Republicans across Missouri gathered Saturday for county caucuses, the first step in choosing delegates for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Jefferson County Republicans met at Windsor High School.
The caucuses take on extra importance this year, even though Missouri had a primary, because of the possibility of an open convention if Donald Trump does not get the necessary delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot. If that happens, delegates are then free on later ballots to vote for who they like, so Trump and Ted Cruz are jockeying to get their supporters selected as delegates. These county caucuses are the first step in choosing Missouri’s 52 delegates to the national convention, 37 of which Trump won via the primary vote.
In the primary, Trump won JeffCo with 49% of the vote to Cruz’s 38%.
The 2012 JeffCo GOP caucus was surrounded by controversy between the establishment and Ron Paul supporters. This was in the back of many people’s mind coming in to today (especially those who brought snacks – the 2012 caucus lasted nine hours).
How it Went Down
The caucus, which was scheduled to start at 10, did not get underway until 10:45 due to delays in getting the final number of attendees tabulated. Part of this was due to having to sign in those who arrived close to 10:00 and part was apparently due to issues with the voter data sent from the county clerk’s office. More on this later. It was declared that 162 people were registered, but that two had already left. But when the district numbers were added, they only came to 157. The body agreed to go with that number.
Things were a bit more complicated in JeffCo due to the fact that we are split up between three Congressional districts – the 2nd, 3rd, and 8th. After the county caucuses come the congressional district and state conventions; each of which get to choose some national delegates. So at the JeffCo caucus we had to select 6 slates, one for each district to both conventions. But in reality each district selected the same slate twice to send forward.
County councilman Bob Boyer was selected as caucus chairman, as he was in 2012, then it was on to the delegate selection. Attendees were divided up into three seating areas, one for each Congressional district. In each district, two slates were proposed: a “Make America Great Again” pro-Trump slate stocked with local elected officials, county GOP committee members, and activists, and a second slate, which became the “Make America Really Great Again” slate, made up of pro-Trump relative outsiders (with a couple of exceptions).
In the 2nd district, which was allotted 12 delegates by the state party, the outsider slate submission (a printed sheet containing names and addresses) was disqualified before the vote because it contained a duplicate name. Therefore, the establishment slate, which included five current/former/future Arnold city council members, Bob Boyer, and Ken Horton (current treasurer candidate and former Tea Party leader), had no opposition and was selected.
In the 3rd district (34 delegates), both slates were disqualified, the outsider one for having another duplicate name and the establishment one for having the aforementioned Ken Horton on it (at an old address – he is no longer in the 3rd district). Since this left no slates to be considered, both sides got to fix and resubmit their lists. Dave Day, speaking for the outsider slate, spoke to the crowd about how his list was tried and true Trump supporters, not establishment members. Derrick Good, speaking for the establishment slate, defended his slate as the people who work for the party to get candidates elected. He said he was tired of the negativity towards the establishment, and proclaimed his own support for Trump from day one, including an unsuccessful attempt to win a position as Trump’s state director. His slate included three state representatives, Senator Paul Wieland, and county executive Ken Waller (these individuals, some of whom have endorsed Cruz, were not present). A vote was held, and the outsider slate won by one vote.
Almost immediately, a question arose, and much conversation was taking place around the head table. From what I was able to gather, a caucus attendee was seated with the wrong district, thanks to some or other confusion, in part related to data from the county clerk. Discussion took place on what to do with this newfound information, leading outsiders to think “here we go again, they are trying to steal our victory.” In the end, we moved on, but it sounds like this slate could possibly be challenged in an appeal to the state party. It seems to me that the mistake, found at a convenient time, was noticed too late and the slate selection should stand.
In the 8th district (18 delegates), the establishment slate won by a wide margin. So in the end, two establishment slates won, but the outsider slate that won has more delegates than the other two combined (because most of JeffCo is in the 3rd district).
The above is what I saw and heard at the caucus. If I made any errors, please let me know.
I did not stay for all of the proposed amendments to the draft state GOP platform, but here were some that I heard, along with the vote results. Successful amendments get passed on with the selected delegates to the next conventions.
- Make Missouri’s primaries closed (so only registered Democrats/Republicans can vote in them). Since Missouri voters don’t declare a party when registering, this would require some major changes. This would stop candidates like Trump, who draws many independent and Democratic voters. This would give the party more control over who wins the primary, but it would keep out the types of crossover voters that help the party win general elections. This amendment passed by a large margin.
- Use paper ballots in elections. This is based on fears of hacking and manipulation of voting machines, which also have no paper backup. This passed unanimously.
- An amendment to remove right to work from the state platform was proposed by Arnold councilman Jason Fulbright. JeffCo is home to many pro-union GOP elected officials. This vote ended in a tie, which meant that it failed.
- Disallow individuals found by the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) to have an ethics violation (mostly these are for campaign rule violations) from being GOP delegates. This, I believe, was aimed at county GOP central committee members who were found to have violated campaign finance rules in 2012. The argument against this was a claim that it was easy to get an MEC violation, for things like not putting “paid for by” information on campaign signs. This amendment failed by a large margin.