Driskill explains undeclared status at national convention; believes Crook County reaped many benefits
By Sarah Pridgeon
A little county in a sparsely populated state has a quiet voice when it comes to the politics of the nation. For Senator Ogden Driskill, heading to the Republican National Convention last week as an undeclared delegate was all about raising the volume of that voice.
“At the national convention, a lot of doors were opened to me that were not opened to the rest of the delegation because [I was] undeclared,” Driskill says.
“I can tell you first hand that Cruz, Fiorina and, to a lesser extent, Trump all gave me a stage to talk in-depth about Wyoming issues and, to this day, I am still in contact with [some] of them.”
Build-up to the convention
Wyoming’s voice on the national stage has always been a problem, he continues. As far as Driskill is aware, Wyoming has only once made a difference to a presidential nomination.
It was this state, he says, that was responsible for John F. Kennedy moving through to the primaries over half a century ago; aside from that, Wyoming’s vote has never had much of an impact.
“We never get candidates themselves to come spend any time with us. They might make a campaign stop and give a speech, but you never get the chance to talk to them about what Wyoming issues are and what Wyoming people care about,” Driskill says.
Though aware that most of Crook County’s Republican Party supported Ted Cruz as presidential candidate, Driskill felt the position of delegate could be used for more than just a single vote. He believed remaining undeclared would attract the attention of the candidates.
“What I predicted might happen, did happen,” he says. Within a week, Driskill had been contacted by all of the presidential candidates.
“All of them wanted to talk about what it would take to make me be their person,” he says.
Of the candidates still standing at the time, Trump is the only one Driskill was unable to speak with directly, he says. Instead, he talked with Trump’s people.
“They were somewhat stand-offish,” he says. “I did get provided the opportunity to be one of the delegates to put him over the top to beat Cruz to get the nomination. I turned it down – I did not feel like that’s what the people who elected me had elected me for.”
Driskill had wanted the Wyoming as a whole to go the same route of remaining undeclared until the convention. Unfortunately, this was not to be.
“Our goal was to get face-to-face meetings with all the candidates before we decided where we wanted to go,” he says. “The State of Wyoming did not go the same route as Crook County.”
Ironically, despite the rest of the state declaring for Cruz, Driskill believes he is the only delegate who had the chance to actually speak with him.
By the time Driskill reached the convention, Trump was almost certain to be the winner. For this reason, he chose to cast his vote for Trump.
“My intent all along was to be a Cruz delegate but, by the time I’d held for a reasonable amount of time, it was obvious that Cruz wasn’t going to get there. Rather than declaring on something that had little value, I went ahead and leveraged it a little bit more,” he says.
“I’m sure there are some people that feel strongly that I should have stayed and voted for Cruz, but I feel I did the right thing for the county and its people by getting them exposure.”
Driskill saw little logic in voting for Cruz when Trump was already the candidate. All that would do, he says, is anger him.
“At the state convention, I said what if, of all things, Donald Trump does win and we’ve snubbed him really hard, publically?,” he says. “The common answer was, well, he’s not going to win. Well, that worst-case scenario came true: he didn’t only win, he won big.”
Trump is a man who deals in loyalty, Driskill continues, and Wyoming had already made known that it was not loyal to him as a presidential candidate.
“He runs a big organization and his people are loyal to him and he punishes people who aren’t in line with him – and that happens to be Wyoming,” he nods.
The wrath of a candidate is nothing to take lightly, he continues.
“Wyoming’s reward for being all Cruz was that we had the absolute worst seating in the entire convention,” he recalls, noting that Trump appears to have singled out Wyoming and Colorado and this could have disastrous effects in the future.
“We really need access to new people – assuming Trump wins, we really, really need good access into his administration.”
How much access Wyoming has, he explains, will affect the success of such things as our energy, coal and federal land management policies.
“In my opinion, it would have been much better to meet with all the candidates and then go ahead with Cruz if that’s what they wanted to do, and I’d have been happy to do so,” he says.
“But to snub all of the candidates I think is a good lesson learned for all. You never know who’s going to win and elections are always tough – you’re playing a hard contact sport and winner takes all.”
Networking at nationals
All in all, Driskill believes his approach reaped benefits for Crook County’s citizens.
“There are now a handful of delegates who actually know where Crook County is at and what it is. They know a lot of Wyoming’s issues first hand,” he says.
“The convention itself, right on the floor, is an incredible time for networking…You end up meeting a lot of people who are very involved in politics and you get to see a different perspective on the national stage that we sure don’t see at the state level.”
The senator stresses that, whatever a voter’s personal feelings about the candidate who won the day at the convention, it’s important to remember that he now represents the Republican Party.
“People tend to really buy into it, personally and politically, with people they relate to and it’s really difficult when that person doesn’t win,” he says.
“Trump won a majority of Republican’s votes. If you’re going to be a Republican, he’s the guy you need to support because he’s who the majority of your own people picked.”