Supporters of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz prevailed over backers of front-runner Donald Trump in a fight Saturday over delegates to the national Republican party convention, delegates that could help decide who becomes the GOP presidential nominee.
Cruz won 10 of the 13 at-large delegates up elected Saturday at the Republican Party of Virginia’s statewide convention at James Madison University in Harrisonburg.
Trump supporters won 3 and Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s backers were shut out.
Cruz’s victory would only matter if he can block Trump from clinching the nomination before the convention. After a string of recent victories, Trump has declared himself the “presumptive nominee” and predicted that he will have a majority of delegates locked up before Republicans gather in Cleveland in July. Virginia delegates are bound by the results of the March 1 primary, which Trump won, in the first round of voting at the national convention. In that first round, Trump will get 17 Virginia delegates and Cruz will get 8. Virginia delegates will be free to support whomever they choose after the first round of voting at the national convention.
Cruz supporters, led by former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, held firm control of the state convention. The Texas senator’s supporters picked the chosen slate of delegates, which a majority of the convention-goers supported. The Cruz camp said the 10-3 split was a generous compromise.
“This is an olive branch, believe it or not,” Cuccinelli said over loud boos from Trump supporters.
But Trump supporters tried unsuccessfully to reject that offer, saying there should have been more Trump supporters included in the slate of delegates.
“It’s a screw-you branch,” said Corey Stewart, chairman of the Trump campaign in Virginia.
Saturday is the biggest one-day haul of delegates in Virginia. Each of the state’s 11 congressional districts will elect three delegates. Virginia will send a total of 49 delegates to the convention, which will also include the state party chairman, and a Republican National Committee committeeman and committeewoman.
Though Cruz came in a distant third place in the March 1 primary, the Texas senator’s supporters have proved more organized at electing delegates.
Earlier this month, Cruz supporter won two out of three spots in the 9th Congressional District’s contest. Trump dominated the district, which includes the state’s coal country and is home to many blue collar voters, with majorities in some counties as high as 60 to 70 percent.
Cuccinelli was elected as a delegate, as was Ginni Thomas, wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She is a Cruz supporter.