what speakers to listen to.
He hasn’t spent much time in Cleveland, though he’s a bit closer to the action this year – about 12 miles from the convention. During the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, his lodgings were 50 miles away. “One of the worst things for us last time was the commute,” adding he didn’t get back to his hotel the first day until 3 a.m.
On Sunday, he plans to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Generally, delegates have activities planned every morning, then they head to the convention center at a set time each day, though he has not seen the schedule yet. Voting on the platform likely will happen Tuesday.
How will he vote?
The convention rules committee debated Thursday, July 14, whether to unbind delegates, freeing them to vote for any candidate as the nominee.
“That seems to be the big topic,” Crabtree said. “I figure that they do have the votes to bring the rules to the floor.”
It’s the first time that the rules – usually a simple process – have mattered in this way, Crabtree said.
If the delegates are unbound, what will Crabtree do?
He said he will vote the way Whatcom County voted in the May 24 primary, which was 75 percent for Trump.
On safety concerns
Thousands of protesters are expected to descend on the convention next week and city officials have devised plans to handle mass arrests if chaos breaks out.
“I have unease about Cleveland handling it,” Crabtree said. “I have a little bit of concern about my safety, generally.”
Crabtree said he tries to stay with the pack and that keeps him safe. He’s already had experience with demonstrators, having attended Trump’s campaign rally at the fairgrounds in Lynden in May.
“It’s there and I’m going to watch my person,” he said.
On party unity
Washington’s primary occurred after Ted Cruz had dropped out of the race, but Crabtree and other supporters still campaigned for the senator from Texas. He said their hope now is to try to build a conservative platform, “so we can try to at least hold Trump to that.”
Though some prominent GOP members have threatened to boycott the convention, he expects a narrow split between the traditional Republicans and Trump’s intended platform.
“I don’t like that Ted Cruz lost,” Crabtree said. “When you have a presumptive nominee, that’s where you gotta go. I’m not like a legislator, or ex-office holder. ... I’m more of a party guy. I’m happy to see that the national party is trying to unify.”
On the role activism has played in this election
“The way I look at it, the first part of my political story was being on the school board. Everything was volunteer, and it played a pretty big role of how the system worked. You had to be involved to bring about changes.”
That led him to volunteer with the Whatcom County Republicans.
“In my generation - I hate saying that - a lot of volunteering happened, people went once a week to participate in events that benefited the community.”
Crabtree has spent a lot of time trying to get “face-to-face activism back.”
“Take the time to be active in the community and know what the issues are,” he said. “It helps the community move forward.”
“I am totally amazed at the Trump people to begin with. We had Donald Trump come up (to Lynden) for the rally. And I was amazed at the type of people I saw,” adding that he met a lot of people who hadn’t voted before.
He’s excited that Trump’s candidacy has brought out so many people who want to be involved, and after the convention he will help teach people to campaign with phone calls, going door-to-door and putting up signs. Seeing so many people come in to help gives him faith in how the system works, he said.
Even though this may be his last convention, he said he remains in awe of the process and his part in it.