Republican leaders in the Northern San Joaquin Valley are divided over whether they can support Donald Trump’s bid for the White House.
Some could not conceal their disappointment when they promised, as loyal Republicans, to support their party’s nominee.
“I am discouraged with both candidates,” said Terry Withrow, one of five Republicans on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors. “There is no way I can vote for Hillary. So then, what do we do with Donald Trump? I don’t know.”
If it were up to the Board of Supervisors to choose the next president, Trump would get the nod, but not by a unanimous vote.
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“I don’t intend on voting for him at all,” Supervisor Bill O’Brien said, adding that people shouldn’t think he supports Hillary Clinton. “First, I don’t think Trump can win; and, second, I don’t think he has a presidential demeanor. This is a great example of when I don’t follow the party line.”
O’Brien said he was thinking of giving a write-in vote to Michael Pence in hopes that Trump will step aside for his running mate.
Supervisor Jim DeMartini, the chairman of the county’s Republican Central Committee, and board Chairman Dick Monteith, a former Republican state senator, said they support Trump, with Monteith saying he’s willing to take a gamble on a candidate whose campaign has more resembled reality TV than traditional politics.
Monteith said the presidential race is intensely emotional, and as an example, he cited the Trump campaign sign on his lawn at home. Twice, someone has knocked down the sign; it has been slung onto the street, spit upon by a passer-by and put in the trash bin on garbage collection day.
“I will be supporting Trump because I want change,” Monteith said. “I don’t believe this country can continue to go the way it’s going. I am willing to take a gamble.”
That leaves Supervisor Vito Chiesa to determine if Trump has three or four votes from the conservative county leaders. Chiesa did not return messages Monday.
The Modesto Bee sought comments on Trump from local Republicans the day after his second debate with Clinton and after the latest bombshell – a 2005 video on which Trump made lewd and vulgar comments about women.
Modesto’s mayor, Ted Brandvold, a Republican, said he had not read any reports on the tape.
The Bee made repeated attempts Monday to reach Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, who did not return messages, and also did not receive returned calls from 8th District state Sen. Tom Berryhill and other Republicans running in state and local races.
The Republican Party in Stanislaus County recently lost a voter registration advantage to the Democrats, who cited Trump as one reason why they have pulled slightly ahead in registrations.
Joan Clendenin, a past chairman of the county’s GOP central committee, said she had nothing negative to say about Trump. “He is our candidate,” she said. “He was my fourth choice during the primaries (after Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz). He is our guy and the alternative is unthinkable.”
When asked about Trump’s derogatory comments about women, Clendenin said Hillary Clinton has said ugly things about women in defending her husband’s sexual escapades.
Former Modesto council member Janice Keating explained why there was no Trump endorsement on the Republican Central Committee’s website. Keating, the committee’s executive director, said it was her oversight and she quickly updated the site Monday. She confirmed the committee automatically endorses the GOP nominee for president.
Regarding the video that recently surfaced, Keating said the election is not about a “guy being a guy.” It’s about issues that people care about, such as renegotiating lopsided trade agreements and economic opportunities for families, Keating said..
State Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, has not been willing to set aside the flaws of Trump, who routed 16 other GOP candidates in the primaries. “I am an American first,” said Cannella, who’s considered a moderate Republican in Sacramento. “I don’t agree with his views on the way the world works and, therefore, I am not supporting him. My list of objections to Donald Trump would be too long.”
Ken Vogel of Linden and Heath Flora of Ripon are two Republicans running for state Assembly in the district represented by Olsen for the past six years. Because of California’s open primary, no Democrat is on the ballot but either candidate could benefit from capturing votes from Democrats. Flora emailed a statement on Trump’s comments about women on the 11-year-old tape; Vogel did not return messages.
“Donald Trump’s comments about women are repulsive and he can’t apologize enough to make things right,” Flora wrote. “Having said that, I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton. I know in my heart America can do better.”
Brandvold, Modesto’s mayor, said he has been too busy with city business to closely follow the presidential race. He said he’s undecided on whether to vote for Trump, Clinton, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
Withrow, who has been disappointed by Trump’s off-the-cuff remarks, said he agrees with the billionaire politician on many issues, including lowering taxes, bringing business back to the U.S. and appointing judges who “have the values of our country.” Withrow said the next appointments to the Supreme Court will affect the moral and ethical fabric of the nation for 40 years.
“I am going to support my party’s candidate. I support the values of the party,” Withrow said.
DeMartini, who attended the GOP national convention this year, said Trump had a tremendous following among delegates, and he still likes the nominee’s chances in November.
“Donald Trump got more votes in the primaries than any Republican ever has,” DeMartini said. “We don’t see it in California, but he has a tremendous following in the South and Midwest.”
Monteith and DeMartini noted that Trump has disregarded political correctness and standards of decorum, but they are willing to overlook his worst moments. Monteith attributed the intense emotional nature of the presidential campaign to the failure of both parties to meet the needs of the public.
Cannella, however, lost his patience months ago.
“I am disgusted by the whole campaign,” he said. “It reminds me more of a WWE (professional wrestling) match than a candidacy for president of the United States. I hope we can get back to campaigning on the issues and leave this craziness behind.”
Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321