CLEVELAND - Next week, delegates will be voting to nominate the candidate the majority of Republican voters chose in their state primaries, the Rules Committee decided at the Republican National Committee meeting Thursday.
After several hours of behind-the-scenes dickering, so-called "NeverTrump" Republicans were outnumbered and their attempt to allow delegates to vote their consciences, rather than reflect their districts' preferences, failed. That one action effectively assured businessman Donald J. Trump his place as the RNC's 2016 presidential nominee.
Illinois' Republican National Committeewoman Demetra DeMonte and State Rep. John Cabello are serving on this year's Rules Committee, and DeMonte told Illinois Review she was honored to have been active in whipping the vote on the proposed "Conscience clause."
"There was a small number of us that worked on Mr. Trump's behalf on that decision, and that should be a plus overall for Illinois," she said.
DeMonte's public support for Trump puts her at odds with former IL GOP State Chairman Pat Brady, whose anti-Trump rhetoric on a local radio show interview raised hackles earlier this week.
DeMonte didn't mince words in response to Brady.
"If Mr. Brady does not intend to vote for Donald Trump or vote Republican this fall, he should leave the party," DeMonte said. "Yes, he is a former state party chairman, but he left under a cloud. It's unfortunate that media goes to the disgraced former state chairman instead of talking to current leadership such as [IL GOP State Chairman] Tim Schneider, [IL RNC Committeeman] Rich Porter or myself."
DeMonte said that if Brady was still Illinois' RNC Committeeman, he would be ejected from his position for not supporting the party's chosen nominee.
Several of Illinois' top elected Republicans - including Governor Bruce Rauner, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, and several of the GOP congressional delegation - are boycotting the Republican National Convention next week in Cleveland. DeMonte says she is proud to be on the frontlines and told Illinois Review Friday morning that she's pleased the work on the Rules Committee was so amicable.
"Some thought there would be fireworks, but everyone was respectful and everyone's opinions were heard," she said.
DeMonte said that besides the measure clarifying delegates' votes, the 2012 rule that required a nominee to win at least eight states to be considered a serious presidential candidate was returned to five states.
In addition, a measure to ban lobbyists from serving on the RNC was defeated. "Where would the line have been drawn to define 'lobbyists'?" she said, "Would lawyers, vendors, be banned? Where would that slippery slope end?"
And while the convention proceedings have been overall congenial thus far, DeMonte said security has been heightened throughout the city in light of anticipated protests on a number of issues facing the nation.
She and other Rules Committee members have already been getting hundreds of nasty emails, calling her and her colleagues names and questioning their patriotism.
But there are so many crucial issues on the table in this election, DeMonte said, she's optimistic that even those who've been less than enthusiastic about a Trump candidacy will come around.
"I do believe once that Donald Trump is nominated, we will rally around him," she said. "And while Illinois is currently not one of the key 17 states in the electoral mix, I look forward to working hard to change that.
"I think with Mr. Trump's appeal to the middle, hard-working class, Illinois could win Republican as Ronald Reagan did in 1984. Reagan appealed then to what became known as Reagan Democrats - and I was one of those," DeMonte said.
Indeed, she said, she and Rep. Cabello were just appointed to serve as co-chairs of Illinois' 2016 Trump for President campaign.
The RNC proceedings will begin Monday.