Before Lisa Oles was a Republican hoping to become one of Colorado’s 37 delegates so she can support Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, she was a registered Democrat and an elected trustee of the large suburban township of Austintown, Ohio.
“It was the rust belt,” she says of the place where she previously lived and worked. “Mahoning County is predominantly Democratic … basically if you’re a Republican, it’s very difficult to get elected.”
Though she was registered as a Democrat in Ohio and was elected to a non-partisan position, the 50-year-old real estate agent and paralegal says she considered herself an independent. She gave speeches in support of John McCain and Sarah Palin, but did not support Ohio Gov. John Kasich in part because of the way he negatively impacted her local township’s budget, and because of his anti-union views.
A year and a half ago she stepped down from her position and moved to the Loveland area in Colorado to care for her 98-year-old grandmother. Her husband took a high-paying job with Noosa Yogurt. She became a Republican, attended her neighborhood caucus on March 1, and decided to run for a spot as a national delegate pledged to Trump.
“We switched parties because I was not agreeing with how left the Democrats have gone,” Oles says. “Donald Trump — I think that government needs to be run as a business. Who better to get us out of the … now going on a twenty-one trillion-dollar debt than a multi-billionaire? I am a huge supporter of veterans.”
That Trump is self-funding his own campaign appeals to her because she did the same in her own local races. He’s not owned by anyone, she says, agreeing with his position that large donors to politicians only donate because they want something in return.
As a voter and delegate hopeful, Oles feels national security trumps all else. Jobs and education come close behind.
But what about Trump’s inflamed rhetoric? His talk of U.S. soldiers slaughtering the families of suspected terrorists, say, or punishing women for having abortions?
“He’s not as articulate as some of these seasoned politicians, but we’re tired of that,” Olse says. “We want somebody that’s genuine, that tells us just the way it is. And it might not be something that you want to hear, and it’s not something that is not always pleasant to hear, but he tells us directly exactly how he feels on issues.”
And what of his shifting policy positions over the years?
“We’ve all done that,” Oles says. “There’s been times that he’s taken strong positions and he’s changed his opinion, but tell me one person running in this presidential election that hasn’t.”
How about his gravitas as a potential statesman?
“I’m not expecting Donald Trump to be an expert on everything,” she says. “But I will say this: I think the man is going to put the right people in the right positions. I don’t see him micromanaging. I think when it comes to national security and other social issues and things like that he’s going to put experts in his cabinet and they’re going to make the best decisions.”
As a female running for a man’s seat as a township trustee in Ohio, Oles says she knows what it’s like to go up against a political machine.
“So I understand what he says about how the media slants certain things,” she says. “I understand where he’s coming from.”
Now she’s running a different campaign as one of nearly a thousand Republican activists in Colorado vying for the coveted position of national delegate. She’s running at the state GOP convention held this weekend in Colorado Springs. Oles is pledged to Trump, who currently ranks second in Colorado’s pledged pool of hopeful delegates. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has wrapped up the early delegate pledges in Colorado and could potentially win a majority of them before the Saturday convention.
John Kasich’s pledged delegate count is a distant third. The Ohio governor will not be attending the convention. Earlier this week it had seemed likely Trump would show up, but his plans at this time are uncertain.
In this former Ohio Democrat’s campaign to become a national Trump delegate from Colorado, Oles says she doesn’t feel her preferred candidate has deep support out here in the West.
“Sometimes he’s misunderstood, and he doesn’t really think things through, but he’s not a polished politician,” she says of Trump. “He’s just — I don’t want to say an average guy because he’s not average— he’s an overachiever, but I think that we can all strive to be an overachiever.”