EDITOR’S NOTE: Each day of the Republican National Convention, The Post and Courier will feature a profile of a different delegate representing the Palmetto State in Cleveland.
BY EMMA DUMAIN
CLEVELAND — Elliott Kelley is 20 years old, which means he probably won’t be attending many of the cocktail receptions at the Republican National Convention this week.
But the rising junior at Bob Jones University, second vice chairman of the Pickens County GOP and one-time leader of “Millennials for Ted Cruz” has every intention of using his week in Cleveland as a networking opportunity.
“The first thing I’m looking forward to is making really great connections with my own delegation,” Kelley said. “A lot of people I’ve met once or twice who are just from different parts of the state.”
Kelley said he got involved in politics five years ago, working to help elect a friend seeking a position with the Spartanburg GOP. From there he joined the speech and debate team, which landed him the chance to attend the Youth Legislative Training Conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the American Association for Christian Schools.
“It was a week of hearing from different speakers who could make a difference in our country, just by getting involved,” Kelley recalled.
He said LaDonna Ryggs, the former Spartanburg County GOP chairwoman, urged him to get involved in Cruz’s campaign, for which she was serving as South Carolina state director. The rest, as they say, is history.
At the time of his election to be a delegate for the 3rd Congressional District, Kelley had also been hoping he’d have a chance to cast a ballot for Cruz. When South Carolina counties were still selecting delegates to go to Cleveland, the Texas Republican senator was locked in a close battle with Donald Trump, and it seemed likely there could be a contested convention.
“I told people if the second ballot came around, I would not be voting for Mr. Trump,” Kelley said of the lead up to delegate elections. “I just, personally, couldn’t do that on the second ballot, when I have a choice like Sen. Cruz, when I have someone who is so strong on the Constitution.”
Kelley said Cruz resonated with many young people like himself for “his judicial experience” and “his very articulately delivered, solid plans for the future. His positive message rang clear with millennials.”
But Kelley is loyal to the party and didn’t support movements to challenge Trump on the convention floor.
“It would be the downfall of the RNC,” he said.
Emma Dumain is The Post and Courier’s Washington correspondent.