Mario Guerra knew he had a problem the moment the state released Donald Trump’s list of California delegates on Monday, his name on page 4.
Latino activists and other politicians began calling and writing “literally within minutes,” said Guerra, a former mayor of Downey, in southeast Los Angeles County.
One read: “I can’t believe you betrayed your people,” he said.
Another: “My heart stopped … Is this true?”
Guerra, a member of the California Republican Party’s board of directors and a 2014 candidate for state Senate, said he made a mistake. He said he did not know – despite his position with the party and Trump’s standing as the presumptive nominee – that becoming a delegate would mean pledging his support.
On Thursday, Guerra said he asked the campaign to take him off the list, citing “personal business reasons.”
Guerra’s withdrawal follows that of former state Assemblyman Bob Pacheco, who said Wednesday that he filled out a questionnaire to become a Trump delegate but later changed his mind and was mistakenly included.
Less inflammatory than the case of William Johnson – the white nationalist listed as a delegate in what the campaign called a “database error” – Guerra and Pacheco’s reservations about Trump suggest how uncomfortable his ascendance remains for many moderate Republicans in this heavily Latino state.
“I’m trying to unify the party to a point,” Guerra said. “But I really don’t want to be in a position on there where it actually tears down the Latino community in whatever way, shape or form.”
In addition to Johnson, Guerra and Pacheco, were two other men who appeared on Trump’s initial list of delegates but not on an updated roster. Guy St. Onge, a controversial pastor, told The Guardian newspaper he was stepping down to “take one for the team.” The other delegate who dropped off, Harold Wright, did not return calls for comment.
Trump’s difficulty assembling a steadfast list of delegates in California comes amid a slow warming of relations between the New York businessman and the party’s professional and political classes.
Trump met Thursday with House Speaker Paul Ryan, after Ryan said last week that he was not ready to endorse Trump.
In California, GOP Chairman Jim Brulte said it was at the Trump campaign’s behest that he invited Guerra and several other party officials to become delegates. Trump, he said, was seeking to include more California state officials at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.
Brulte said he told Guerra that the request to become a delegate came from the Trump campaign.
Trump’s delegates now include more than a third of the state party’s board, including its vice chair, Harmeet Dhillon, and the chairman of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County, Mark Vafiades.
Among Central Valley Republicans, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, has said he will support Trump after previously endorsing Ted Cruz, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield is a delegate for Trump.
McCarthy said House leaders planned to ask Trump to meet with the entire GOP conference, according to The Hill newspaper.
“A lot of members don’t know him,” said McCarthy, the newspaper reported. “And anytime you want to unify the party, you have the nominee there with the entire conference so that everybody can ask questions and get answers directly.”
In tweets and interviews going back to last year, Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock; Devin Nunes, R-Visalia; and David Valadao, R-Hanford, have said they will support the GOP nominee, while hinting at some distance.
Valadao, for instance, told a Fresno TV station in October that he would “absolutely” support the GOP nominee, adding he would “stick with the winner from my party.”
But on Thursday, in answer to a question about Trump, he said he is “focused on representing his constituents in Washington, D.C., and not on politics.”
Trump’s delegate submission problems, while suggesting organizational weakness in the campaign, are unlikely to cause lasting damage.
The secretary of state’s office said the Trump campaign asked to revise its delegate list on Tuesday afternoon. While the campaign was initially told it could not do so, as the deadline for submitting names had passed, the secretary of state’s chief counsel, Steven Reyes, told GOP officials Wednesday that “we agree with your conclusion that the California Republican Party’s bylaws outline an internal party process for amending a candidate’s delegate list” separate from the secretary of state.
The California Republican Party posted an updated list of delegates on its website.
Vafiades, who initially appeared on delegate lists for both Trump and Cruz, said he “always liked both candidates” and talked to both campaigns about becoming a delegate.
Now that Cruz has dropped out and Trump is the presumptive nominee, he said, “It’s important that we show unity and that we get behind our candidate. It’s really our duty as Republican Party officials.”
Tirso Del Junco, a former state party chairman, initially endorsed Cruz but said he turned from the Texas senator as the bitterness of the primary campaign “got out of hand.”
While acknowledging that “in the eye of some people, Trump is a little bit controversial,” Del Junco is now a Trump delegate and predicted Republicans will unite behind him.
“I think those people eventually will come back, because they’ve got to face up to the fact: Do you want Hillary or not?” Del Junco said.
Before withdrawing as a delegate on Thursday, Guerra’s voice mail remained full. More than two-thirds of Downey’s residents are Latino, according to the most recent census data.
“I’ve become a very popular person,” he said. “Or unpopular person.”
Guerra, who had initially expressed interest in becoming a Cruz delegate, declined to say if he will vote for Trump. But he appeared to have little choice.
He said, “I don’t want Hillary Clinton in the White House.”