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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Republicans Search For Common Ground At State Convention

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
Dan Perrier, a Ted Cruz supporter, and Anthony Jenkins, a Donald Trump supporter pose for a picture at the Washington state Republican convention in Pasco.

Washington Republicans will meet in the Tri-Cities Friday to select delegates to this summer’s national convention in Cleveland. They are describing this year’s presidential campaign as “a Reagan restart” and “an outsider’s election.”

Matt Norling is a county delegate from Yakima and a U.S. History teacher. He first supported Marco Rubio, then Ted Cruz but now says he’s happily backing Donald Trump.

“I’ve liked him for many years, foolishly will say I’ve watched every episode of ‘The Apprentice’ so I feel like I know Donald Trump and I know he’s a good guy,” Norling said. “He’s not a racist, he’s not a bigot. I think what he is is somebody who just says what he thinks at the given time and I think that’s refreshing most of the time.”

But not everyone at the Republican state convention in Pasco is sold on Trump. Cruz supporters are a visible presence even though he dropped out of the race earlier this month.

In the convention hallway, a clean-cut engineer named Dan Perrier was wearing in a bright red Ted Cruz t-shirt. He was having a friendly debate with a bearded, tattooed welder and Trump supporter named Anthony Jenkins.

“Part of it is trying to figure out the similarities on where there’s common ground because there is common ground,” Perrier said.

Perrier backed Cruz because he’s a strict constitutionalist. He said he’s still trying to figure Trump out.

“Donald swings a big hammer,” Perrier said. “If there’s a crack, Donald’s gonna find the crack and he’s gonna hit it and we want to make sure it’s aimed at the things we’d like it to be aimed for.”

“Right now he’s just swinging it broad and hitting everything,” Jenkins said.

And that sits just fine with a young guy new to party politics like Jenkins.

The delegates selected to go to Cleveland will be bound by the results of next week’s Washington presidential primary.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."