Cruz secures second ballot votes among Maine's convention delegates

By Eric DuVall  |  Updated April 23, 2016 at 8:59 PM
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BANGOR, Maine, April 23 (UPI) -- Texas Sen. Ted Cruz took 19 of the 20 delegates up for grabs at Maine's state party convention Saturday despite talk of deal that would have created a "unity slate" of delegates there.

Cruz won the Maine caucuses last month, carrying 45 percent of the vote to 32 percent for front-runner Donald Trump. But voters in the state did not select the actual delegates. That task falls to the state party for all but three of the 23 total delegates.

Under party rules, 12 of the delegates are bound to vote for Cruz on the first ballot of the convention. Nine will go for Trump and two will go for Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

However, if Trump fails to secure the nomination on the first ballot, all 23 of the delegates to the convention will be free to vote for any candidate. With Saturday's state party convention results, Cruz stands to pick up several of Maine's delegates if the convention reaches a second ballot.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who has endorsed Trump, released a stinging attack on Cruz after Saturday's vote, saying the state party had struck a deal with the Cruz campaign, agreeing to appoint a slate of delegates that reflected the outcome of the vote -- meaning the delegates elected for each candidate would have actually been supporters of that candidate and remained loyal through subsequent rounds of voting.

"We reached a deal with Cruz's national campaign to put up a unity slate that would honor the wishes of the thousands of Mainers who voted at caucus," LePage said in a written statement. "But Cruz's Northeast Political Director David Sawyer lied to us and broke the deal. Sawyer stabbed us in the back, reneged on the unity slate, and betrayed the people of Maine."

Of the state's 20 delegates, 19 are Cruz supporters. The lone holdout is LePage himself, who will serve as a delegate to the convention in Cleveland.

The Cruz campaign responded, saying there was never a final deal in place over a "unity slate" of delegates.

"It's no surprise Gov. LePage stands with Donald Trump, he endorsed Donald Trump," said Alice Stewart, Cruz's communications director. "And Ted Cruz stands with the grassroots, who made our caucus victory in Maine possible. Cruz will always defend the interests of the people who elected him over the will of establishment politicians."

The Portland (Maine) Press Herald reported there were about 200 candidates for the state's 20 delegate spots and several different slates were being debated in the days before the vote.

The Maine controversy comes amid scathing criticism from Trump over the party's nomination process, which he has called "rigged" to ensure his defeat, despite the likelihood he will end the primary campaign with more votes and more delegates than any of the other candidate.

Each of the campaigns sent top surrogates to speak to the Maine GOP convention prior to the vote. Trump dispatched retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Cruz sent former Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Kasich sent former New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu.

The fight in Maine was a repeat of problems that surfaced in 2012's GOP primary, which Mitt Romney won. A group of Republicans loyal to libertarian Ron Paul managed to wrest control of the convention away from party leaders and elect a slate of 20 Paul supporters to the GOP convention that year.

Eventually, the Republican National Committee was forced to step in and strip delegate voting rights from half the state's delegation to the convention.

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