As Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has very publicly distanced himself from presidential politics and presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, some Frederick County politicians are embracing the candidate.
Frederick County Councilmen Billy Shreve and Kirby Delauter, both Republicans, not only support Trump, but have even taken to adopting words and phrases Trump regularly uses. Most recently, Shreve has called his Democratic colleagues on the county council “elitists” during public meetings.
He and Delauter say Donald Trump has tapped an anti-establishment, anti-career politician sentiment in the Republican party that will help him carry the vote here.
“I think the time for political correctness is over. I think Donald Trump and I are similar in that,” Delauter said. “I was politically incorrect long before he made it fashionable.”
But even as more Republican leaders in the county line up behind the presumptive nominee, others in the party aren’t so sure. Some elected officials and candidates are still maintaining a wait-and-see attitude on Trump, while Republican voters who supported other candidates in the April primary contemplate what they’ll do when they enter a voting booth in November.
There are no current polls in Maryland measuring Trump’s appeal over Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party, and few are likely to be done because of the state’s lopsided registration of Democrats, said Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
“He’s going to lose Maryland by an incredibly wide margin,” Eberly said of Trump.
However, the businessman and reality TV star is expected to fare well in Frederick County and in counties farther west.
During the primary election, Trump won 54 percent of the Republican vote statewide, and a slightly smaller share, 51 percent, in Frederick County.
Trump received 16,011 votes in Frederick County in the Republican primary — more than the 10 other candidates whose names were printed on the ballot combined.
Among county voters, Trump’s support was stronger in the 8th District — which includes much of Frederick County outside the city of Frederick and I-270 corridor — than the 6th.
Eberly said he expects that Trump will have strong support in November from Republicans in Western Maryland, the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland.
“We know that there are a group of very hard core folks who support Donald Trump. That is quite clear,” Eberly said. “Out of a field of 18, he was able to cobble together a rather solid 45 percent that held with him through everything.”
vow to hold party line
A local politician’s stance on Trump’s candidacy could affect their own electability, Eberly said, especially with voters who feel strongly one way or another.
“Donald Trump is rather controversial and has said some things that I think are probably not very popular with voters in Maryland,” he said.
However, that’s less of an issue for candidates with races further out, in 2018.
Hogan’s statement that he will not vote for Trump could help with some voters who crossed party lines, Eberly said, and Republicans are still likely to support his candidacy.
“Some Republicans are going to resent the fact that Hogan did not get behind him. But, by 2018, I have a hard time accepting that it would prevent them from backing Hogan in a re-election effort against a Democrat,” Eberly said.
Dan Cox, the Republican nominee for the 8th District race in November, said he has not yet endorsed Trump and is waiting to see how the Republican National Convention goes.
“People understand that we have a convention upcoming in the next couple weeks and that’s a process that we respect,” Cox said. “I hope and intend that I can support the Republican nominee.”
Republican Senate candidate Kathy Szeliga has echoed that sentiment, stating she intends to support the party’s nominee.
Republican candidate for the 6th District, Amie Hoeber, has faced criticism from incumbent John Delaney about her stance that she will support whomever is the Republican nominee, most likely Trump.
“A faction of GOP voters have handed the nomination to one of the most extreme, radical and ill-qualified nominees in history, Donald Trump,” Delaney said in a written statement earlier this year. “When Donald Trump attacks entire religions, distinguished war heroes like John McCain, entire ethnicities, entire genders – I’ll stand up to him, while Amie Hoeber will be standing at his side.”
Hoeber said this week that she committed at the beginning of her own campaign to support the eventual Republican party presidential nominee.
“I’m a loyal Republican. That’s the way things are,” Hoeber said. “And any of the Republican candidates beat any of the Democratic candidates, in my view.”
Trump has some fans in county elected officials
Delegate Barrie Ciliberti, R-District 4, said he has been a fan of Trump since early in the presidential primary season.
Ciliberti said he believes Trump will be tougher on immigration and using force against the Islamic State terrorist group than Obama has been.
Though when Trump recently mis-stated the number of articles in the U.S. Constitution, Ciliberti, a university professor, had to cringe.
“He does make mistakes. He’s got to learn to park the Twitter,” Ciliberti said. “He’s not the perfect candidate. But who the hell is?”
Delegate Kathy Afzali and Sen. Michael Hough, both R-District 4, who supported Sen. Ted Cruz during the primary, each said Clinton’s likely nomination made their November choices easy.
“The choice is Trump versus Clinton. Those are the only two with a chance to win,” Hough said. “That makes it an easy choice for me.”
Afzali said she thinks sentiment is still split among Republican voters in the county.
“I’m hearing absolute, avid supporters, and then on the other hand I’m hearing people say they don’t know what to do,” she said. “But there are also Democrats that don’t know what to do.”
Delegate David Vogt, R-District 4, said he “will support who the nominee is.”
He said voters he meets are either excited about the election and their candidate or desperately waiting for the election season to end.
Vogt said he wants to see pro-business economic policies from a Republican White House and hopes to hear more substantive discussion about those issues during the remainder of the campaign.
“I appreciate his business outlook and programs,” Vogt said of Trump. “… I don’t appreciate the inflammatory nature that he’s brought into the presidential campaign, but we’ve seen that from all sides as well.”
Delegate William Folden, R-District 3B, could not be reached this week to discuss his feelings about Trump.
Councilman Tony Chmelik (R) said he was holding off on taking any stance on a Republican nominee until after the party’s convention later this month.
“In my humble opinion, we just need to sit back and see what happens,” he said. “I think that we need to support the party’s nominee — after the convention.”
Chmelik said he’d like to change one thing about national politics, if he could: “I’d like to see more candidates talk about actual policy issues and what they want to do, and stop the personal attacks on both sides.”
County Council President Bud Otis, who was elected as a Republican but is now registered as unaffiliated, said he is not too keen on either of the major parties’ candidates.
“It’s a very difficult year,” Otis said. “This national scene is not what I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. I feel bad about it, I really do. It’s not what I want for my country.”
While he will still vote for Republican tickets in state and local elections, Otis said Trump doesn’t yet have his vote in November.
“He could have a come-to-Jesus moment. But right now, a lot of what he’s put out there is not where I’m at or where I’d like to see the country,” Otis said.
Shreve said he thinks Trump will pick up more fans in the party as he moves through the convention and starts to make announcements about his running mate and cabinet members.
“I make a prediction right now that it will be a landslide election. He will win by a landslide,” Delauter said.
Some voters split
Richard Cheney, a Republican voter from New Market, supports Trump.
The policies of the Obama White House have been too passive, he said, especially when it comes to government fiscal oversight and military policies.
Cheney believes Trump “recognized and capitalized on America’s disenchantment and passive political leadership,” he said.
Cheney also said he doesn’t believe Clinton is right for the job, particularly because of her handling of email communications.
Others went to prison for far less linked to negligence of same,” he said.
Gail Colby, a Republican from Frederick, said she has been registered with the party since the Ford administration.
“Never ever,” would she vote for Trump, Colby said, noting that she thinks Trump’s off-the-cuff temperament is risky. “My biggest fear is nuclear safety. That’s the basis for my concern, the security and safety of our country.”
Colby said she believes her only option in November will likely be to vote for Clinton.
“I just never thought he’d make it this far,” she said of Trump.
Katie Nash, a registered Republican from Frederick and legislative aide to Folden in Annapolis said she’s not a fan of Trump.
“I don’t feel like he represents the Republican party or any of our views at all,” Nash said. “Most importantly, for me, he’s very dangerous to our national dialogue in the outwardly misogynist things he says, the outwardly racist things he says.”
Nash said she doesn’t see the Republican party moving forward with Trump at the helm.
“It’s like the party has just lost its way,” she said. “We want the party of fiscal conservatism and responsible dialogue. That’s always been what I believe and it seems like we just kind of took this turn.”
Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines.