GOP Legislator Blasts Trump, Dumps Party Affiliation — For Now
A veteran northwest Iowa lawmaker has suspended his Republican Party membership to protest “the racist remarks and judicial jihad” by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
State Sen. David Johnson of Ocheyedan changed his voter registration from Republican to independent, or No Party, on Tuesday, Iowa’s primary election day.
“I will not stand silent if the party of Lincoln and the end of slavery buckles under the racial bias of a bigot,” Johnson said, referring to Trump.
The New York City real-estate billionaire and reality-TV star has come under intense criticism for repeatedly attacking a federal judge, born in Indiana and of Mexican descent, who is overseeing a civil case against the former Trump University. Citing the judge’s ethnicity, Trump has claimed he can’t get a fair hearing and has demanded the judge recuse himself.
“Mark me down as Never Trump,” Johnson said, “and at the same time Never Clinton,” referring to Democratic presidential frontrunner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. During the run-up to the Iowa Caucuses, Johnson endorsed business leader Carly Fiorina.
Johnson said national and state GOP leaders “have been too timid and should go further in condemning Mr. Trump. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as Republican members of Iowa’s congressional delegation, should immediately and emphatically withdraw their support for Mr. Trump.”
His No Party status will be unchanged until next month’s GOP national convention plays out, Johnson said. “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.”
Johnson of late has broken with his fellow Republicans in the Iowa Legislature as well as Republican Gov. Terry Branstad on several issues. He has argued strongly for legislative oversight of the governor’s initiative to privatize Medicaid and for funding the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust. He has warned against shortchanging education, law enforcement and the judicial system.
“There are consequences to the decision to suspend, for now, my Republican registration. I am fully aware of that,” he said. “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.”
Johnson is in the middle of his fourth Senate term. He previously served four years in the Iowa House. Democrats currently control the Senate by the slimmest of margins, 26-24.
Johnson, 65, represents Senate District 1, which includes Clay, Dickinson, Lyon, Osceola and Palo Alto counties.