Tennessee GOP delegate fight erupts ahead of party meeting

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Washington, April 2 (IANS) Donald Trump’s campaign managers issued a late night plea in Tennessee on Friday, telling supporters there that the state’s Republican Party was “trying to steal” his delegates and urging them to crash a party meeting on Saturday morning to stop them.

“We won the votes. They are trying to steal them. I can’t believe I am writing this. But the Tennessee Republican Party wants to steal your vote tomorrow (Saturday),” Darren Morris, Trump’s Tennessee state director said.

Party leaders, alarmed by an intensifying backlash throughout the night, have hired extra security for the event — which party chairman Ryan Haynes noted had been scheduled to take place in a small, unsecured conference room — and they are considering cancelling the event altogether, Politico reported.

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“We’ve seen what’s happened at other events around the country,” Haynes said, referencing spurts of violence at some Trump campaign rallies. “The last thing we’d want to see is something get disorderly.”

“We’ve been in contact with individuals in law enforcement here in Tennessee,” Haynes said.

The skirmish is the latest in the increasingly fierce battle for delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

At issue are the state’s 14 at-large delegates that were not assigned in the March 1 primary but are set to be selected by the party’s executive committee.

Trump won the Tennessee primary and many of the delegates were directly elected at that time. Morris said that Trump’s campaign had struck a deal with party leaders on Wednesday to fill the remaining at-large slots with Trump’s share of the vote.

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Haynes said Morris exploded earlier in the week when the party informed the campaign they’d only get six of their seven delegate choices at the meeting.

Tennessee’s GOP rules give the party the ultimate authority to name delegates, though it usually accepts input from the campaigns.

“They informed us that they did not care about party procedures. They don’t care about the Republican Party,” Haynes said.

Haynes added that on Saturday, the list of delegates changed again and only four of Trump’s original seven requests were included, prompting Morris’ scathing call to supporters.

“The State Party Chairman, Ryan Haynes, agreed to that on Wednesday,” Morris wrote.

“Those pulling his puppet strings changed his mind and now apparently he wants to appoint delegates representing candidates who don’t support Donald Trump and who did not receive any allocated delegates on March 1.”

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Haynes said if he couldn’t guarantee safety of Saturday’s meeting, “In no way would I foresee going forward with an event. We hope cooler minds prevail on these kind of things… I’ve never quite experienced anything quite like this.”

Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich are not only competing in primaries and caucuses across the country but to name the actual individuals who will serve as delegates because, should Trump fall short of the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the GOP nomination on the first ballot, those individuals will ultimately select the nominee.

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