Republican congressional hopeful John Faso said Wednesday he’s standing by the “Republican ticket” approved by GOP primary voters, even as he described the man at the top of the ticket — Donald Trump — as “seriously flawed” and hinted he may not vote for him.
Faso’s hair-splitting statement comes as Trump faces a mass defection by Republican office holders and candidates after an 11-year-old video depicting him bragging about sexually assaulting women surfaced last week. Since the unaired 2005 footage from “Access Hollywood” emerged on Friday, dozens of Republicans, including Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain and House Speaker Paul Ryan, have either withdrawn endorsements or indicated that they would no longer support the billionaire real estate developer and reality TV star’s bid for the White House. In a conference call over the weekend, Ryan reportedly advised congressional candidates to do what was best for their own candidacies in their own districts, revealing the uncomfortable tightrope many must walk between Trump’s fervent base and more moderate voters who find Trump unacceptable. Locally, where Faso is locked in a close race with Democrat Zephyr Teachout for the 19th Congressional District, Ulster County GOP chair Roger Rascoe offered the same advice.
“Some folks are going to shy away from Trump because of his statements,” said Rascoe. “But every race is different, people need to take a look at their own district.”
In a statement released Wednesday, Faso, a Kinderhook resident and onetime state Assembly minority leader said that he would “support the Republican ticket that was the product of the primary nominating process.” But, Faso added that he had “significant policy differences” with Trump and was “deeply offended and disturbed” by his comments in the leaked video.
“I find both candidates for president to be seriously flawed,” Faso wrote in a prepared statement. “I cannot support Hillary Clinton for president due to our policy differences on a range of issues and I have not endorsed Donald Trump nor have I even decided to vote for him in November.”
Teachout, meanwhile, accused Faso of trying to have it both ways in refusing to disavow Trump.
“Country matters more than political party,” said Teachout in an interview Tuesday. “[Faso] had a chance to take a principled stand and he chose political party over principle.”
But a Time Warner News/Siena College poll taken last month, before an uneven debate performance and the leaked video sent his poll numbers tumbling, shows the perils of publicly repudiating Trump. Across the 11 counties which comprise the 19th Congressional District, Trump held a five-point lead over Clinton, including an 18-point lead with independent voters. Across the country, meanwhile, Republican leaders and rank and file voters have vowed to punish the defectors.
Rascoe, meanwhile, said that he believed Trump would not be a decisive factor in down-ballot races. Rascoe noted that voters in Ulster County had previously voted in Republican candidates for local office while rejecting the party’s presidential nominee. Rascoe said that Teachout’s status as a newcomer to the district (she moved to Dutchess County from Brooklyn just last year) would count for more than Faso’s appearance on the same ticket as Trump.
“I don’t see someone saying, ‘I’m not going to vote for John Faso because he’s on a ticket with Trump, so instead I’m going to vote for this carpetbagger out of New York City’,” said Rascoe. “I don’t think the down-ballot effect [of Trump’s remarks] is going to be as significant as some in the media would like it to be.”