CLEVELAND — A.J. and Angie Daoud said the week they spent in Cleveland is not one they’ll soon forget.
The couple went to Ohio as both were alternate delegates to the Republican National Convention. Angie Daoud became a voting delegate on Thursday, after multiple delegates who favored Sen. Ted Cruz left the convention.
A.J. Daoud has twice run for the Republican nomination for N.C. Secretary of State and is a former district chair of the party. Angie Daoud is the third vice chair of the district party and once served as chair of the county party.
The two were the only delegates to the convention from Surry County, though Angie said there were five other North Carolina delegates staying with the couple.
The Daouds played witness to speakers such as GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, vice presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence, former Trump rival Ben Carson and Cruz. They also had a front row seat to controversy.
On Tuesday, the Daouds watched security at Quicken Loans Arena remove two protesters who interrupted speakers, and they also saw the last stand of Cruz delegates.
A.J. Daoud said a number of Cruz delegates attempted to force a change to the convention’s rules, asking the rules to be changed to allow them to be released from pledges to vote per the will of primary voters. The motion failed, and not enough states were garnered to force a roll call vote on the matter.
There were also more private gatherings, such as a breakfast North Carolina delegates had with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan. Less formal functions included a tailgate party and a photo opportunity in seersucker suits for the North Carolina delegation.
Of course, they also found some down-time to tour the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and other attractions in Cleveland.
Angie Daoud, a Trump supporter from the beginning of the primary season, said the obvious highlight of the week for her was hearing Trump accept the nomination to be the party’s standard-bearer in 2016.
“Last night was phenomenal,” said Daoud on Friday. “There’s no way to describe it unless you were there.”
She said she was shown on C-SPAN dancing on the floor and ended up in a pile of balloons, after thousands fell from the ceiling.
“Him accepting the nomination was really cool to see, but there was also a lot that led up to it,” remarked Daoud.
She said she was especially impressed with Ivanka Trump’s speech.
“She talked a lot about helping working moms with stuff like childcare — giving them a hand-up rather than a hand-out,” explained Daoud.
A.J. Daoud, who owns a funeral home in the Cleveland area, said he was impressed with the city itself, from the security offered at the convention to Cleveland’s turnaround. He said he heard multiple delegates commenting about “just how far the city has come.”
“When I visited Cleveland in the ’80s it was run down,” said Daoud. “I’m simply amazed with what they’ve done downtown.”
Daoud said there is now plenty to do, with three relatively new sports stadiums, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Center and other destinations.
Another welcoming factor was the level of security. Daoud said there was a huge police presence, which had obvious results.
“I read that normally there are between 1,500 and 2,000 arrests at a convention,” explained Daoud. “There were less than 100 this week.”
Angie Daoud echoed her husband’s sentiments, noting with the exception of the protests on the floor of the convention, “I didn’t even see a protester.”
“Everybody in Cleveland — the police, staff and even workers at local restaurants — were so gracious and so wonderful,” said Angie Daoud.
A.J. Daoud was a Cruz supporter, but he said when it became apparent Trump would get the party’s nomination, it was time for Republicans to unite.
Acknowledging there was “some friction” between Cruz and Trump supporters within the North Carolina delegation, Daoud said, “Judging by what I’ve seen here, our party is unified.”
He noted many of Cruz’s last remaining supporters were turned off by the Texas senator’s speech at the convention.
“Cruz’s handling of that speech was the straw that broke the camel’s back for most,” said Daoud. “We saw some unity come from that.”
“Ultimately, we (the GOP) may argue, but we are one big family which will move forward for a common cause.”
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.