Hedlund: What Happens in Cleveland Stays in Cleveland – Not!

Many of you who read Bearing Drift have been following closely the Republican convention machinations, even one week later. What happened in Cleveland is sausage making at its best. Hot, Cajun sausage is where it’s at, and Cleveland was where it was at last week.

Media coverage was unprecedented, as was the police presence. That is not a dig, that is a statement of fact, and I, for one, as well as those I hung around with, were most thankful for their presence and we let them know as much. I’m talking about the police….. not the media. Though we were thankful for those of the media who seek and report truth. Special shout out to my good friend, John Fredericks Radio.

You have certainly read about all the Cruz/Trump battles, the Rules Committee challenges and defeats, the Ken Cuccinelli-led insurrections that were repeatedly put down, etc., etc….. Now let me state right off, for the record, I was once a hard core Cuccinelli supporter. I am pro-gun, pro-life, and pro-family. In fact, I was tapped as a surrogate speaker for Ken when he ran for Governor of Virginia.

This piece I am sharing with you is not about the convention floor battles and Rules Committee battles. This article is about where the real battle takes place to win presidential elections – the real battle takes place in the hearts and minds of the people back home.  Not in some Rules Committee meeting room or on a convention floor in Cleveland. And that is why it is important that, What Happens in Cleveland DOES NOT STAY IN CLEVELAND!

I had the honor to be invited to Cleveland and to witness history in the making. But I was also witness to, and subject to, the battles that took place behind the scenes, and have not been reported. I write today to reveal what I experienced first-hand. Let me say, I know there are more than two sides to every story. I can only tell my side here.

First a short background for those that do not know who I am. I have been involved in Virginia politics for years and was recently elected to the Republican Party of Virginia State Central Committee over the well-known, and fierce objections of the current State Chairman, John Whitbeck. So be it. We have a republic to save.

Forward to the week before the Cleveland convention. I accepted an invitation to attend the convention as a volunteer. My role was to be support staff to a team of surrogate speakers that would attend state delegation breakfasts and speak to the issue of national security and why Donald J. Trump is vital to the future of our country as President.

As one of the original Trump volunteers in Virginia, and an outspoken supporter of his candidacy since last summer, I gladly accepted this dream assignment. Mind you, my shop served as the central clearing house for campaign materials for the Virginia operations. And I volunteered for Trump rallies (I led the Pledge of Allegiance at the very first Virginia rally last year) and have had the honor of driving Mr. Trump’s sons in a motorcade and sitting down to breakfast with them.

Rep. Louie Gohmer (R-NC) sits with Rich Higgins (center) while being interviewed by Ed Butowsky (right). Ambassador Jordan (background) waits in the background as the next guest.

The surrogate team I was assigned to consisted of Rich Higgins and former Ambassador David C. Jordan. Rich Higgins has a deep background in national defense issues, having served in the Pentagon. You may have heard him on Hannity Radio. Ambassador Jordan served in Peru under President Ronald Reagan.

I learned from him that he survived three attempts on his life.

Too many stories to tell here.

I cannot speak to the countless hours of background work that went into the surrogate vetting, the approvals and the scheduling and booking with numerous state delegations with all the phone calls and emails that went back and forth prior to the convention.

That was not my job.

But I mention this because, it appears, this has become a contentious issue, due to what I personally experienced in Cleveland by the hands of my own, Virginia state delegation leadership. THIS IS WHERE THE REAL BATTLE TAKES PLACE!

Virginia is a battleground state, by all accounts. Virginia is vital to this campaign. Proof that the Trump campaign knows the stakes is his immediate trip to Roanoke, Virginia this past Monday. They get it and they want to win Virginia. That is why it was so important to have the surrogate speakers address the Virginia delegation Monday morning in Cleveland.

What follows is the battle the surrogate speakers endured at the hands of the Virginia delegation:

So what I know, is that Sunday night, July 17th, I drove to the Cleveland airport to pick up Rich Higgins and drive him to the house where we were to be based with the Ambassador and his lovely wife, Annebelle. Next morning, I drove them to the Virginia delegation hotel and briefed them that their 46 minute schedule had been cut to ten.

None of us knew why.

But I dropped off my passengers and they proceeded to enter the ballroom without incident while I parked the car. As I entered the room, I was stopped at the door and I informed the attendant that I was with the Ambassador.

She smiled and allowed me to enter the room.

Shortly after I entered the room is when I was confronted by the Executive Director of RPV, John Findlay and ordered to leave. Not a hint of politeness in his voice. I respectfully declined, explaining that I was with the Ambassador, his wife and Rich Higgins. The Ambassador is over 80 years old and I was not going to leave him and his wife alone. I also was concerned for his safety, as a surrogate speaker and former Reagan Ambassador, protesters might target him. Police presence was high in Cleveland, even at the delegation hotels.

findlay_jordanOnce Findlay realized I had no intention of leaving without the Ambassador, he huddled with some people across the room and they eventually sent a young woman over to inform the Ambassador, in front of his wife and I, that she was at fault for a communication mixup and that he was no longer on the speaker’s program. She was most apologetic and she was never rude in any way. The Ambassador responded by asking to speak to her boss or someone in charge.

More huddling by Findlay and crew. Findlay finally comes over to inform the Ambassador of same and apologizes for the mix up. Apparently, the Ambassador stood his ground in this conversation. Meanwhile, Steve Albertson, of the Bull Elephant, and a state delegate, came over to me to inquire as the nature of the discussion occurring between the Ambassador and Findlay.

I was quick to inform him that we were being thrown out of the room, and that if the Ambassador was not allowed to speak, I would blow this up all over the place. That was roughly a quote. Admittedly, I said it quite forcefully to Steve.

Again, more huddling.

I saw Steve Albertson, Ken Cuccinelli, Findlay, and a couple young women, one of whom was later identified as a former scheduler for Ken, and current RPV staff, all coming and going and whispering to each other while staring at us across the room.

Kinda funny as I look back on it.

Eventually, Findlay came over to inform the Ambassador, he and Rich Higgins would be allowed to speak.

No issues were ever made known to the delegation members in general. No disruptions WHATSOEVER.

jordan_virginia_conventionAfter the program, I thanked Steve for seeing to it that the Ambassador was allowed to speak. He claimed he had nothing to do with it. Thanks anyway, Steve, even if all you did was let them know when I mean what I say.

The speeches had little impact on the Virginia delegation with such a short program.

I can tell you they were much more well-received by the Maine delegation on Tuesday and the combined Hawaii and Minnesota delegations on Wednesday.

They received standing ovations and were swarmed by delegates after their speeches to continue the conversations in the lobbies.

And more importantly, they may have played a key role in helping flip the Maine delegation on a crucial convention procedure. I HAVE DOCUMENTATION BY WAY OF ARTICLES, NEWS REPORTS, VIDEO, ETC.

I could write much more, and in fact, I may have to in order to press the Virginia delegation leadership into delivering a formal letter of apology to the Ambassador, his wife, and Rich Higgins.

The Virginia delegation leadership was an embarrassment and I was embarrassed to have to personally apologize for, perhaps, being the cause of such childish behavior on the part of RPV.


There are others that may have a different perspective on this egregious breech of diplomatic protocol, and I would welcome any such response.

What happened in Cleveland will eventually get out.

Quit hiding behind arrogant pride and simply apologize to the Ambassador and take responsibility.

We have a president to elect and until we get folks working together, we are wasting precious time. Some have respectfully asked me to drop this matter.

Some have ordered me to drop this matter with less than respectful language and veiled threats. I do not have an ax to grind, I have a republic to keep. I know something about standing on principle and not backing down.

I was originally a Cruz supporter.

I was originally a Cuccinelli supporter.

I get it.

Do you?

Thank you for reading my story.

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