MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont teenager who is a delegate to the Republican National Convention is getting a taste of the rough-and-tumble of politics.
Jace Laquerre, whose senior year in high school is still ahead of him, is headed to the GOP convention in Cleveland next week. The 17-year-old is not supporting presumptive nominee Donald Trump, and has been targeted by ample online vitriol and an aborted attempt to remove him from the delegation.
One online posting said he deserved to be horsewhipped, tarred and feathered if he didn't follow his state's rules on voting. Others have labeled him a little runt, and a snot-nosed, wet-behind-the-ears kid.
His mom, Lori Laquerre, isn't taking kindly to the comments. "It's hard to see somebody attacking your son like that," she said.
Jace Laquerre said he takes them in stride. When he's not politicking, he's working this summer as a youth league soccer referee. Occasional complaints about calls have thickened his skin.
"The hate mail doesn't bother me so much," he said.
But he noted he was interviewed on a radio program recently with a young Democratic delegate from Maine.
"We didn't agree on much. But what we did agree on is that we all need to calm down," he said.
Laquerre said he first got interested in politics when Kentucky's Republican Sen. Rand Paul, then a presidential candidate, made a trip to Vermont last summer. Soon, he had signed on as the high school coordinator in the state for the Paul campaign.
When Paul later dropped out, Laquerre's allegiance switched to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, for whom the teenager voted in Vermont's March primary. Under state law, residents who turn 18 by election day — Laquerre does on Aug. 21 — can vote in the primary, even if it's before their 18th birthday.
At the state party convention in May, Laquerre was elected a delegate for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. But when Kasich dropped out, his delegates became "unbound" under party rules.
"I was surprised that I came in fourth out of like 40 people" seeking 16 delegate slots, though he had been campaigning with fellow Republicans through phone calls, emails and a flyer he handed out at the event.
Now, Laquerre said he likely would shift his support at the convention back to Paul, "just to make a point."
He pointed to Trump's past support for abortion rights and questioned the businessman's support for gun rights.
"I don't think he has real conservative principles," Laquerre said.
But he also expects he'll end up voting for Trump in November. "I'm not a never-Trump guy. I'm a never-Trump guy for the primary, right until the last ballot is cast at the convention."
Darcie Johnston, Trump's campaign director in Vermont, said she looked into the legality of Laquerre's status, and determined he's eligible to serve as a delegate and did not launch a credentials challenge.