Meet the Colorado Christian High School Teacher Trying to Take Down Trump

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GOP delegate Kendal Unruh is interviewed by The Denver Channel. KMGH

Donald Trump has faced many a foe in his long career, from New York journalists who made fun of his finger size, to real estate sharks and labor union officials, to stiffed lenders and angry corporate board members. But heading into the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, he’s coming up against the unlikeliest of formidable enemies: a Christian high school government teacher.

Colorado Republican delegate Kendal Unruh is using her obscure slot as one of 112 delegates serving on the the convention’s Rules Committee, which is in charge of crafting the official rules of the Republican Party and of convention procedure, to try to stop Trump from getting the nomination by freeing delegates to not vote for him—even if he won their states' primaries.

Unruh, a 51-year-old mother from Colorado, is now fielding death threats ever since she started a movement called “Free the Delegates,” telling Republican delegates that they're not bound to vote for Trump at the convention in July. On Sunday night, a thousand people joined a conference call she organized, and she says that others were turned away because there were not enough seats, but those people were able to monitor the call via Facebook updates. Unruh spoke with Newsweek on Tuesday morning from Denver International Airport while on her way to New York, where she is scheduled to appear on CNN in the evening. 

In an interview with The Denver Channel, a local television station, Unruh said that Trump mocking people with disabilities hits her close to home, because she had a disabled child. "We don't have a picture on the box of who the nominee will be," she told the station. But the movement to release delegates, she said, is "only gaining momentum."

Explain how you think you can you stop Trump in Cleveland with a “conscience clause” in the convention rules?
I have been to seven Republican conventions, served on Credentials and Platform Committees, and this is my first time on Rules. I am hoping to find another nominee besides Donald Trump. I really do believe in individual conscience and religious conscience. It’s why the pilgrims came here, it’s why we have a Bill of Rights. You can’t force people to violate that, it is an integral part of what it means to be an American. The conscience clause that I am sponsoring is only to remind the delegates that they are already unbound. All my clause does is allow them to cite a rule. They have the Kryptonite, I'm just sending them a memory that they have it.

Isn’t voting against their state’s primary results against the rules?
Republicans are rule followers—they don't like to be labeled as rabble-rousers. They have always been told they are going to the convention to coronate a king. But not only have we delegates not ever been legally bound, it has been illegal to have us bound. There are at least three Supreme Court cases that state that. This is not a partisan issue either, the Democrats are also legally unbound.

What is the precedent?
There are 240 historical precedents within the history of Republican conventions where this has come up. The fact is in 39 out of 40 Republican conventions, the delegates have always exercised their right to be unbound. Not doing so is a recent phenomenon, and it’s because of TV. Back in 1976, the delegates did their job, they tried to apply the unbinding, and were shut down. Gerald Ford had the “justice amendment” put in and it took away the right to be unbound. Other than that we have legally been unbound.

How can you change the rules now? Isn’t it a bit late?
We are not changing the rules. We are drafting rules. Every convention drafts their own rules.

They are saying “she is changing the rules!” But the rules for this convention haven't been written yet.

Have you heard from the Trump campaign?
I am hearing from his voters. If you go to my Facebook, you will get a real eye-opening experience about who he has drawn in to support him and it’s not a pretty sight. Yes, death threats. They actually went after my 17-year-old daughter, invaded her Twitter account, and that crossed a boundary. Hey, play fair. I can take the heat, it makes me work harder. We are being bullied and they are a bunch of thugs.

Were you expecting that sort of blowback?
They say a priest or pastor attracts people that reflect what’s in their hearts. Trump is a bully and mocks people, and on personal level that is a true reflection of his heart. It doesn't surprise me that I am being lambasted by thousands of his followers. I knew it was coming. But look, there is strength in numbers. We have so many platform committee members on this. We have so many prominent people that know politics.

Have you heard from Republican Party leaders?
We have built and crafted this party, and they are now attempting to take away the party that we built. We are not destroying it, we are saving it. Some Republicans are so intent on winning against Hillary that they have sold their souls. I think [RNC Chair] Reince Priebus should send me roses. Yes, they do reach out to me, and I will text back and say if you are not supportive of this, I do not want to hear from you, because then I will have to drag you into the press.

Do you think Trump can win the general election anyway? He did win the whole primary.
We know Trump can’t win. That’s why you saw the firing of his campaign manager yesterday. Internal polling has changed. He has tanked. So he kicks the dog by firing his campaign manager. His plan was to fly in, do earned media, and fly out and win. Against the Clinton machine? The best machine in politics? You need people to go knock on doors. I know five people out of 100 of my Republican friends who will; the rest are saying, “I can’t do it!” When you have that kind of internal mutiny going on against your candidate, you can’t win in a general election

What happens to all those Republican Trump voters, though?
People say, “Where are all those Trump voters going to go?” Well, back where they came from. They came from primaries in states that allowed Democrats and independents and undeclared voters. We have lost swing voters because of him. When the Trump people go back to the Democrats, we win back those swing voters that we have lost, and who are saying we can’t go there.

Aren’t you stealing their votes?
Here is the government teacher in me coming out: Our textbooks have taught us that America is a democracy. We are not a democracy. Our founding fathers were very clear that mob rule didn't dictate an outcome, they called democracy “mobocracy,” and they set up this system, which is not one man, one vote. It applies to a delegate who uses discernment to reflect the will of the voter. We are elected to not be robots, and if certain circumstances come up we are supposed to assess and use our judgment. And Trump certainly has proven he is not fit for the highest office in the land.

But who will you nominate if not Donald J. Trump?
We will have somebody who can win. Look, we are running a campaign with a phantom candidate and it's getting traction. We have hundreds of delegates on board, all those delegates exercising their right to unbind. And we had to set up a legal defense fund because they are being threatened with $10,000 penalties and having their credentials yanked, or being banished from the party for 10 years. I mean banished—like we are all going to be on an island somewhere.

Does it worry you that when you get to Cleveland, you will need not only need a legal defense fund but actual defense against violence? Does that scare you?
No! Like my pastor says, what the Lord appoints, he knows. I have such peace about this. I think I was placed here for a reason and I just did my job. I’m on Rules. It’s what i do. I’m an activist! When you step out and do the right thing historically, it’s tough. A lot of the delegates are laying low because they don't want to be shot at, and there is a lot of fear out there. But you don't give in to bullies! By the way, Unruh is German for unruly.