WHEELING, W.Va. — Donald Trump may not have been their first choice to be the next American president, but most local Republican leaders say they see no alternative but to support him as the presumptive GOP nominee in a potential contest against Democrat Hillary Clinton in November.
High-ranking Republicans such as former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush have indicated they won’t be endorsing Trump for president, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan added to the Trump nay-sayer list this week.
But Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said he doesn’t follow their logic.
“We can’t support Hillary. She’s anti-coal,” he said. “We’re not just electing a president – we’re electing a leader of the free world, and there are consequences.”
McKinley expressed concern about the job Clinton did as secretary of state, the unanswered questions surrounding the attacks on Benghazi, and her use of a personal server to send and receive emails pertaining to national security. He believes Trump, as president, would be better to stand up to other world leaders.
“I may not agree with everything Trump says, but if anything else he defends coal,” McKinley said. “I’m hoping in the next three months he will announce who the Cabinet members might be in his administration, and I think this will make people feel better about him as president.”
Former Ohio County Republican Party Chairwoman Elgine McArdle has supported Carly Fiorina, but said she will now support Trump’s campaign for president. Her hunch is that Trump will select for his Cabinet many of the GOP candidates he defeated in the primary – although Fiorina isn’t likely to be among them.
“Yes, I have to support Trump,” McArdle said. “I can’t do Hillary. It goes against every grain in my body.”
She believes Trump to be a very capable businessman who “has mastered the art of politics without being a politician.” She notes his ability to keep his name in the media and keep the public talking about him.
McArdle acknowledges she finds Trump “crass,” but she also is impressed by his wife Melania and his grown children who stand with him.
“I can’t believe a woman with that strong of a personality would be with him if there isn’t more to him,” McArdle said. “And his children are all successful and well-spoken – and they have to be a reflection of how they were raised.”
And Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., says she will support Trump, “and looks forward to seeing what West Virginia voters decide on Tuesday,” according to spokeswoman Ashley Berrang.
While many local Republican leaders indicated they would support Trump, the exception is Delegate Patrick McGeehan, R-Hancock. He said he isn’t supporting a candidate for president.
“I’m not into picking the lesser of two evils,” he said “I won’t buy into that premise. It used to be state and local elections were more important to individuals because they were closer to home and more responsive to their needs. But now this has been turned on its head. Now the federal government has more influence than anyone would have ever imagined. Federal government will continue to grow no matter who is elected.”
Marshall County Commissioner Bob Miller is listed on the primary election ballot as an “uncommitted” candidate for delegate to the Republican National Convention, but he said he will support Trump as the GOP nominee.
“I’m impressed by his business record,” Miller said. “I’ve been following him through the years, and he doesn’t achieve that position in the business community without following through. I have been disappointed with everyone in the race criticizing rather than offering solutions. I believe Trump is going to go a different route in the coming months and offer solutions.”
State Sen. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, was a supporter of Ohio Gov. John Kasich for president, and he is now supporting Trump.
“The choice ahead for West Virginia and America is an easy one – a failed third term of Barack Obama via Hillary Clinton, or we can make America great again by electing conservative businessman Donald Trump,” Ferns said, echoing Trump’s campaign slogan. “West Virginia and America cannot afford another devastating Obama-Clinton term.”
Ohio County Republican Party Chairman Matt Chapman – also a Kasich supporter – said he now will support Trump.
“Mr. Trump is a proven business leader,” he said. “This country needs a leader who understands what it takes to build a business and how to create jobs. Mr. Trump not only has this experience, he has excelled in doing just that. Also, I like the fact that he is an outsider who will bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to Washington. I think people are tired of career politicians, and he is certainly not a career politician.”
Chapman said he would remind fellow Republicans that “this election is a referendum.”
“If we want another four years of failed Obama policies, a liberal Supreme Court justice that will dramatically change the direction of this country and an EPA that will destroy the Ohio Valley, don’t vote for Mr. Trump. The choice is clear – a vote for Hillary is a vote for Obama, and not voting for Mr. Trump is a vote for Hillary.”