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Chris Collins gets speaking role at GOP convention, but not Paladino or Rex Ryan

WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Collins of Clarence – the first House Republican to endorse Donald Trump for president – will speak at next week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, but Trump’s New York co-chair, Carl Paladino, won’t.

Similarly, born-again NFL quarterback Tim Tebow will speak, but Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan – who introduced Trump at his Buffalo rally in April – will not.

And former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani won a speaking slot, but as of now, former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin remains on the sidelines.

Those are just some of the highlights of the convention speakers list the Republican National Committee released this morning, which, as expected, lacks some of the GOP’s biggest names. Instead, the focus is on Trump’s long-time supporters and family members.

While Collins’ exact speaking role remains unclear, he said this morning he was honored to be asked to speak at the convention.

“I am proud to carry Western New York’s message on behalf of Donald Trump,” Collins said. “That message is loud and clear. Folks in our community want Mr. Trump to secure our borders, stand up to our enemies and take back the jobs stolen by Mexico and China. I am glad to be part of the growing movement behind Donald Trump and making America great for all Americans.”

Collins also spoke at the GOP convention in 2008 in St. Paul, Minn.

Meanwhile, Paladino – who made headlines last week when he tweeted, and then deleted, a message suggesting that Attorney General Loretta Lynch, an African-American, be lynched – said he did not seek a speaking role in the convention. Paladino, the 2010 Republican candidate for governor who serves as Trump’s honorary campaign chairman in New York, instead pointed to Collins as a logical speaker choice.

“That’s a great honor for him, and it is given correctly because he did something very unusual and came out for Trump early,” he said. “This will give him a national profile.”

The speakers list is especially notable for its absences.

The last two Republican presidential nominees, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, will not attend the convention. McCain has said he is engaged in his bid for re-election, while Romney has strongly opposed Trump’s nomination, calling the businessman “a fraud” who is unqualified to be president.

Similarly, the two living Republican ex-presidents – George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush – will not attend the party’s convention in Cleveland, which begins Monday. The two Bushes also skipped the party’s 2012 convention in Tampa.

Also missing from the speakers list are several of the candidates Trump beat in the primaries, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, the state that is hosting the convention. But the runner-up for the GOP nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, will speak, as will Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

In place of the biggest names, the list, which the RNC called partial, includes a host of largely lesser-known politicians, athletes and entertainers.

Collins is one of seven House members on the list.

Two of Trump’s top candidates for vice president – House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – will speak, but a third, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is not on the list.

Tebow was not included on the list, but the New York Times reported he would speak. Other sports figures on the list include golfer Natalie Gulbis and Dana White, president of the mixed martial arts organization Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The list also includes actors Antonio Sabato Jr. and Kimberlin Brown and two survivors of the 2012 attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya – an attack Republicans have tried to pin on the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

“The convention’s theme, ‘Make America Great Again,’ will focus on the core themes of Republican Presidential Nominee Donald J. Trump’s campaign: national security, immigration, trade and jobs,” said Jeff Larson, CEO of the 2016 Republican National Convention, in a press release announcing the speakers.

That list includes:

Televangelist Mark Burns; casino developer Phil Ruffin; Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont.; Pat Smith; Benghazi survivors Mark Geist and John Tiegen; Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas; Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County, Wis.; Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis.; Darryl Glenn, GOP U.S. Senate candidate from Colorado; Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Karen Vaughn, who lost her son in the Afghanistan War;

Also, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; Melania Trump; Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Florida veterans advocate Kathryn Gates-Skipper; retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell; Dana White, president of the mixed martial arts organization Ultimate Fighting Championship; former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson; Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge; former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey; Andy Wist; Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn; Alex Smith of the College National Republican Committee;

Also, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; Kerry Woolard, general manager of Trump Winery; Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Dr. Ben Carson; Republican National Committee Co-Chair Sharon Day; golfer Natalie Gulbis; actress Kimberlin Brown; actor Antonio Sabato Jr.; PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel; retired astronaut Eileen Collins; Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.; Michelle Van Etten; Lynne Patton, vice president of the Eric Trump Foundation; Eric Trump; fracking pioneer Harold Hamm;

Also, Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence; Brock Mealer, a Michigan car crash victim who is learning to walk again; Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin; singer-songwriter Darrell Scott; Lisa Shin of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump; Florida Gov. Rick Scott; Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus; real estate investor Tom Barrack; Ivanka Trump; Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi; Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University; Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of New York; former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Chris Cox; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Tiffany Trump; Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J.; Donald J. Trump Jr. and Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis.

email: jzremski@buffnews.com