scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Some Mass. delegates are feeling it; others aren’t

<?EM-dummyText [Drophead goes here] ?>

Staff stood on the stage at the Quicken Loans Arena on Sunday as workers and media prepared for the arrival of visitors.TIMOTHY A. CLARY

Lou Murray knocked on doors and made phone calls for a month so he could win the chance to vote for Donald Trump as a first-time delegate to this week's Republican National Convention.

"I'm not a country-club Republican, I'm an L Street Brownie, so this is terrific," the Quincy resident said after landing in Cleveland. "The atmosphere is electric."

But Jim Rappaport, another delegate, isn't feeling it. "My feeling is that we have two of the worst candidates ever running for president of the United States," said Rappaport, a former state party chairman attending his fourth convention.

In past years, the Massachusetts delegation to the Republican convention has been like a reunion of old friends who gather every four years, don silly hats, and stand solidly behind their chosen leader.


Not this year.

As the convention convenes Monday in Cleveland, Massachusetts is represented by a fractious bunch that includes first-time activists who proudly carry the Trump banner, party stalwarts who loathe Trump and are going to the convention to back other candidates, and a few officials trying to keep the big tent from collapsing.

"People are going to this convention because they think it's going to be a show," said Rappaport, who first served as a delegate for Bob Dole at the sleepy 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego.

The state's 42 delegates will stay in the same hotel and represent a deep blue state whose Republican governor, Charlie Baker, has said he plans to skip the convention and will not vote for president in November because he cannot support Trump, Hillary Clinton, or the Libertarian ticket that includes his former mentor, Bill Weld. Mitt Romney, the state's previous Republican governor and the party's 2012 presidential nominee, has also been among Trump's toughest critics, calling him a "fraud" and a "phony."


Yet Massachusetts' tiny band of Republican primary voters still gave Trump one of his biggest margins of the GOP primary, with nearly 50 percent of the vote.

The Trump operation then recruited some of those voters to become first-time delegates and helped elect them at local GOP caucuses in April.

Kirsten Hughes, the state party chairwoman, said she has never met about half of those who will represent Massachusetts on the convention floor.

"This is the first time I've laid eyes on them, so I don't know what motivates them to go," said Hughes, who now backs Trump after supporting Marco Rubio in the primary.

Rappaport was elected as a delegate for John Kasich, the Ohio governor who quit the race in May.

He is required to vote for him in the first round in Cleveland, as is Rick Green, a wealthy auto parts executive who was Kasich's state finance chair.

The refusal by some GOP leaders to give Trump their full support has infuriated delegates who ran specifically to back him at the convention.

"If you guys want to do that foolish behavior, you're putting Hillary into the White House sooner," said Arete Pascucci, a retired school administrator and Trump supporter from Lynn. "Just be quiet, join the team, and do something positive."

Ken Nasif, a retired judge from West Roxbury and first-time delegate who tried to draft Trump to run for president in 2012, said he is also incensed that some of the state's "so-called Republican leaders" have not rallied behind Trump.


"I think these folks should become Democrats and show their true side," he said.

Nasif said he enjoyed Trump's book "The Art of the Deal" and admires Trump's business acumen, as well as his plans to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, build a wall along the US-Mexico border, and escalate the fight against the Islamic State.

"I think he has all the qualities that are needed right now in America," Nasif said. "He's not PC. He tells it like it is, and I admire it."

Pascucci said she thought of Trump on July 4th, as she walked along the Esplanade and told her boyfriend, "Half these people don't vote. They're probably here illegally. And some of them — not to be rude — are all on these benefits, either legally or illegally."

"Trump is saying if you want the benefits, get the benefits, but you have to earn them — they're not coming for free," Pascucci said.

Rachel Miselman, a Roxbury television producer, also cited Trump's hardline stance against illegal immigration as a reason she became a first-time delegate.

She said that, despite her background, she has not been deterred by Trump's incendiary rhetoric about minorities or by a recent Tweet that was criticized as anti-Semitic.

"As a biracial Jew, what I like about Donald Trump is I feel like he would see me as Rachel — no nonsense," she said.


But another delegate, Rachel Kemp, said she was troubled by that tweet, which showed Clinton next to a six-pointed star on a pile of money. The image had previously appeared on a website frequented by neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

"When you put a Star of David in a situation where it can be viewed as anti-Semitic, you just wonder, 'What is he thinking?' " said Kemp, an investment banker from Dorchester and the only black woman elected to the Republican State Committee.

Kemp, who backed Romney as a delegate to the 2012 convention, said she supports Trump but is hoping he will serve up more than just fiery, populist rhetoric at the convention.

"I'm waiting for that big policy statement," Kemp said. "What is he going to do that is going to improve the lives of Americans? How will he do it?"

Michael Levenson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.