"Trust, but verify." Invoking the legacy of Ronald Reagan, the Log Cabin Republicans, the largest and oldest gay conservative organization in the United States, declined to endorse the Republican Party's nominee for President. This follows on the heels of several GOP leaders withdrawing their support from the candidate.
"Mr. Trump is perhaps the most pro-LGBT presidential nominee in the history of the Republican Party. His unprecedented overtures to the 'LGBTQ community'—a first for any major-party candidate in our nation's history—are worthy of praise," the organization said in a statement released over the weekend.
However, the statement went on to point out the glaring contradictions in Trump's social politics.
"As Mr. Trump spoke positively about the LGBT community in the United States, he concurrently surrounded himself with senior advisors with a record of opposing LGBT equality, and committed himself to supporting legislation such as the so-called 'First Amendment Defense Act' that Log Cabin Republicans opposes."
Nostalgic for an older Grand Old Party (though Reagan's inaction on the AIDS crisis in the 1980s makes his politics a surprising archive for gay conservatives to mine), the Log Cabin Republicans insist Mr. Trump's "unprecedented overtures" should serve as a model for the Party in the future, demonstrating "the days of needing to toe an anti-LGBT line are now a thing of the past."
The statement ends with the organization declaring its intent to concentrate efforts on "preserving and growing GOP majorities in the United States Senate and House of Representatives."
The Log Cabin Republicans released three rounds of candidate endorsements prior to their statement regarding Trump on Saturday. President Gregory T. Angelo described the candidates who won endorsements as "change agents" who believe they can make a difference in the House and Senate. The candidates "are all good people, not running to be mini Trumps."
When asked if Trump's candidacy would hurt these down-ballot Republicans endorsed by the PAC, Angelo, said, "As far as a potential detriment to down-ballot races goes, this is all conjecture—no one knows what the Trump effect is going to be."
Down-Ballot and Disappointed
Several down-ballot Republicans who received the Log Cabin Republicans' seal of approval are sticking to their party's candidate. For these candidates, LGBTQ issues, and many other issues for that matter, have taken a back seat to national scandals.
"You're not going to ask me about Trump, are you?" Dr. Kenneth Wright, candidate for U.S. Congress in California, said. A medical doctor by training, Wright describes himself as a progressive Republican. "I was happy to receive support from the Log Cabin Republicans," he said. "I am a strong proponent of [LGBTQ] freedom. I don't agree with a law against gay marriage. That's why I could not support Cruz. Who is he to say you can't get married?"
Wright prefers to concentrate on other issues. "The middle class has been left behind," he said. "There are 40 million people on food stamps. The gap between the rich and poor has never been bigger."
Wright remains optimistic about Republican prospects in down-ballot races, insisting that Hillary is "so objectionable" that Trump's scandals will not matter. Citing alleged donations to the Clinton Foundation in exchange for favors as Secretary of State, Wright said: "In my experience, the Democrats are not excited about her."
Specifically regarding Trump's recent audio taped remarks about women, Wright said: "Those remarks that he made, I've never made in a locker room. I've never participated in that. I don't like it, it's horrible. But it was 11 years ago."
Wright believes Trump should remain in the race, however. "I don't think he should back down even though what he said is horrible," he said. "The direction of the United States is more important. We have to be big boys and girls and put up with it. We should have a better option, but we don't," he said.
Clay Cope, Republican Congressional candidate for Connecticut's 5th Congressional District, would make history as the first openly gay, non-incumbent Republican Congressman. He said that constituent concerns are his top priority this election season. "They want security—job security, border security," he said. Focusing on economic policy and referring to Clinton as "a tax and spend" candidate, he said that Trump was more to his liking as a conservative, committed to reduced spending. With this, Cope maintained his stance: "I support the Republican-endorsed candidates for U.S. president."
Charles Hernick is running for Congress in the battleground state of Virginia. Hernick said he is proud to receive the Log Cabin Republican's endorsement. "I commend their leadership," he said. He continued: "When we talk about liberty and justice for all, that means all. We all need to be equal as individuals in terms of rights. I think what people do in the privacy of their home should be out of the reach of the government."
When asked if Trump could hurt him in a battleground state like Virginia, he said: "When [Trump] is outspoken on the issues, it is helpful to me. In terms of what we need to do to grow the economy—shake up Washington and improve veterans' lives." But when Trump deviates from his campaign platform, "That hurts America, because we are not talking about the issues, we're talking about what was said on Access Hollywood 10 years ago."
Hernick continued: "He has said some things that [are] very offensive to me, women, Hispanics. I expect more from the people who want to lead this country. I am a lot let down by that."
Hernick said that the members of the GOP calling for his withdrawal now are "opportunistic" and never really supported Trump in the first place. "Anyone who is surprised by what has come out? You gotta be kidding me." He said, "It's opportunistic for a lot of politicians to do some Trump bashing right now. I just stuck to my guns. I support the issues that he has talked about. Veterans affairs, tax cuts."
When pressed as to whether Trump continues to receive Hernick's support he said: "Yes, that's because I disagree with Hillary Clinton on more of the policies." Though Hernick added that many of Trump's supporters feel let down. "He has lost the message people were wanting. It's disappointing for a lot of people."
While the Log Cabin Republicans declined to give Trump the seal of approval it provided to Wright, Cope and Hernick, the group clearly stated it would work with Trump should he be elected.
"Should Mr. Trump become our nation's next President, Log Cabin Republicans welcomes the opportunity to work with his administration to ensure the advances in LGBT freedom we have fought for and secured will continue."