Curly Haugland is famous for being all about the rules. That might not sound controversial, but when those stipulations determine how a Republican presidential nominee is chosen — and the public is told they may supersede the results of primaries and caucuses — well, sparks will fly.

Haugland, founder/president of two pool product manufacturing firms — Recreation Supply Co. and Eureka Mfg. Co. in Bismarck, N.D. — has been active in the GOP for years as a volunteer. He’s served as everything from Republican National Committee state chairman to a member of the RNC Rules Committee.

During this presidential election year, he has come into the national limelight for vehemently defending his interpretation of the GOP rulebook, which has some Donald Trump supporters worried.

Tensions have run high during the countdown toward the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this month. As the press has called Trump the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Haugland has pushed back, arguing that the declaration was premature, and that convention delegates would determine the party’s nominee, as stipulated by RNC rules.

Curly Haugland
Curly Haugland

As a longtime committee member, Haugland has carefully studied all manner of GOP rules and stands by his interpretation of them, even if it means butting heads with party leaders.But this last proposition hasn’t been sitting well with many folks.

“There’s a national debate over the whole policy of nominating a president,” Haugland observed. “One camp says it’s the will of the people voting in the primaries. Then there are the party rules. … Delegates represent the constituents back home, but they are not bound to vote that way.”

In other words, he said, conscientious delegates would take the primaries’ results into consideration and abide by the rules.

Haugland feels so strongly about this matter that he co-wrote Unbound: The Conscience of a Republican Delegate (May 2016). It shows the historical and legal basis for delegates to vote their consciences, and offers nearly 240 examples where past delegates did just that.

At this year’s Republican convention, Haugland will attend as a North Dakota delegate. As usual, the 112 members of the Rules Committee meet for three days and adopt rules to govern the proceedings. When the convention begins, the delegates will vote on whether to adopt the rules.

Haugland’s committee term expires after this convention, and he said he’s close to retiring from volunteer work for the GOP.

How Haugland got to this point couldn’t have been predicted early on. After obtaining a journalism degree, he went to work at a small daily newspaper and subsequently became editor. His next career move took him to the public relations office of North Dakota’s job service agency.

He dove into the pool industry in the 1970s. Haugland had a friend in pool construction, and when the company learned he had a private pilot’s license, he was hired to fly around a five-state region, delivering equipment to crews and taking parts to various destinations. Haugland soon learned how to install the parts because, he said, it was cheaper to send just one person to the sites.

“Three or four years into it, I co-founded Associated Pool Builders, ” Haugland said. In 1980, he started Recreation Supply Co., and seven years later he established Eureka Mfg. Co.

Nowadays, Haugland is semi-retired from his two businesses. His son and daughter run things, with Cal Haugland as vice president, while daughter Kari Dickey manages various operations, including personnel.

What’s next for Curly Haugland? Following the Republican convention, he’s looking forward to going fishing in Alaska, and spending more time with his seven grandchildren.