DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A senior member of the Iowa Senate says he has dropped his Republican Party affiliation in protest of what he calls Donald Trump’s “bigotry,” in light of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s comments about a federal court judge’s ethnicity.
Sen. David Johnson, from heavily Republican northwest Iowa, told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that “somebody had to make a statement.”
Johnson, an 18-year state legislator from Ocheyedan, was referring to the billionaire’s allegation that U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel was biased in his decision against the now-defunct Trump University, a business owned by Trump, because he disagrees with Trump’s position on immigration. Gonzalo is of Mexican descent but was born in Indiana.
Trump has called for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and has broadly described people from Mexico in the United States illegally as having unlawful intentions.
“There’s no room in the party of Lincoln for such a bigot and demagogue,” Johnson said. “How did we lose touch with our origin as a party?”
Johnson also scolded state and national party leaders — including Gov. Terry Branstad, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — for condemning the comments about Curiel but not withdrawing their support for Trump.
Johnson said his late father, Donald E. Johnson, was an Army veteran who served in World War II and was part of a unit which was the first to encounter and liberate the Nazi concentration camps.
“I was raised in a home without hearing a racial slur or any kind of denigration of someone’s ancestry,” Sen. Johnson said.
Johnson, 65, says he is unsure whether he will caucus with Republicans in the Iowa Senate for the 2017 legislative session. Johnson supported former Texas Gov. Rick Perry in the Iowa caucus campaign, and then former tech CEO Carly Fiorina after Perry quit the race last year.
As for whether he remains officially unaffiliated, as he re-registered Tuesday, he will wait and see.
“I’m going to wait and see how the convention plays out,” Johnson said, holding out hope Trump not be nominated.