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Vermont Delegates Mixed On Whether To 'Dump Trump' At GOP Convention

Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
A "Dump Trump" sign at a campaign stop for the Republican presidential candidate on March 3, 2016 in Maine. Not all Vermont delegates to the GOP convention are on board with an effort to block Trump's seemingly inevitable nomination.

A disaffected bloc of Republican delegates is trying to derail the seemingly inevitable nomination of presidential candidate Donald Trump. And while at least one Vermont delegate is on board with the plan, others say they’re more wary of the so-called Dump Trump movement.

At 17 years old, Colchester resident Jace Laquerre may well be the youngest of all the delegates to next month’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland. This relative youngster, however, doesn’t have any trouble speaking his mind. And Laquerre says he supports a new movement to pry the nomination from Trump’s grip.

“I would be in favor of a rule change that would unbound delegates,” Laquerre says.

The Dump Trump effort, as it’s known, was launched by a delegate from Colorado. And it hinges on passage of a so-called “conscience clause” that would allow delegates otherwise duty-bound to vote for Trump to cast a ballot for someone else.

Laquerre’s beef with Trump isn’t his incendiary rhetoric.

“I personally don’t think he’s racist or sexist or anything,” Laquerre says.

Rather, Laquerre says he isn’t convinced the New York real estate mogul is, in fact, a good Republican.

“He’s given money to liberal Democrats that are for gun control, so I’m not completely sure that he will do everything he can to defend the Second Amendment, since he hasn’t in the past,” Laquerre says.

"I'm not completely sure that he will do everything he can to defend the Second Amendment, since he hasn't in the past." - Jace Laquerre, GOP delegate

And perhaps most importantly, Laquerre says, he’s worried about how Trump is polling with voters in the general election.

“I don’t think we would have a great chance winning with him in November, and that’s what it’s all about for me, is winning in November,” he says.

Essex Rep. Paul Dame is also one of Vermont’s 16 delegates to the convention and, like Laquerre, is no fan of Donald Trump.

“I think it’s not really clear to me what he stands for.” Dame says.

As for Dumping Trump, Dame says “it’s certainly an enticing idea.” But Dame says changing the rules midstream would corrupt the electoral process.

“And you can’t change the rules just because your guy didn’t win,” Dame says.

"You can't change the rules just because your guy didn't win." - Essex Rep. Paul Dame, GOP delegate

Those rules are set by the RNC Rules Committee. And it’s the opinions of the 112 delegates on that committee that matter most, since they would vote whether to adopt the conscience clause. St. Johnsbury Rep. Janssen Willhoit is one of two Vermont delegates with a spot on that Rules Committee. Willhoit says he’s not a Trump supporter. But he says the voters have spoken.

“Then to go back and say 'Well, we really don’t like the person up front, so let’s re-craft rules.' That just really doesn’t seem fair,” Willhoit says.

Both Dame and Willhoit say they’re open to adopting the conscience clause, to avert the nomination of unwanted candidates in the future. But they say the new rule should apply prospectively, and not to a cycle in which voters have already made their choice in the primaries.

Vermont’s other delegate on the Rules Committee, Susie Hudson, did not return a call for comment. 

Darcie Johnston is a veteran Republican political operative who’s directing the Trump campaign in Vermont. Johnston says there’s no indication that renegade delegates have anywhere near enough support to succeed in passing the conscience clause.

“I think overall the Trump campaign is in a very strong, confident position,” Johnston says.

And Johnston says she’s confident Trump will win over wary delegates at the national convention in Cleveland.

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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