Ohio Delegates Prepare for an Unusual GOP Convention in Cleveland

Jul 5, 2016

Stark County Commissioner Janet Creighton is preparing for her fifth GOP convention, and predicts this one will differ from the others.
Credit M.L. SCHULTZE / WKSU

Ohio is expected to be a big prize in November’s election. However, at least on paper, its GOP delegates will have little standing at the Republican convention in Cleveland. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze spoke with one woman who’s repeatedly been to the conventions over the last 20 years about the dynamics of this convention and of the race that will follow.

Stark County Commissioner Janet Creighton is one of 66 Ohio delegates – all pledged to vote for Gov. John Kasich for president at the convention unless he releases them. That’s because Ohio switched this year from dividing delegates proportional to the primary vote to winner-take-all.

Creighton isn’t second guessing that decision, nor her support for Kasich. It’s all part of her passion since the 70s, politics.

“And after I was bitten, it’s never changed. It has just been my life blood.”

I think the establishment's going to struggle. But if you are a standard bearer, if you are a donor or a supporter, you're going to stay with your party line.

A different candidate, different convention
She says this convention will differ from the four others that she’s attended as a delegate, alternate, whip and member of a platform committee.

“I look at this one to be a little bit different because of the candidate. Let me preface this by saying I am still a Kasich delegate, I am still true to John Kasich, I want John Kasich to be the president … but I’m also a realist in this game of politics and there’s probably a very slim chance that that’s going to happen.”

Creighton attended the first GOP debate in Cleveland last August and saw nothing that told her Donald Trump would be the nominee.

“If you would have asked me to put money down, I never would have picked ‘Donald Trump.’”

Thousands gathered in St. Clairsville say Trump is speaking for them.
Credit M.L. SCHULTZE / WKSU

Teflon Trump
But early on, she said, she saw him deflect what would have sunk other candidates. “He has said things and had political gaffes that would have burned anyone else ... I’ve been in politics for 35 years, I’ve run for office 20 times including primaries. I understand that things can trip you up and I really believed that after he said some of the things that he did, it would have really bitten him.”

But repeatedly, she says, she’s heard people embrace Trump as someone saying what they feel, “what they say in their living rooms.” And that focuses on frustration with government inaction over the last eight years.

A mantra of change
“They’re tired of the establishment,” says Creighton, who acknowledges she’s part of that establishment. But “I think that they’re frustrated with leadership from everybody in Washington. Having worked in Washington for a year, I understand that there is a different attitude and mindset. They forget about the guy on Prospect Avenue in Canton. They forget about the guy who lives out in the country. And people are frustrated. They get so darned ticked off, they want to try something new.”

She acknowledges that the packaging of politicians by consultants and insiders may be part of the problem.  “I want to believe that we don’t lie about our opinion. But we’re very careful about how we craft our answers. There are sometimes I’d really like to tell you to go to hell. But to stand up and say that, that’s pretty dramatic for someone with the microphone of with the bully pulpit.

Creighton says she still wants Kasich to be president, but is realist enough to realize that's unlikely.
Credit M.L. SCHULTZE / WKSU

“As we’ve seen with Donald Trump, he’s not afraid to say that.

As a Republican woman, she says she’s sometimes troubled by what Trump says. “I’ve thought, ‘Why did you say that, Donald? Why would you say it like that?’ But this whole issue is not about women’s issues. It’s about the future of this country.”

Creighton says for her, voting for Hillary Clinton is not a possibility. As for the rest of the long-time GOP establishment: “I think the establishment’s going to struggle. But I think if you are a standard bearer, if you are a donor or a supporter of the Republican principle or the Democratic principle, you’re going to stay with your party line."

Creighton says efforts by some delegates to dump Donald Trump at the convention are likely to go nowhere and predicts most will support him even if it means “holding their nose.”