A Republican Senate candidate in Washington state said Thursday that he will not support Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the most visible break yet with the party’s presumptive presidential nominee from a Senate GOP candidate.
“Donald Trump is not the answer,” said Chris Vance, a former state party chairman now running for the GOP Senate nominations. “His economic polices, such as they are, would drive our debt even higher and destroy jobs, especially in trade-dependent Washington state. And his views on defense and foreign policy are naive and dangerous.”
Vance, who would face Sen. Patty Murray in November in a race considered safely Democratic, said he would either vote for a third-party candidate or “simply not vote for president.”
He emphasized that he also would not vote for likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“This is a difficult and unprecedented time for our party, and I take no joy in not supporting the presumptive Republican nominee,” he said during a press conference, a video of which was posted to Facebook . “But I must place conscience and principle ahead of party.”
Republicans have fretted about the down-ballot fallout from a Trump nomination, worried that the New York billionaire’s deep unpopularity will cost the party an army of seats in the House and Senate.
But many GOP House and Senate Republicans have said they will support the Republican nominee, including vulnerable GOP incumbents Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Rob Portman of Ohio.
Vance said top party operatives encouraged him to make up his own mind when it comes to Trump.
“I met weeks ago with National Republican Senatorial Committee, who advised me, do what you think need you need to do in regards to Donald Trump if he becomes the nominee,” Vance said.
The party, he added, “is letting candidates follow their own conscience.”
Republican candidates have hesitated to pledge support for Trump after sealing his hold on the nomination this week, wary of alienating either his loyal base of supporters or the moderate voters turned off by his bombastic style.
Ayotte drew criticism from Democrats when her spokeswoman Wednesday said that the senator supported the Republican nominee but wouldn’t endorse Trump. And House Speaker Paul D. Ryan also said that he could not yet support him for president. NRSC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek declined to discuss the specifics of the group’s meeting with Vance.
“We don’t discuss our internal conversations with candidates,” she said. “We will let the smart presidential pundits give candidates all the public advice they want.”
Washington’s Senate primary is Aug. 2.