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GOP rule-maker ready to tackle anti-Trump debate

Anti-Trump organizers seek to unbind delegates

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Delegates opposed to presumptive nominee Donald Trump will attempt to make a final stand this week in Cleveland.

The GOP's Convention Rules Committee meets this week in advance of the Republican Party gathering.

"It could be chaos," said Republican strategist Carl Calabrese.

The power struggle of freeing delegates must get past the first hurdle -- the backing of one-quarter, 28 of the 112 rules committee members needed to get the issue before the full convention for a vote.

"Is it possible they can get 28? If they're at 20 today it's possible. Is it probable? I think not. But it'll be a very interesting issue to watch in what is normally a very boring, arcane process of the rules committee meeting," said Calabrese.

Erie County Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr is one of two delegates from New York State who will have a seat at the powerful rules committee table.

Mohr says his inbox has been flooded with emails urging him to "reaffirm the right of delegates to vote their conscience."

"It's a representative democracy. They didn't elect me and say go down there and do what you want to do. They elected me and said I want you to cast your ballot for Trump," Mohr said.

Among the proposals Mohr and his fellow rules committee members are scheduled to hear, one that allows delegates to vote however they wish instead of being bound to the results of state primaries and caucuses.

"I'm not going to tell anybody not to vote their conscience, but I think there's a responsibility that you have to the electorate and the results of the election. If you don't follow the election then what's the sense of having the election," he said.

Trump has dismissed efforts to snatch the nomination away as "illegal."

Kevin Hardwick, a Republican Erie County lawmaker and political science professor says the convention could end up being a lot more contentious than people think.

"There are always surprises," said Hardwick. "We've been talking for a couple of months now about Donald Trump being the presumptive nominee. Obviously there are some people, some people probably on the rules committee too that don't buy into that."

Ralph Mohr says he's willing to listen to the arguments -- but doesn't believe one-size fits all.

"I have a very difficult time saying we should just blanketly say go do what you want to do. Ignore the will of the people that cast their ballots across the state over a number of months."

 Asked whether he would support a proposal to free delegates to vote as they wish.

 "At this point I would vote against this," Mohr responded.

If the power struggle results in a contested convention -- strategist Carl Calabrese thinks that could severely damage the party in November.

"If we disrupt the process and change the process at this late a date it's over and that's the consequence. That's the real world consequence. You essentially elect Hillary Clinton in July. Do you really want to do that? That's a very powerful argument," said Calabrese.

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