Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said this week he’s glad to no longer be shackled to GOP party officials.
As it turns out, South Sound Republican candidates are equally happy to keep their distance from the controversial GOP nominee, who in a 2005 recording was heard bragging about grabbing women’s genitals without asking.
In Pierce and Thurston counties, not one of the 30 state lawmakers and legislative candidates with GOP ties said they are endorsing the Republican presidential nominee this year.
Only six said they will vote for Trump on Nov. 8.
Five other local Republicans said they won’t vote for Trump, while seven said they were undecided. Eight more wouldn’t disclose how they plan to vote, while four didn’t return calls.
Nearly all disavowed Trump’s lewd remarks in the 2005 video obtained by The Washington Post, but most said the video wasn’t the first time they experienced reservations about Trump.
Still, many local Republicans interviewed by The News Tribune and The Olympian said they couldn’t stand voting for Democrat Hillary Clinton, and felt they had no good choices in the election. Most said they supported John Kasich, Ben Carson or Ted Cruz in Washington’s presidential primary earlier this year.
The newspapers contacted the Republican lawmakers and candidates before new accusations surfaced Wednesday of Trump touching women inappropriately.
Republican state Rep. Teri Hickel, R-Federal Way, said earlier this week she remained undecided on her presidential vote, and wasn’t leaning toward anyone.
“Let’s see if I vote at all,” she said.
I don’t think there is any scenario where a Republican ought to be defending sexual assault or bragging about sexual assault.
Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, on comments Donald Trump made in 2005
Jessica Garcia, the Republican facing Democratic state Rep. Steve Kirby of Tacoma, said she’s been against Trump “from day one,” and the explicit video was just another reason to disavow him.
“And I haven’t been quiet about it either,” she said.
Her vote is probably headed to Libertarian Gary Johnson.
Others expressed disdain for Trump, but said they would pick him anyway.
State Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, called Trump’s remarks on The Washington Post video “deplorable,” but said Trump would better protect the Constitution than Clinton. She singled out Trump’s support for gun rights and his intention to reduce government regulation of businesses as positives to electing the New York businessman.
Greg Taylor, a Republican running against state Sen. Jeannie Darneille in Tacoma, was the only GOP leader interviewed to offer defense of Trump’s comments.
Though he said he’s “not a supporter of Donald Trump,” and the video put Trump “not exactly in the best light,” Taylor downplayed the significance of Trump’s words. Taylor said they weren’t “something that I haven’t heard before from a vast majority of males that I’ve known in my entire life.”
Taylor said he plans to vote for Trump in hopes of blocking Clinton, who he said is corrupt and dishonest.
Others said no Republican should be defending Trump’s words on the 11-year-old tape, in which Trump said his star power allowed him to “do anything” with women, including “grab them by the (genitals).”
“His comments went beyond comments — he claimed to have sexually assaulted women,” said state Rep. Drew Stokesbary of Auburn, who has denounced Trump throughout the campaign.
“I don’t think there is any scenario where a Republican ought to be defending sexual assault or bragging about sexual assault. We shouldn’t be making excuses for it.”
I think it’s coming down to, who is our worst choice for president?
Rep. Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, on having difficulty choosing between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
Stokesbary said he will be writing in an independent candidate for president, Evan McMullin.
Clinton, too, has faced intra-party rebellion. For her, it came from supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, particularly during the Democratic primary process. But it hasn’t been as widespread as against Trump.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said this week he will no longer defend Trump, while other prominent Republicans — including U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona — have withdrawn their support.
Support from the Republican establishment or not, Trump’s chances remain slim for winning Washington in November. Despite claiming 75 percent of the vote in the Republican presidential primary in May, the data-journalism site FiveThirtyEight.com on Tuesday pegged Trump’s odds of a general election victory in Washington at around 2 percent — down from 13.5 percent in early June — based on polling and historical data.
State Rep. Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, said Trump’s low chances of winning the state are partly why he hasn’t felt the need to publicly disavow the GOP candidate, or even decide yet whether he’ll vote for him.
Muri — who supported Kasich in the primary — said like many voters, he’ll make his choice closer to the election.
“I think it’s coming down to, who is our worst choice for president?” Muri said. He added, “I fear for our nation.”
State Sen. Pam Roach, R-Sumner, was one of eight local Republicans who declined to disclose whether she’d vote for Trump. She criticized reporters for asking the question.
“This is all about hanging Trump around the necks of Republican candidates,” she wrote in a text message.
As far as Trump’s comments on the 2005 tape, she said: “They were awful! And so are Clinton’s lies.”
As some Republicans on the national stage have started to distance themselves from GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, The News Tribune and The Olympian set out to see if local Republicans were doing the same.
This week, the papers reached out to all Republican state lawmakers and Republican legislative candidates whose districts include parts of Pierce and Thurston counties to ask: Are you publicly endorsing Trump? Do you plan to vote for him in November?
Here’s what they said.
Not endorsing Trump
Will be voting for Trump
Phil Fortunato, House candidate from Auburn
Greg Taylor, House candidate from Tacoma
Rep. Dan Griffey, R-Allyn
Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama
Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville
Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard
Not voting for Trump
Jessica Garcia, House candidate from Tacoma
Rick Thomas, House candidate in Tacoma area
Steve Owens, Senate candidate from Olympia*
Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn
Rep. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup
Donald Austin, state House candidate from Olympia
Rep. Linda Kochmar, R-Federal Way
Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way
Rep. Melanie Stambaugh, R-Puyallup
Rep. Teri Hickel, R-Federal Way
Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup
Rep. Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom
Won’t comment who they’re voting for
Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia
Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis
Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union
Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Tacoma
Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch**
Paul Wagemann, House candidate from Lakewood
Sen. Pam Roach, R-Sumner
Joyce McDonald, House candidate from Puyallup
Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia
Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm
Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard
Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor
*Owens has run as a Republican previously; this year he lists himself as having “no party preference” on the ballot.
**Sheldon is a Democrat who caucuses with Senate Republicans.