A senior member of the Iowa Senate announced that he is suspending his Republican Party membership to protest the party’s presumptive nominee, Donald Trump.
State Sen. David Johnson, who has served 18 years in the Iowa Legislature, said he changed his voter registration on Tuesday from Republican to “no party,” The Des Moines Register reported.
“I will not stand silent if the party of Lincoln and the end of slavery buckles under the racial bias of a bigot,” Mr. Johnson said. “Mark me down as Never Trump.”
He said he has not decided yet whether he will quit the Republican Caucus in the Iowa Senate. He said he’ll remain unaffiliated at least until next month’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
“I’m going to wait and see how the convention plays out,” Mr. Johnson told the Associated Press.
“If Mr. Trump is the nominee, he becomes the standard bearer for a party that’s on the verge of breaking apart. He simply cannot unify the GOP. If there is a profound split, I’ll gladly re-join Republicans who are dedicated to equality and justice for all, and let Mr. Trump lead his supporters over the cliff,” he told The Des Moines Register.
“There are consequences to the decision to suspend, for now, my Republican registration. I am fully aware of that,” he added. “As I have for the past 18 years, I will put a high priority on constituent service. Many of the voters who elected me are supporting Mr. Trump. I respect that, but disagree that he is qualified to lead the nation and the free world.”
Mr. Johnson’s comments came after Mr. Trump accused U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel of bias in his decision against the now-defunct Trump University, because he disagrees with the billionaire’s immigration policies. Judge Gonzalo is of Mexican descent but was born in Indiana.
Republicans and Democrats alike denounced Mr. Trump’s statements, which the billionaire later said were “misconstrued.”
Mr. Johnson scolded state and national party leaders — including Gov. Terry Branstad, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — for condemning Mr. Trump’s comments without withdrawing their support for him.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, told reporters Monday that while Mr. Trump’s comments were inappropriate, he doesn’t believe the mogul is racist, The Des Moines Register reported.
“Most people that know Donald Trump know that he’s not a racist and that he’s had tremendous relationships with minorities, and he has a lot of minorities and women that have been in key positions in his business,” the governor said.
State Sen. Brad Zaun, a Republican Trump supporter, said he was surprised by Mr. Johnson’s decision to drop the party. He told The Des Moines Register that he hopes his colleague “comes to his senses and decides that the Republican Party is better than the Democratic Party in growing our economy and other issues.”
“Obviously, there are statements that upset me from time to time, including what Donald Trump said about the judge,” Mr. Zaun said. “But I am still supporting Donald Trump because the alternative is Hillary Clinton, and I don’t believe it is in the best interests of the state of Iowa and our country to support Hillary Clinton.”
Mr. Johnson supported former Texas Gov. Rick Perry in the Iowa caucus campaign, and then former tech CEO Carly Fiorina after Mr. Perry dropped out. He made it clear Tuesday that he would never support Mrs. Clinton for president, The Des Moines Register reported.