Knox County Republican activist Ken Gross, whose appointment as a Donald Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention drew criticism from some Trump backers, says he has now been welcomed into the fold by the front-runner’s state campaign director.
Gross, who represents Knox County on the GOP’s State Executive Committee, was appointed to represent Trump as a Tennessee delegate at an April 3 meeting of the panel to select 14 “at-large” delegates not chosen by name in statewide voting that was part of the March 1 presidential primary.
The appointment of Gross was cited in complaints from Trump supporters, including state campaign director Darren Morris, that state party officials were trying to “steal” delegates from the New York real estate mogul who won Tennessee’s presidential primary. The slate of appointed delegates was selected by state Republican Chairman Ryan Haynes and his staff. It excluded some delegates that Trump supporters requested be appointed.
Morris told media that Haynes had violated an agreement to follow Trump campaign wishes. Haynes said that there was no such agreement and the appointments included Republicans well known and respected by State Executive Committee members — including Gross. The slate required committee approval at the April 3 meeting and some compromise on candidate wishes was required, Haynes said, to assure the panel would go along with the slate — as it did on a 40-25 vote.
In the case of Gross, Trump supporters cited his Feb. 29 Facebook post — a day before the Tennessee primary — that said: “To my FB friends who claim to be Conservative Republicans, when you vote for Trump tomorrow, just know that you voted for a Liberal Democrat!!”
The post, Gross said, amounted to joshing banter with friends, including multiple Trump supporters. Gross said he sought the delegate position with the understanding that, if appointed, he would be a loyal Trump delegate — not only on the first two ballots of a contested convention, as state law and party rules require, but on subsequent votes and procedural matters. He said he felt such loyalty was appropriate because Trump won in Knox County and he represents Knox County Republican voters.
“If anybody had bothered to ask me, I would have told them so,” said Gross, adding that he was “shocked” to find himself named as an anti-Trump delegate in commentary featured in both state and national media reporting on the executive committee meeting.
When initially contacted last week, Gross said the attacks had left him questioning whether he should stick with his intention of being an ultra-loyal Trump delegate beyond the required first two ballots. Subsequently, he said Morris called him on Friday to say “welcome aboard” and that the “negative stuff” would be ended.
“I was finally asked for my opinion and I appreciate that,” Gross said.