After months of deflecting questions about whether he supports Donald Trump, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant said Monday he will not.
The announcement comes as a new poll shows Trump significantly behind Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Washington, and Bryant trailing Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee, but by a lesser margin. The Elway Poll also shows that a state or local candidate’s support of Trump can be a significant negative for voters.
Jason Roe, a spokesman for Bryant, said the candidate made the decision over the weekend after visiting family and friends, and attending a parade in his hometown of Morton, Washington, and not, as the Inslee campaign suggested, in response to the poll.
“We didn’t need a poll to know supporting Trump is a negative,” Roe said.
Bryant, a businessman and former Seattle Port District commissioner, spent part of the weekend talking with people who think the system has forgotten them and “find in Mr. Trump somebody who will speak up for them,” Roe said.
But Bryant’s cousin died in Vietnam and his relatives have been involved in MIA/POW issues. He was “grossly offended” by Trump’s attacks on the Muslim family of a soldier killed in Iraq, Roe said. He also views Trump’s style as divisive and setting different groups against each other.
“He didn’t feel like he could be silent anymore,” Roe said. He won’t vote for Trump or Clinton, but he’ll consider Libertarian Gary Johnson.
Bryant’s pollster, Bob Moore, had advised him to avoid answering questions about Trump and instead focus on issues in the governor’s race, something the candidate had done for months. He even avoided mentioning Trump at the state Republican Convention this summer.
A new poll by H. Stuart Elway shows Clinton and Inslee with double-digit leads in their respective races.
In the survey of 500 registered voters contacted last week, 43 percent said they would vote for Clinton if the election were today; 24 percent said Trump. Libertarian Johnson is at 7 percent and Green Party nominee Jill Stein at 4 percent. Some 16 percent of those surveyed were undecided and 6 percent said they might not vote for president this year.
Inslee, a Democrat finishing his first term, was at 48 percent with Bryant at 36 percent; 16 percent said they were undecided.
Pollsters also tried to gauge the “down ballot” effect the two presidential candidates will have in November. Among those surveyed, Clinton voters were more likely to say they were enthusiastic about her than Trump voters were about him, although about 8 percent of each said they considered the candidate of their choice “the lesser of two evils.”
Asked whether the endorsement of Trump or Clinton by a candidate for state or local offices would affect their decision, an endorsement of Trump had more downside.
While 17 percent of voters said a candidate’s endorsement of Trump would make them more likely to vote for that candidate, 50 percent said it would make them more likely to vote against that candidate. That’s a net loss of 33 percentage points. An endorsement of Clinton would make 26 percent of voters more likely to vote for a candidate and 33 percent more likely to vote against the candidate, for a net loss of 7 percentage points.
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