CLEVELAND — The Republican National Convention officially made Donald Trump its party nominee on Tuesday, and Connecticut delegates had a front-row seat for the action.
Gathered in the front row to the left of the stage at Quicken Loans Arena, the state’s 28 delegates were uncharacteristically close to the action as celebrations began after Trump was officially named the nominee for President of the United States.
Perhaps it’s due to Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort hailing from Connecticut, the son of a three-time mayor of New Britain. Or perhaps Trump has a soft spot for the Constitution State, as he used to own a home in Greenwich.
Whatever the reason, the Connecticut delegation isn’t questioning their seating arrangement. Rather, they’re enjoying every minute.
“To be there in person and watch this, I don’t think my delegates could have had any better experience or position,” said JR Romano, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party.
Romano had the honor on Tuesday to announce to the world that all of Connecticut’s 28 delegates would officially be pledged to the Republican nominee. Trump won handily in the state’s April 26 primary election, with 60 percent of the vote. Ohio Gov. John Kasich came in second.
“It was truly an honor to do that, to represent the people of Connecticut and cast our ballot for Donald Trump,” Romano said. “In Connecticut he won overwhelming, so we’re really excited to be here and I’m happy I got the opportunity to announce that in our state men are men and women are champions.”
Themis Klarides, the current Republican Minority Leader in the Connecticut House of Representatives, was unfortunately absent from the convention due to a family health concern. However, over the phone she was cheering her fellow delegates from afar.
“I’ve been to two other conventions and let’s be honest — the states that have more electoral votes and more influence are typically placed closer to the front,” Klarides said. “It’s not fun for us small states, so this year is fun. It’s exciting to have that perspective.”
What makes Connecticut’s front-row seats even more remarkable is the fact that no federal offices in the state are held by Republicans. Naturally, Romano hopes to change that during this year’s election.
“Trump is in play in Connecticut,” he said. “The state is not as blue as the Democrats like to tell you it is.”
In fact, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy is a Democrat, and heads the Democratic Governors Association. The Friday before the start of the convention, Malloy commented that the choice of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence meant Trump was doubling down on the hatred and bigotry that has defined the Republican campaign.
“Gov. Pence has a long history of supporting policies that attack people who don’t look like him,” Malloy said in a statement Friday. “That was on full display when he signed his anti-LGBT right-to-discriminate law and tried to block a Syrian refugee family — some of the most vulnerable people in the world — from entering his state.”
Dislike of Trump is not relegated just to Democrats. On Monday, chaos was evident on the convention floor as Republican delegates loudly argued over a vote accepting convention rules requiring delegates to vote for the candidate they were committed to on the first ballot.
Rumors of another Trump revolt surrounded the convention before the roll call of the states on Tuesday. Klarides expressed frustration with the “Never Trump” movement.
“The people that didn’t want Trump wanted to throw it all out the door and start from the beginning,” she said. “They had their voice and the vote was taken, they didn’t win and now we move on.”
Though she has been critical of Trump in the past, Klarides said she is ready to move forward and support her party’s nominee.
“I’ve been critical of Trump on certain things and I’ve been very positive on other things,” she said. “He’s our nominee. We are Republicans, and we need to put our differences aside and go forward.”
Romano echoed Klarides’ thoughts, saying his state cannot afford to keep suffering under Democratic policies.
“In Connecticut, we’re casting the ballot for someone who is willing to hit the reset button and understands the frustrations and angst we have as families that can’t find work and feel less safe,” Romano said. “Those are real emotions and real things happening all across the country, and I think Donald Trump is the right person to do that.”
Brittany Schock is a reporter with the RichlandSource.com, a news site covering North Central Ohio. She is covering the Republican National Convention this week in Cleveland.