Politics

Here's what Alaska's delegates to the Republican National Convention are hoping to see in Cleveland

WASHINGTON — Alaska's delegates to the Republican National Convention, like many across the country, are waiting anxiously to see just what will happen in Cleveland.

Many details about the planned events for the convention — July 18-21 — remain elusive, from who will speak to who will be Donald Trump's pick for vice president.

Typically, presidential candidates announce their running mate in the weeks running up to their party's national convention, a move designed to drive interest and build excitement.

Over the last week, a variety of names have been floated in Washington, D.C., as Trump, the presumed nominee, has met with lawmakers and the campaign vetted potential options.

Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan even got a nod of consideration, though the rumor appeared to begin and end with People magazine. Sullivan said Thursday that he "was surprised to see the mention in People magazine, and … I have not been contacted by the campaign on this issue."

"I wake up every day focused on serving Alaskans in the Senate," Sullivan said, describing his first priority.

[People Magazine floats Sen. Dan Sullivan's name as potential Trump VP pick]

So who would Alaska Republicans like to see on the ticket, if not their own junior senator?

In discussions with a variety of Alaskans headed to the convention in Cleveland, a strong preference seems to be for someone more policy-minded — perhaps with more political experience than Trump.

One former lawmaker came up over and again: Newt Gingrich. Gingrich, who acknowledged this week that he is being officially vetted by the campaign, spent 20 years in the House as a representative from Georgia, ending his time in Congress as speaker of the House. Gingrich resigned in 1999 in a situation not entirely unlike that that befell recently departed Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — facing a rebellion from some House Republicans who held him responsible for poor midterm election results for the party.

In the nearly two decades since, Gingrich has kept a high profile as a political consultant and ran for president in 2012.

Alaska delegate Judy Eledge said Gingrich would be a fine pick, calling him a "good man that knows the government." She said a "strong" vice presidential candidate is needed.

"I can't really think of anybody else who is of his quality," said Jim Crawford, who co-chairs Alaska for Trump and is a delegate headed to Cleveland.

Several others pointed toward Gingrich as their choice, citing his experience dealing with Congress.

Other names that popped up include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Govs. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Susana Martinez of New Mexico.

Haley seems an unlikely pick. She told Politico she has no plans to speak at the convention, a potential slight to Trump.

With many long-time party players uncomfortable aligning themselves with Trump, the speaker line-up at the convention remains unclear. But getting a spot on the stage — particularly during prime time — can be a big boon to any political figure. A speech at the 2004 Democratic convention is often credited as a national launching point for President Barack Obama, who was running for Senate at the time.

Recent reports suggest that at least one freshman senator will get a prime-time slot — Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa. Ernst was considered to be a contender to join Trump's ticket but bowed out — along with several other senators — over the past week.

Trump has told reporters that convention planners wanted him to speak every night of the convention but he didn't want to appear self-absorbed. Trump has, at times, suggested that he would not allow any speakers who have not endorsed him, and that he may fill some of the time with sports and non-political speakers. While it is not uncommon to see a speech from the candidate's spouse, this year's GOP convention may more likely see speeches from one or more of Trump's children instead.

Eledge said she thinks it would be a mistake to keep anyone who has not endorsed Trump from speaking at the convention. And "I damn sure don't want to see Mike Tyson or sports heroes," she said.

Tyson endorsed Trump earlier this year. The former heavyweight boxer spent several years in prison after a rape conviction, and later pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine and driving under the influence. In 2011, Tyson gained national attention for crude comments he made about former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Crawford said he assumes Palin — who has been stumping for Trump for months — will speak at the convention, and said her position advising Trump is "great for Alaska." Though Palin is "not universally popular because she quit" before the end of her term as governor, he thinks that "her heart's still with us." And "she certainly knows politics," Crawford said.

Alaska GOP delegates interviewed by Alaska Dispatch News were, as a group, not terribly concerned about protests getting out of hand at the convention, particularly given the extreme security surrounding the event and long hours they expect to spend inside the convention center.

This year, the Alaska GOP delegation will be staying at the Courtyard Marriott in Beachwood, Ohio, just outside Cleveland. The Wyoming delegation will be at the same hotel.

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