In a year when some of the biggest names in the GOP are staying away from the Republican National Convention, none of Lancaster County’s top GOP officials are planning to make the trip either.
Billionaire presidential candidate Donald Trump is expected to secure the nomination in Cleveland in two weeks — capping the end of a contentious primary process in which he defeated 16 others.
But the political outsider’s historic achievement won’t be celebrated with the normal litany of the party’s established and emerging stars.
Former presidents George W. and George H.W. Bush have vowed not to go, as have the party’s two previous nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain. And it appears Trump’s convention organizers are even having trouble getting popular GOP elected officials to speak at what is normally a place for politicians to kick-start their careers.
“When you think about all of that, this is really unusual,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College.
Madonna said he’s been to a dozen conventions, with plans to go to Cleveland, and that it makes sense for anyone up for election to be wary of attending what could be one of the most controversial conventions ever.
“You don’t want to get caught up in what could be a bad decision,” Madonna said.
Kyle Kopko, assistant professor of political science at Elizabethtown College, called it “unprecedented in the modern era.”
Local politicians not attending
In Lancaster County, one of the most conservative spots in Pennsylvania, elected Republican leaders are also opting not to attend.
From U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts to the county’s 12 Republican state lawmakers — 11 of whom are up for re-election this year — all told LNP this week they don't have plans to go. None of them, however, said their decision was specifically based on Trump.
“Congressman (Patrick) Meehan will likely be traveling to the Middle East and Eastern Europe that week as part of a bipartisan delegation on official business,” said a spokesman for the 7th Congressional District representative who covers parts of eastern Lancaster County.
A spokeswoman for Pitts, who represents most of the county with the 16th Congressional District, said in an email "there's no 'big reason' that he won't attend."
And Lloyd Smucker, a state senator from West Lampeter Township who is vying to succeed Pitts this November, is not going and has never gone before, his spokesman said.
Among the area’s state delegation, only Rep. Keith Greiner, of Upper Leacock, is considering it.
Greiner’s spokesman said “as an American and political history buff, he really would like to” go, but he is waiting for the final legislative schedule to come out for this summer.
Greiner and several other local lawmakers have attended previous Republican conventions, but mainly as delegates or alternate delegates, their spokespeople said.
State senate candidate and former Lancaster County Commissioner Scott Martin is also opting not to go after attending the last two conventions: Saint Paul, Minnesota in 2008 and Tampa in 2012.
“Unfortunately, between work and being on the ballot this year myself, I won’t be able to go this time,” Martin said in an email.