Arguably one of the most polarizing personalities in the race for the White House this election cycle, Donald Trump has been both praised by supporters for being business savvy and straight-talking and criticized by opponents for inciting violence against protestors and the demeaning language he uses in debates and interviews.
As Trump continues racking up wins this primary season, with a seven-of-11 performance on Super Tuesday, and several more since, including a recent three-of-five night on what was deemed “Super Tuesday 2,” many in the GOP establishment have been fervently searching for a way to slow down or all-out stop the billionaire businessman who is self-funding his primary campaign.
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was pulled back into the spotlight, when he spoke about the “state of the 2016 presidential race,” earlier this month.
Romney said Trump’s unreleased tax returns may contain “bombshells.”
Even former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was approached by GOP officials about possibly seeking the White House on a third-party ticket.
Many of the GOP leaders who represent voters in Titusville and the surrounding area, said they will support a Trump general election bid, if he wins the party’s nomination during the primary season, without saying outright that they support him.
Most of the representatives of the Titusville area said they will not throw their support behind Trump until all other options are off the table, and they would do so rather than voting against their own party.
“I will support the Republican nominee for president,” said Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-21st, Oil City, Warren, Butler), “especially in light of the candidacies of [former] Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton and [Vermont] Sen. [Bernie] Sanders.”
Hutchinson represents at least parts of Warren, Forest, Venango, Clarion and Butler counties in the Pennsylvania Senate.
While Sen. Michele Brooks (R-50th, Greenville, Meadville, Edinboro) said she is “still gathering information” and would not indicate an individual candidate she is leaning toward, state Rep. R. Lee James (R-64th, Seneca, Oil City, Franklin) takes a firm stance against any Democratic candidate, without necessarily making a case for any of the Republican candidates.
Brooks represents parts or all of Crawford, Erie, Mercer and Warren counties in the state Senate.
James told The Herald that a third-party candidate to come out of the Republican haste to find a Trump solution would “be tantamount to a vote for the Democratic candidate,” and voiced extreme disdain for either of the Democratic contenders.
James represents Venango County and part of Butler County in the state House.
He said that he “found the deportment of the Clintons during former President Bill [Clinton’s] presidency to be embarrassing to the country. Her (Hillary Clinton’s) uncaring attitude for the four dead Americans at Benghazi turns my stomach. Her abuse of secret records should serve to disqualify her for the job.”
James had similarly tough language for the Sanders campaign.
“Sanders, the self-proclaimed socialist, does not represent the foundations of the United States, and he rejects the capitalism that has pulled more people out of subjugation and misery than any form of government the world has ever seen,” James said.
State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65th, Titusville, Warren) said she is “leaning” toward Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, but noted she has not officially endorsed him.
She said, however, no matter what, she will be supporting the Republican nominee — even if that is Trump.
“By the time we get to the Pennsylvania primary (April 26), the nominee may already be chosen,” Rapp said. “At the end of the day, I am going to be supporting the Republican candidate.”
Regarding Trump, Rapp said he has found his way into the hearts of many of her constituents, but said the office of president is comprised of more than one person.
“For whatever reason, he has the vote of the people,” Rapp said. “One of the things with the president is the people they surround themselves with and their cabinet.”
Rapp represents at least parts of Crawford, Warren and Forest counties in the state House.
State Rep. Brad Roae (R-6th, Fairview, Meadville, Cambridge Springs), who also serves in the state House, did not reply to a request for comment for this story.
In county government, commissioners Francis Weiderspahn, John Amato and Chris Soff all serve on the county election board, and therefore did not want to comment on their views of individual candidates, as it could potentially affect the decisions of voters.
However, Weiderspahn, a Republican, did say he will support whoever the Republican nominee is to make it through the primary, “regardless of who it is.”
Republican Amato said that he doesn’t “like what’s on the other side of the fence,” but added “yes,” he will support the Republican nominee, before explaining that he does not always necessarily vote on party lines.
Soff, who began his political career as a Democrat before switching to the Republican Party then back to the Democratic Party in 2009, said he will “support the best person [who I] think will do the best job.”
Currently a Democrat, Soff said he would not commit to his own party in the presidential election if he doesn’t favor who makes it through the primary.
Representing the Titusville area in the U.S. Congress, Republican representatives Mike Kelly and Glenn Thompson are both hoping for a Republican president after the November general election, but neither showed a favorite.
According to a staffer working for Kelly (R-3rd, Erie, Meadville, Sharon, Butler), the congressman who represents a large chunk of western Pa., will not be officially endorsing any candidate during the primary, but will support whichever Republican candidate comes through to the general election.
Rep. Thompson (R-5th), who represents a swath of Pennsylvania, stretching from the Huntingdon area, to State College, up to the New York border and into Venango and Erie counties, and includes the city of Titusville, seemed a bit more open to options in his own re-election year than other politicians contributing to this report.
“Serving the people of Pennsylvania’s Fifth Congressional District remains my utmost priority,” said Thompson. “As a member of Congress, appropriate oversight of whoever is in the White House remains one of the most fundamental Constitutional duties.
“While I hope the next president will be a Republican, that will not prevent me from placing the needs of my constituents and country above politics.”
Thompson added that his main focus this election cycle is his own re-election bid.