The Republican candidate for president of the United States has put his party in an awkward position up and down the ballot.
Party leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain have all but disavowed Donald Trump in the wake of a 2005 videotape where the candidate graphically brags about groping women.
Since then, Republican elected officials across the country have been called to explain why they are or are not supporting Trump’s campaign for president. So we asked Republican officials with Charlotte ties to do just that.
For the most part, Charlotte-area Republican officials have been quiet on the subject of Trump, neither endorsing the candidate nor actively opposing him.
All who have spoken publicly on Trump have disavowed his 2005 comments and most expressed hesitation about him as a candidate. But none of them have taken the politically charged step of announcing they won’t vote for him. Several told the Agenda that they will still vote for Trump out of concern for future U.S. Supreme Court appointees, or because of a disapproval with his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Here’s what Charlotte-area Republican politicians are saying about Donald Trump.
Gov. Pat McCrory
The former mayor of Charlotte hasn’t been outspoken about Trump, but he was asked directly about the Republican nominee at the most recent debate with Democrat Roy Cooper.
McCrory had earlier condemned Trump’s words in the 2005 video, calling them “disgusting.” In the debate, he said that Trump “needs to have his mouth washed out with soap,” while also indicating that he’d be voting for Trump.
“I’m voting for the candidates that best represent my viewpoints — even though I disagree with their character traits — on issues like immigration, on issues like Obamacare,” McCrory said.
A McCrory comment on Trump being a “role model” has become a part of a Cooper campaign ad, as well, though it is slightly misleading and based on how the debate’s question was worded. McCrory was asked whether Trump is a role model, and McCrory first says no based on the vulgar outbursts and personal attacks.
Moderator Chuck Todd follows up with “Does any part of him make him a role model?” and McCrory says, “What makes him a role model is where he does stand strong on certain issues that need to be said, especially from outside Washington D.C.”
You can watch just the clip on McCrory and Donald Trump here.
Federal elected officials
U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis
Tillis went on Twitter soon after Trump’s 2005 comments came to light, but hasn’t said much publicly since then. It’s unclear what his latest position is on supporting Trump for president. A spokesman told WRAL a week ago that the senator’s attention was on helping victims of Hurricane Matthew and that it wasn’t an appropriate time to comment on the presidential race.
Tillis was a pledged delegate at the Republican National Convention for Marco Rubio, but said in July that he was ready to support Trump.
Donald Trump needs to take responsibility for his actions and apologize to women everywhere.
— Thom Tillis (@ThomTillis) October 8, 2016
As a proud husband and father of a daughter, I find Donald Trump’s comments indefensible.
— Thom Tillis (@ThomTillis) October 8, 2016
Tillis’s office did not respond to a request for more information from the Agenda. Tillis is not up for re-election this year. His fellow senator from North Carolina, Richard Burr, is up for re-election and has said he’s still supporting Trump.
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger
Pittenger has been an enthusiastic Trump supporter this election cycle, but he too strongly condemned the 2005 remarks. In a statement to the Agenda, Pittenger compared Trump’s comments to allegations against former President Bill Clinton.
“As a husband and father of three daughters, Mr. Trump’s comments were grossly offensive and demeaning to women,” Pittenger said. “While the left crucifies Donald Trump for his crude remarks, there is a seemingly double standard as the Clintons are revered by them. Is Hillary Clinton with her proclivity for obfuscating the facts on issues relative to her integrity and our national security better suited to be president?”
Pittenger is up for re-election against Democrat Christian Cano in a safe Republican district.
State elected officials
N.C. Sen. Jeff Tarte
Tarte was quoted by Politico in saying that “Trump’s in serious trouble” in North Carolina and said he would likely not endorse the Republican candidate but would probably end up voting for him. That was in August, though, and the Cornelius Republican has been silent on the issue since then.
Tarte is up for re-election against Democrat Jonathan Hudson and Libertarian Chris Cole. Tarte did not respond to an inquiry from the Agenda.
N.C. Rep. Dan Bishop
Bishop is up for election to the N.C. Senate this year. against Democrat Lloyd Scher.
N.C. Rep. Bill Brawley
Brawley was a Republican National Convention delegate but hasn’t really said anything about Trump. He’s up for re-election this year against Democrat Rochelle Rivas.
N.C. Rep. Rob Bryan
Bryan co-hosted a Charlotte fundraiser for Rubio but has also been silent on Trump. He’s up for re-election against Democrat Mary Belk.
No info: There was no known information on the presidential candidate leanings of N.C. Rep. Scott Stone, N.C. Rep. John R. Bradford, N.C. Sen. Bob Rucho (who is not running for reelection this year). None responded to an inquiry from the Agenda.
In a response to the Agenda, the county commissioner also compared the 2005 comments on Donald Trump to allegations against former president Clinton, though Puckett said he in no way defended Trump’s remarks. Puckett indicated that he’s not too happy with either choice for president, but said he would be voting for Trump.
“If he had an opponent that had a higher moral stance I could see it being a tougher choice,” Puckett said.
He cited his support for potential Trump nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court, and said he doesn’t feel like he needs to condemn someone to prove where he stands.
“In the end, saving my country allows me to ignore a ton of “stuff” that with less on the line I might care about more,” Puckett said. “If my voting for a brash, arrogant, womanizing SOB over a lying, hypocritical, enabler of a womanizing husband to save the future of my country means you can’t trust me, well I will take that chance. … This is a battle about the future of constitutional law and like any war the seriousness and consequential outcome of the engagement alters what is deemed ‘acceptable’ during the battle.”
While he expressed reservations about Trump because of Trump’s past as a registered Democrat, the county commissioner said he is voting for Trump because he is the “safer” candidate when compared with Hillary Clinton. James said he disagrees with Clinton’s positions on trade deals and referred to her as corrupt.
“I believe Trump will protect and defend American jobs, while Hillary has no interest in helping middle-class America at all,” James said. “I am voting for Trump for President because I think America needs a new direction. When you are headed into a hurricane, you alter course. Hillary blindly pushes us towards a Cat 5 while Trump is warning us to save ourselves and alter course.”
Ridenhour did not support Trump during the primary election and questioned his bonafides as a conservative. Ridenhour would not disclose to the Observer in July who he would vote for in November. He is up for re-election this year against Democrat Marc Friedland. Ridenhour did not comment for this article.
No info: Republican Charlotte councilmen Kenny Smith and Ed Driggs haven’t made any statements on Trump.
But wait, what about Democrats and Hillary Clinton?
That’s a fair question. But this is an unusual election. For the first time in recent memory, it’s become newsworthy how an individual member of a political party is responding to its candidate for president. Four years ago, there wouldn’t be a story on whether Republicans were supporting Mitt Romney. And this year, there have been no mass defections from Clinton. The Democrats have coalesced around her as a candidate, including primary opponent Bernie Sanders.