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Several Utahns, including the Eagle Forum's Gayle Ruzicka, have joined a new campaign to block Donald Trump from becoming the Republican presidential nominee by changing the party's convention rules to allow delegates to vote their conscience rather than reflect the results in state primaries or caucuses.
The "Free the Delegates" group says it has nearly 400 supporters nationwide and held a conference call Sunday to discuss ways to expand the effort.
Ruzicka was among the participants and plans to lobby the rest of Utah's 40-member delegation in a last-ditch attempt to stop Trump, who topped a crowded field to become the presumptive GOP nominee.
"It is going to be a lot of work but I think it is possible," said Ruzicka, an influential far-right activist in Utah. "Trump keeps doing one blundering thing after another, and people are desperate."
She said at least two other Utah delegates already have joined this push, which has grown quickly through social media. Stefani and Chuck Williams are on board. They were both key members of the Utah for Ted Cruz campaign.
"While most observers and the media assume that Donald Trump will be crowned the GOP nominee in Cleveland this July, that is becoming less and less likely as his unpopularity rises and his poll numbers continue to plummet," Stefani Williams said in an email to the Tribune.
Trump is behind in national polls and remains unpopular in Utah. He finished a distant third in the state's GOP caucus in March, and a recent Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found that only 35 percent of respondents plan to vote for Trump, a tie with presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in one of the nation's most conservative states.
Ruzicka's complaints about Trump include his past inconsistency on abortion (he now says he is anti-abortion), his extramarital affairs and comments about women and minorities.
"He treats people so rudely," she said. "And I would hate to think we would have a president representing us around the world who is rude."
As it stands, the 2,472 GOP delegates are expected to support a candidate based on the vote in their respective states, which means all of Utah's delegates are bound to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on the first ballot. Even if the delegates become "unbound," Ruzicka said she would continue voting for Cruz during every round of convention balloting, because she promised to do so when she was elected as a national delegate.
The "Free the Delegates" campaign plans to bring its case to the convention's rules committee, led by Enid Mickelsen, a former Utah congresswoman who now serves as the state's Republican national committeewoman.
The other Utahns on that committee are Sen. Mike Lee and his wife, Sharon. Lee has refused to say whether he would back Trump as the nominee.
Four members of Utah's all-GOP congressional delegation namely, Sen. Orrin Hatch and Reps. Jason Chaffetz, Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart have said they plan to vote for Trump even if they are not enthusiastic about his campaign.
The "Free the Delegates" effort began in Colorado and organizer Kendal Unruh told The Washington Post that she plans to create fundraisers, build a website and continue to hold conference calls in the days leading up to the mid-July convention in Cleveland.
Trump has dismissed the push to unbind delegates as "illegal" and a "hoax." He also discussed his convention prospects with Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans on Saturday in Las Vegas. Evans left that conversation more upbeat about the party's likely nominee. While urging Trump to stop making divisive comments about minorities, he believed the candidate would rebound in Utah and take the fight to Clinton in the months to come.