Donald Trump in Windham, New Hampshire one month before the first-in-the-nation primary

May 1, 2016 11:11 PM

Steinhauser: New flare up between Trump's NH delegation and NHGOP

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – Two and a half months after he scored a nearly 20-point victory over the rest of the Republican presidential field in the New Hampshire primary, Donald Trump’s waging a new battle in the Granite State.

Trump’s campaign is accusing the New Hampshire GOP of manipulating the system by including not a single Trump delegate in the Granite State on a proposed slate of delegate assignments to crucial committees at July’s Republican National Convention.

The Trump campaign is pointing fingers directly at state party chair Jennifer Horn, and vowing to take action.

“We are talking to our legal team, which has been in touch with the RNC legal team,” state Rep. Steve Stepanek, the Trump campaign’s New Hampshire chairman, told NH1 News on Sunday. “Our reading of the rules is that she (Jennifer Horn) hasn’t followed the rules. If she hasn’t followed the rules, then we will question the authenticity of the vote.”

While Horn has yet to respond to several attempts by NH1 News to reach her, an email from a top state party official says the NHGOP did follow the rules set out by the Republican National Committee.

And a source close to the state party says that Horn and her top aides reached out three times to Rick Wiley, the Trump campaign’s national political director, asking for a list of Trump delegates who would like to have their names put into contention for the committee assignments. But the source says that Wiley never responded. NH1 News reached out to Wiley, but he has yet to respond.

The episode began on Saturday, when NHGOP executive director Ross Barry sent an email to all 23 New Hampshire delegates to the GOP convention, stating that “as per RNC Rule 41, we are conducting a vote among delegates in order to assign delegates to serve at the 2016 RNC convention on the Committee on Permanent Organization, the Platform Committee, the Rules Committee and the Credentials Committee. We are also voting for Delegation Chairman, with responsibilities as outlined in RNC rules 2, 37 and 41.”

“Only official delegates may vote. Only official delegates may serve on these committees. A delegate may serve on only one committee. One man and one woman shall be assigned by vote to each committee. The Delegation Chair may also serve on one Convention Committee,” continued Ross in his email.

The email then listed a proposed “slate of candidates” but didn’t say who proposed the list.

Horn was listed as delegation chair, with former state Attorney General Tom Rath listed on the Platform Committee. Rath, a top GOP consultant, is a delegate for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Horn and Gordon MacDonald are listed on the Permanent Organization Committee. MacDonald is a delegate for Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who ended his bid for the White House in March, after losing to Trump in his home state’s primary.

Former state House Speaker Bill O’Brien and Melissa Stevens are listed on the Credentials Committee. O’Brien’s a delegate for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Stevens is a delegate for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who ended his bid for the GOP nomination in February.

Longtime RNC committeeman Steve Duprey is listed on the slate for the convention’s Rules Committee. So is the state’s other RNC member, committeewoman Juliana Bergeron.

Both Duprey and Bergeron are neutral, since state party rules say there can be no unpledged delegates. Duprey’s assigned to Kasich and Bergeron to Cruz. And Horn, who’s also neutral, is assigned to Bush.

With the Rules Committee holding jurisdiction over the primary calendar, it makes sense that Duprey, who’s served many years on the national party’s Rules Committee and who has long led efforts to keep New Hampshire first-in-the-nation, should be included in the convention’s Rules Committee.

But no Trump delegates are listed on the proposed slate.

Trump campaign: ‘How do you know who’s voting if it’s all done via email’

Trump won 35% of the vote in the nine candidate Republican field on the ballot in the February 9th primary. Trump finished first, 19 percentage points ahead of Kasich, the second place finisher. Trump as awarded 11 of the state’s 23 delegates to the convention in Cleveland.

“When you look at the fact that we have 11 out of the 23 delegates, and she (Jennifer Horn) did not put a single Trump person in a single position on any of the nine positions available, we should have had proportionally at least four out of the nine positions, based up on the percentage of delegates that we won,” Stepanek told NH1 News.

“And yet not one single Trump person was appointed to a single position out of the nine positions that were open by Jennifer Horn. And on top of it she manipulated the system and appears to be breaking the rules of notification and the fact that this electronic vote has never been done and appears to be a violation of the rules,” he continued.

Stepanek also alleged that “a number of Trump delegates did not even get email notifications, they heard about it through the grapevine. When they contacted the state party they were told the state party made a mistake and that it was an oversight.”

And he charged that the state party “put out a full slate instead of having a nomination where each position was open for nominations. They just presented a slate and said ‘this is the slate to vote for that we’re recommending, and oh, by the way, if you want something else, let us know’.”

Stepanek also questioned “how do you know who’s voting if it’s all done via email.”

A source close to the state party pushed back on the email address allegation, telling NH1 News that all the Trump delegates did receive emails from the NHGOP this weekend.

Delegates have until Noon Monday to vote for the slate listed by the state party, or to write in their own picks for the positions on the crucial convention committees. It’s doubtful the state party will comment until after the voting ends.

If the Cruz, Kasich, Rubio and Bush delegates - which number 12 – all vote in support of the proposed slate, it would pass 12 to 11. The big question is whether they’ll stay unified.

As a result of Trump’s landslide victory in the New Hampshire primary, he has by far the largest delegation with 11 delegates. But the Kasich, Cruz, Rubio and Bush delegations have a combined total of 12 delegates – and could prevail if all vote as a bloc.

Rath, who’s attending his ninth GOP convention, said he thought Horn’s “done a very good job trying to piece this together.”

The committee assignments for convention delegates are often arcane affairs that draw no media attention, but with the possibility that the GOP may hold its first contested convention in decades, such minor matters are taking on out sized importance.

Bad blood between Trump campaign and Horn

The controversy between Horn and the Trump campaign isn’t the first time the two have tangled.

Horn was critical of Trump late last year, describing as “un-American” the GOP front runner’s call for a temporary “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States. At the time Stepanek and state Rep. Al Baldasaro, another top Trump supporter, called on Horn to resign from her post for criticizing Trump because they said she wasn’t being neutral in the presidential primary.

Asked by NH1 News on Friday if the past tensions with Trump’s Granite State supporters was water under the bridge, Horn said “you’d have to ask them if it’s still an issue. For me it’s never been an issue.”

This latest flare up also comes just two days before Indiana holds its presidential primary. The state is shaping up to be a last stand for Cruz, who’s hoping a victory in Indiana will prevent Trump from reaching 1,23 7 delegates, the number needed to clinch the nomination. The only shots Cruz and Kasich, the two remaining rivals to Trump, have to win the nomination is if there’s a contested convention that goes past a first ballot.

According to AP’s latest delegate count, Trump stands at 996, with Cruz at 565 and Kasich at 153. Fifty-seven delegates are up for grabs in Tuesday’s Indiana primary.

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