Plenty of Republicans say they’ll skip next week’s Republican National Convention. Apparently some are worried about the public perception of this year’s event, headlined by Donald Trump.
But don’t put most of North Carolina’s federal lawmakers in that camp.
The Tar Heel State’s two Republican U.S. senators plan to go — though Sen. Richard Burr’s campaign has said he’ll attend for less than 24 hours, for the purpose of greeting North Carolina delegates. Sen. Thom Tillis — who previously endorsed Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in his presidential campaign — seems to have warmed to Trump in recent weeks and will be at the convention.
Tillis is a delegate for the state of North Carolina and, under current party rules, he is bound to cast his first-round vote for Rubio. Still, Tillis has publicly said he’ll support the eventual nominee.
U.S. Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C., won’t attend the convention but announced his endorsement of Trump this week.
N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory endorses Trump, his campaign said this week, but will not attend the convention because he’ll be campaigning around the state.
Just five of North Carolina’s 10 Republican House members told McClatchy this week they’re definitely not going to the convention, including one who endorsed Trump just this week. And of those members not going, one — Rep. Walter Jones from Eastern North Carolina — comes as no surprise. Jones typically forgoes attending the RNC.
Other Republicans gave various reasons for skipping the convention:
▪ Rep. Richard Hudson of Concord, N.C., will be in his home district meeting with constituents, his office said.
▪ Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro, N.C., will be traveling overseas with other members of Congress, according to his staff. Walker will back Trump as the nominee this year but he has expressed reservations over some of the billionaire CEO’s comments on the campaign trail, calling certain remarks “morally reprehensible.”
▪ Rep. George Holding of Raleigh, N.C., won’t go but his office suggested that decision was made regardless of Trump. “He had never planned to go,” Holding’s chief of staff, Tucker Knott, said.
▪ Rep. David Rouzer of Benson, N.C., won’t be at the convention but announced his endorsement of Trump on Wednesday, saying he’s a better choice than presumptive Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton.
Besides Burr and Tillis, five other congressional GOP lawmakers from North Carolina will be on hand as party leaders look to show a united front behind Trump, the presumptive presidential nominee.
Those attending are Reps. Renee Ellmers, Virginia Foxx, Robert Pittenger, Mark Meadows, and Patrick McHenry.
Ellmers, of Dunn, N.C., and Pittenger, of Charlotte, N.C., have been two of the most explicit Trump supporters in Congress from North Carolina during an election year where it’s been common for Republicans to only say they support their party or “the nominee,” without endorsing or cheer-leading Trump specifically.
N.C. state officials bypassing convention: Gov. McCrory, Lt. Gov. Forest, and Attorney General candidate and state Sen. Buck Newton.
Several notable North Carolina Republican state-government officials are taking a pass on the convention, including McCrory and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. Neither McCrory or Forest attended the 2012 convention, when Mitt Romney was nominee.
Forest’s spokesman, Jamey Falkenbury, said the lieutenant governor will skip this year’s convention for the “same reason why we didn’t go to the convention in 2012 — the cost financially and time spent away from the state.” Falkenbury added: “The lieutenant governor is finally able to travel the state now that we are out of (legislative) session, and leaving North Carolina for that many days is not beneficial.”
N.C. state Sen. Buck Newton’s office said Thursday he will not attend and has never gone to the national convention. Newton is running for N.C. attorney general against Democratic candidate Josh Stein, a former state senator.
Sen. Phil Berger, the state Senate leader, won’t go to Cleveland either. But the top lawmaker in the state House will attend the convention. Speaker Tim Moore is a delegate, pledged for neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who dropped out of the race just before North Carolina’s March 15 primary. Although Carson had dropped his bid, enough N.C. voters still chose him on the primary ballot to give Carson one delegate from the state at the convention.
Maggie Ybarra of the McClatchy DC bureau and Colin Campbell of the News & Observer contributed.