Early progress and at least one raucous surprise greeted Manatee County delegates as the Republican National Convention officially opened Monday afternoon.
Sarasota County Republican Party Chairman Joe Gruters began the day with the Platform Committee, where he took part in finalizing the party’s official stance on several key issues. Gruters’s involvement in the committee — particularly his work to include language supporting “Kate’s Law” strengthening penalties for previously deported undocumented individuals who re-enter the country — reflected Monday’s convention theme to “Make America Safe Again.”
The focus of the day was on various issues of national security, particularly matters of foreign policy and illegal immigration, with an array of planned speakers ranging from Benghazi veterans to immigration reform advocates. Given the significant prominence immigration policy has held in Donald Trump’s campaign platform, Gruters believes the issue will remain a key talking point heading into the general election.
“Donald Trump is a law-and-order candidate,” he said, highlighting a quality that he believes gives Trump a distinct advantage over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. He added that Trump’s aggressive stance regarding immigration provides a strong means of repairing what he believes to be eight years of ineffective policy under President Barack Obama.
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Donald Trump is a law and order candidate.
In addition to shaping the GOP’s immigration stance, Gruters used his position as co-chair of the Economy, Jobs, and Debt Subcommittee to highlight policies regarding economic and job growth. While the theme for Monday’s proceedings was to “Make America Safe Again,” Tuesday’s events will focus on the party’s goals to “Make America Work Again.”
However, the two go hand in hand for Gruters, who noted that, in general, “people want to be safe, and people want a job.”
In addition to Gruters, Manatee County GOP Chair Kathleen King also worked the convention Monday as a member of the Credentials Committee.
Midday Monday, some disillusioned delegations continued an attempt to deny Trump the nomination despite an earlier vote against the unbinding of delegates. An attempted roll call vote, which would force a full vote on the convention rules from all present delegates, sought to give a greater voice to anti-Trump party members. The denial of the vote resulted in an uproar from several delegations.
Despite this apparent conflict between party members willing to accept Trump and those still holding out for a more traditional candidate, Gruters remains confident Trump’s nomination will be successful without fracturing the party further.
He believes accepting Trump will take much work and time, and it will be difficult bringing dissident party members back into the fold. However, Gruters added that Trump’s appeal as an unconventional candidate transcends party politics, and instead reflects the views of voters in support of significant change.
Trump’s departure from the norm of past candidates continued as rumors circulated early on of a potential appearance Monday evening. Trump confirmed via Twitter that he would be present to introduce his wife, Melania, who was scheduled at press time to speak during the evening, though Gruters noted that there was still uncertainty among delegates as to whether Trump would appear in person or if he were even in Cleveland.
In addition to participating on the convention floor, delegates also took time to enjoy Cleveland. Gruters attended a welcome party Sunday evening along with Sarasota County state committeeman Chris Ziegler. The event was held on the Lake Erie waterfront near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Additionally, both were present earlier that day for the Cleveland premiere of Dinesh D'Souza’s documentary, “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party.” Gruters also took time away from the convention floor Monday to visit House of Blues Cleveland after meeting with the Platform Committee.
Though Gruters was in the city last week, the start of the convention marks Ziegler’s first visit to Cleveland. Although the city’s preparedness for the week ahead has been questioned by many, particularly with regards to security, Ziegler was “pleasantly surprised” upon seeing the city firsthand, noting that there was an overwhelming police presence, the general atmosphere was one of welcome, appreciation, and relief.
Matthew Zyle is a third-year student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, where he studies English, film and journalism. He is Director of Design for The Observer, CWRU’s undergraduate student news publication. Follow Zyle on Twitter @mzyle1 to view his coverage of the #RNC for the Bradenton Herald.