CLEVELAND — Mary Gilson is a Hispanic, low-income, female senior citizen.
She represents many demographics Democrats think they have in the bag this election cycle.
But she’s a proud Republican and convention delegate from Schertz, Texas.
“I was for [Donald] Trump before it was cool,” Gilson, 73, said of the presumptive GOP nominee, as she pushed her walker along the red carpeting on her way out of her first night of the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans Arena.
She knows she’s an unusual face for her party.
“I represent many of the groups we need,” she said.
In a 10-minute video posted on her “Granny Mary” YouTube account several days before the convention, Gilson previewed what she would say if she were ever asked to speak on stage.
“If a plain, vanilla outsider granny took the stage, would that reach the women? Hispanics? Or middle class and other minorities we need for Trump to win?” she asked.
She urged “Never Trump” delegates to get behind the presumptive nominee and said their resistance only emboldens Hillary Clinton.
“Trump earned this nomination. He deserves it. Can a 73-year-old granny use a young slogan? Get over it. Get over it!” she said in the home video.
On the convention floor, Gilson was decked out in a red hat adorned with a Trump campaign pin — she’s a member of the Red Hat society, a kind of international sisterhood for women of a certain age.
Much of the Texas delegation sported cowboy hats and button-down shirts featuring the Lone Star flag. But even among the other delegates’ garb, Gilson stood out with red and blue dangling star earrings and a colorfully patterned floor-length dress.
She moved through the floor alone. But she doesn’t feel alone as a woman supporting Trump.
Gilson doesn’t buy the argument that women are turned off by the Republican Party.
“I don’t think it’s as bad as we hear,” she said. “Women are mothers and survivors,” she said. “We are the ones who come up with solutions.”
She sees a particular affinity between women like herself and Trump.
“Women who are for Trump tend to be strong women, and not wishy-washy,” she said. [
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Gilson said she raised seven sons by herself as a stay-at-home mom who picked up odd jobs like washing clothes and watching other children to make ends meet. “It was important to raise them with my fingerprints,” she said.
It was also important to her that her children experienced diversity in America. Her ex-husband came from an Amish family, and her sons grew up with both her Catholic culture and the Mennonite influences of their father’s parents.
One of her sons was the youngest delegate at the 2004 Republican convention. Gilson was an alternate.
One of Gilson’s first memories of her own political awareness is from 1960, when she was 17. John F. Kennedy was coming to San Antonio to court Mexican-Americans.
“People were saying, ‘It’s great JFK is going to the ghetto,'” Gilson said. But she wasn’t going to go see him. She was turned off by the fact that residents were being offered tamales and beer to attend Kennedy’s speech.
“My vote was worth more than two tamales and a beer,” she said. “I thought it was cheap,” she said. That’s, in part, what drew her to the Republican Party.
The GOP, she feels, has a conscience. “That’s why we’re fighting against each other,” she said, with a nod to this year’s divisive primary and the floor drama that broke out earlier on Monday over the convention rules.
She likes Trump’s honesty and the fact that, as she said, “he hasn’t failed.” But she knows he’s got a rough ride ahead of him, facing both Clinton (who’s always “scheming”) and “Republicans who want to give up their power.”
But for now, Gilson is just happy to have made it to Cleveland.
“This was for my family,” she said, alluding to her participation in the convention and gesturing to the floor.