Political Notebook

Valley congressional delegation divides on Trump support

Hanford Republican Rep. David Valadao, greeting supporters at his November 2014 election-night party, has moved from saying during the GOP presidential campaign that he would support the nominee of his party to forcefully debunking the Republican running for president, Donald Trump.
Hanford Republican Rep. David Valadao, greeting supporters at his November 2014 election-night party, has moved from saying during the GOP presidential campaign that he would support the nominee of his party to forcefully debunking the Republican running for president, Donald Trump. Fresno Bee file

Last fall, not long after Hanford Republican David Valadao endorsed Jeb Bush for the Republican presidential nomination, he said in an interview that he “absolutely” would “stick with the winner from my party” – even if it was Donald Trump.

By June, the two-term congressman had changed his view, saying he could not support a candidate who “denigrates people based on their ethnicity, religion, or disabilities.”

Now, following a leaked tape that captured Trump making crude comments about women and bragging that he could kiss them, grab their genitals and get away with it because he is a star, Valadao has reiterated his opposition to the controversial Republican presidential nominee.

“I have repeatedly stated I cannot support Donald Trump, and this type of disgusting behavior is exactly why,” he says in a statement. “As a father to a young girl and two sons, teaching my children to treat women with respect is something I take very seriously. Condoning unwanted sexual advances towards women is inexcusable.”

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The central San Joaquin Valley’s other three Republican congressmen, however, are sticking by Trump, and one of those – Elk Grove Republican Tom McClintock – upped the ante by calling out his “hand-wringing” GOP peers for breaking with the nominee. McClintock represents a vast district that covers huge parts of the Sierra Nevada foothills and mountains, including the eastern one-third of Fresno and Madera counties.

Besides McClintock, Tulare Republican Devin Nunes and Bakersfield Republican Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, also said they still back Trump.

McClintock, McCarthy and Nunes all represent congressional districts that are safely Republican. Valadao, on the other hand, represents a district where opposition Democrats hold a 17-percentage point registration advantage. Valadao has easily dispatched his two Democratic Party challengers since first winning office in 2012, but his district is always on lists of competitive congressional districts.

Nunes supports GOP

Nunes, whose district covers much of Tulare County and a huge chunk of Fresno County including Clovis and north Fresno, cast his support in terms of backing the presidential nominee of his party and in a text message statement didn’t mention Trump by name.

“As you know, I stayed out of the primary (election campaign) and as a party leader agreed to support and help whoever won,” Nunes says in the text message. “That remains my commitment, to help make our candidate the best that he can be on (intelligence) and military issues.”

Nunes, who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also said it is his responsibility in that role to help Trump.

In the past, Nunes has expressed his support for Trump as the party’s nominee and even co-hosted a Tulare fundraiser for him at the home of pistachio grower Corky Anderson that raised in excess of $1.3 million.

McClintock went well beyond that.

Late Monday, he posted a sharply worded statement on his website in which he called the tape a “diversion” meant to distract voters from crucial questions about the country’s future. He wrote that he favors Trump because of his positions on the economy, immigration and guns, among other stances.

“Donald Trump wasn’t my first or even second choice for president, but I can certainly tell the difference between a fire and a fireman. And when a fireman is trying to save my house from burning down, the fact he uses lewd and vulgar language in private conversations with other guys doesn’t change the nature of the emergency,” McClintock says in the statement.

McClintock likened Trump’s remarks, which were first reported by The Washington Post, to the behavior of two former Democratic presidents. One was former President Bill Clinton, whose sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky led to his impeachment. The other was John F. Kennedy, who was rumored to have had affairs in the White House.

“Ironically, Trump’s words spoken many years ago precisely describe Bill Clinton’s behavior over many years, which Hillary Clinton has actively excused, enabled and abetted. How odd that the same Democratic mouthpieces who defended Clinton’s disgraceful deeds are incensed at Trump’s disgraceful words,” McClintock says.

McCarthy’s statement of support seems more in opposition to Hillary Clinton, Trump’s main opponent in the coming November election, than the full-throated support offered by McClintock. McCarthy, whose district in part covers Porterville and the eastern half of Tulare County, was also a Trump delegate at the Republican National Convention.

Several prominent Republicans retracted their endorsements of Trump, including former Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona. On Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan rebuffed Trump in announcing that he would not campaign for the nominee this month. Instead, Ryan is focusing on helping the party maintain its majority in Congress.

Adam Ashton of The Sacramento Bee contributed to this report. John Ellis: 559-441-6320, @johnellis24

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