Arriving Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday, Lei Ann Gleaves and others from Williamson County walked into history at the Republican National Convention.
Gleaves is a District Seven Congressional Delegate who will attend as an alternate for Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee for president for the party. She will join others from the Tennessee GOP and other state leaders, like Brentwood Congressman Marsha Blackburn. Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio will all receive delegates from the state.
The Franklin mother and politico said she finally decided on Trump as her candidate when she saw him at a local rally. As a Filipino-American, Gleaves explained she understood where the almost-nominee was coming from when it came to military issues.
Prior to deciding, she remained stuck between him and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
“I liked both of them and it was awful having to pick,” she said. “But when Trump came here for a rally, I really, really liked his speech, and that’s how I decided. It was after his speech I decided I am for him.
“I liked that he said was going to grow our military to its largest size. I am Filipino-American, and my parents are immigrants from the Philippines. I had seen as a young girl some of the terrorist training there. I am talking 7 and 8 years old, and that left quite an impression. When Chattanooga happened, it rattled me.”
For Gleaves, this isn’t her first convention. She first made a convention trip in 2000 while she worked in for a polling company in Washington, D.C. Through some of her connections, she snagged a spot as a volunteer. The second time, she attended in 2012 when former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum ran for the presidential bid.
“The state party back then needed more Santorum delegates, and the executive director had heard I was for Santorum and asked me if I wanted to be an alternate,” she said. “I went to the event and I never got called, but I really loved the speeches.”
She said didn’t aggressively look out for the opportunity to go this year, but found a way when the state director asked about her interests. Gleaves said this time around she wasn’t sure what to anticipate out of the convention.
“I had never expected it to be the way it’s going now with all the riots and with the party having issues,” she said. “Some of the party leaders have had issues with Trump. Not all, but just some. And while that’s been disheartening, I am excited to go.”
This is part one in a series about the Williamson County delegation in Cleveland, Ohio, for the Republican National Convention.