Donald Trump’s blue campaign signs color the roadside along Interstate 90 in the majestic Cascade Range, not far from the abandoned mining town of Monte Cristo, Washington, where his grandfather ran a hotel and won election as justice of the peace in 1896.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee predicted a bigger win in November when he visited the small town of Lynden, Washington, near the Canadian border, in early May, boasting that he’ll become the first Republican presidential candidate to carry Washington state since 1984.
While Trump won big Tuesday in the state’s GOP primary, he still faces rough terrain in the Evergreen State, one of the country’s bluest. His ability to defy history here will require him to sell two of his signature planks — getting tough on trade with China and deporting immigrants from Mexico who are in the U.S. illegally — in a state where the ideas have drawn much opposition.
Trump has proposed a 45 percent tax on Chinese imports, and opponents fear it could ignite an all-out trade war that would hit hard in the nation’s most trade-dependent state. Two out of every five jobs in the state are tied to global commerce. China is the state’s top trading partner, accounting for nearly a quarter of its $86 billion in exports last year.
And while Trump wants to oust 11 million immigrants who are here illegally, farmers rank among the largest exporters in the state, hiring thousands of seasonal workers to help them plant and harvest more than 300 different crops.
“Farmers would go broke because they wouldn’t have the people they need to help them get the crops planted and picked and packed,” said Tom Roach, a longtime immigration attorney from Pasco. “Because something on the order of 70 to 80 percent of farm workers, by federal statistics, are undocumented.”
Farmers would go broke because they wouldn’t have the people they need to help them get the crops planted and picked and packed, because something on the order of 70 to 80 percent of farm workers, by federal statistics, are undocumented.
Tom Roach, immigration attorney from Pasco, Wash.
With foreign trade and immigration so closely linked in the state, Trump’s plans represent “a double whammy for Washington agriculture,” said Dan Fazio, executive director of the Washington Farm Labor Association in Lacey.
He’s just hoping Trump isn’t serious: “I guess maybe we should be more worried, but he’s just trying to win a campaign, right?”
I guess maybe we should be more worried, but he’s just trying to win a campaign, right?
Dan Fazio, executive director of the Washington Farm Labor Association in Lacey, Wash.
After Trump’s victory Tuesday, Washington state Republican Chairman Susan Hutchison said the results showed that Washington “is a true swing state and ready to swing to the Republican column in November.”
That would end seven consecutive losses for Republican presidential candidates in the state.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that the real estate mogul has since clinched the nomination, after several unbound delegates pledged their support.
7 The number of consecutive elections that Republican presidential candidates have lost in Washington state
As Trump counts on a reversal in Washington state, many Republican leaders are scrambling to decide whether to succumb to growing pressure to back him.
Some have made it clear they want nothing to do with the outspoken and polarizing figure who has taken over the party.
Republican Rep. Dave Reichert, who heads the House Subcommittee on Trade, said he’d cast his primary vote for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. While Kasich suspended his campaign May 4, his name remained on the ballot, which had already been printed.
Three months ago, Reichert dismissed Trump as “a joke” who would be “dangerous for America” and would set a poor example for children with his persistent insults.
In an interview Tuesday, Reichert said he had no plans to endorse anyone until after the party’s national convention in Cleveland in July.
“I really have struggled with this whole campaign season and the lack of decorum, and that’s an understatement, right?” Reichert said. “Just the incivility, the rudeness, the obnoxious behavior and bullying tactics and calling each other names. … That’s really a disservice to very bright and informed voters.”
I really have struggled with this whole campaign season and the lack of decorum, and that’s an understatement, right?
Washington state Republican Rep. Dave Reichert
He said he might consider endorsing Trump, but only if the candidate apologized or made amends.
“I may come around. Everyone deserves a second chance,” Reichert said.
Similarly, Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has refused to endorse Trump, objecting to his stances on eminent domain and health care, among other things.
Herrera Beutler also wants to know whether Trump stands by his description of Mexicans as “rapists,” said Amy Pennington, her spokeswoman. Pennington said that was “something that didn’t sit well with Jaime, who comes from Mexican heritage.”
Republican Senate candidate Chris Vance, who’s challenging Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant, who wants to unseat Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, have drawn party heat for refusing to line up behind Trump.
While Bryant has refused to say whom he’ll vote for in November, Vance said he’d follow his conscience in rejecting Trump. Earlier this month, Vance called Trump’s views on trade, economics, defense and foreign policy “naive” and “insane.”
Trump has won backing from two top-tier Washington state Republicans, Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the highest-ranking woman on the House GOP leadership team, and Dan Newhouse, a member of the House Agriculture Committee.
In a Facebook posting last week, McMorris Rodgers said she’d voted for Trump on her mail-in ballot.
“Did I cast my ballot with enthusiasm? Not exactly,” she said. But after a private meeting with Trump on Capitol Hill, McMorris Rodgers said she was “encouraged.”
“Mr. Trump won millions of supporters by speaking his mind honestly, calling out the dysfunction in Washington, D.C., and talking outside the politically correct box,” she said.
At his rally in Lynden, Trump promised to visit the state again this year, convinced he has a chance to win it.
“Maybe I’ll move up here,” he said.
He defended his trade and immigration plans, saying illegal immigration is costing the state $2.7 billion a year, a number promoted by a group that opposes illegal immigration. He also said that more Syrian refuges would be coming soon. He said both the state and the U.S. had lost in global trade, and he criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying it had sent American jobs to Mexico.
Eric Schinfeld, president of the Washington Council on International Trade in Seattle, said the real question was whether Trump would follow through on his tough talk. He noted that Obama ran for president as a trade critic in 2008 only to become an aggressive trade backer later. But Schinfeld said the stakes were high, with the state’s economy “inextricably linked” to China and closely tied to other foreign markets.
“A full 45 percent tariff on China and the U.S. withdrawing from NAFTA will put the U.S. into recession,” Schinfeld said.
A full 45 percent tariff on China and the U.S. withdrawing from NAFTA will put the U.S. into recession.
Eric Schinfeld, president of the Washington Council on International Trade in Seattle
With Washington state leaning “quite a bit to the left,” Reichert said, he’d be surprised if Trump could carry the state in November, no matter how confident the candidate might be.
He said Trump’s desire to seal the borders “would have a hugely negative effect,” hurting the state’s ability to export its prized apples, cherries, pears, peaches and grapes.
And he noted that even Trump’s family had benefited from immigration: According to a book on the Trumps by Gwenda Blair, Trump’s paternal grandfather, Friedrich Trump, moved from Germany to the United States in the late 1800s, eventually finding his way to Washington state, where he ran a restaurant in Seattle and a hotel in Monte Cristo.
“He immigrated,” Reichert said.
As a result of his grandfather’s experience, Trump “should be pro-immigrant,” Reichert said. “You can quote me.”