POLITICS

Maine GOP elect Cruz-heavy slate of delegates that could give him boost at convention

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, takes questions at a news conference after a campaign rally at Gateway High School in Monroeville, Pa., Saturday, April 23, 2016 (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, takes questions at a news conference after a campaign rally at Gateway High School in Monroeville, Pa., Saturday, April 23, 2016 (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Maine Republicans elected a slate of delegates Saturday that could give an extra boost to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz if there's a divided national convention this summer.

All 14 at-large delegates elected at the state party convention support the senator from Texas. That means at least 19 of 23 delegates Maine is sending to the national convention in Cleveland are Cruz supporters.

The Maine GOP tried to eliminate controversy at the convention by making the results of last month's presidential caucuses binding with 12 delegates for Cruz, nine for New York businessman Donald Trump and two for Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

But delegates are bound only for the first vote.

If there's a contested convention, the Maine delegates could choose to support a different candidate on subsequent votes and Cruz could stand to pick up additional votes from the Maine delegation.

The selection of delegates created tension with Maine Gov. Paul LePage accusing the Cruz campaign of trying to suppress others.

Some Cruz supporters wanted an all-Cruz slate that would've left LePage, a Trump supporter, off the list entirely. But that effort came up short and LePage was selected. LePage accused the Cruz campaign of being run by "greedy hooligans."

John Grooms, a grassroots organizer from Cruz's campaign, said Cruz supporters are passionate about their candidate and sought to downplay differences by saying there was no animosity toward fellow party members who backed Trump. "We're excited about having a candidate we agree with — not the lesser of two evils," said Grooms, of Madison.

Afterward, a Trump supporter, Dr. Margaret Matthews of Hartford, Maine, said the Cruz campaign used a better ground game to fill the convention with supporters and rally support for a slate of Cruz delegates.

"No one's happy about that, but what can you do?" she said.

The 23 delegates include two who are undecided: Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett and National Committeewoman Ashley Ryan. LePage and National Committeeman Alex Willette support Trump.

LePage used his address to exhort the GOP to ensure a Republican is elected to the White House, regardless of whether it's Trump, Cruz or Kasich. He pointed to the growing national debt and said America could go into default like Greece if something isn't done.

The outspoken governor used crude language to refer to Barack Obama, suggesting to convention-goers that the president's last name is an acronym for "one big-ass mistake, America." He drew cheers when he said Obama "is on his way out."

"We cannot stand another liberal in Washington." LePage said.

Speakers at the two-day convention included two former presidential candidates, Ben Carson, who supports Trump, and Carly Fiorina, who supports Cruz. Former U.S. Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire spoke on behalf of Kasich.

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