On Trump, Howard Republican officials are 'a mixed bag'

#HoCoMd Republican leaders and elected officials react to Trump.

In unvarnished words, Howard county's top Republican, County Executive Allan Kittleman, excoriated the presumptive presidential nominee for the Republican Party, joining a rare rank of local elected Republicans who publicly renounced Trump and said they will not vote for him in November.

"I believe in principle and I believe it's important to stick to your principles," said Kittleman. Donald Trump, he said, does not represent his "strong feelings" on civil rights and diversity. Trump's comments "frustrate" him. "That's not how I was raised," Kittleman said.

In the primary, Trump won 44 percent of the Republican vote in Howard, well under the statewide total of 54 percent.

Kittleman often reminds audiences he is the proud son of a civil rights leader and closed his most recent state of the county address with a call to stop what he called the resurging tide of brazen hostility against African Americans and Muslims.

Like other local Republicans he explains his stance on Trump concurrently with his stance on presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

"I'm disappointed with both of the major party candidates. … I don't believe she's the most ethical person," he said of Clinton, adding Clinton has been "quiet about what she's doing" in reference to her emails and "lacks principles of good leadership."

Kittleman plans to be at the annual crab feast in Crisfield instead of Cleveland, Ohio, for the convention.

His layered explanation is similar to other local elected Republicans, many of whom explain their support for Trump as the presumed face of the Republican Party by explaining their opposition to Clinton in the same sentence. The nomination of the controversial billionaire at this year's Republican National Convention in mid-July has elicited a wide array of reactions from local and state elected Republicans as diverse as the political spectrum.

On one end, Del. Trent Kittleman, a District 9A Republican who is Allan Kittleman's stepmother, said Trump is "the one person who can put this country back on the right footing." Calling herself a strong supporter, Trent Kittleman sees Trump as a fresh businessman who is not "handcuffed by the system" and tied in "politically correct ways of speaking."

"The last presidential candidates who elicited this level of anger and dislike from the community were Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. They were outsiders. That gives me some degree of hope," she said.

When Donald Trump attacked a federal judge whose parents were born in Mexico, Trent Kittleman said it was easy to misinterpret his statements as racist.

"Trump had felt some bias and it was possible this guy was reacting to Trump's policies," she said. "If you hear and understand what he's saying, it's just straightforward common sense. Race is such an extraordinarily sensitive topic you almost can't discuss it with people, period. That's the reason Trump is vital. No one on the inside can make sufficient change."

In stark contrast to Trent Kittleman, Del. Bob Flanagan, a District 9B Republican, is utterly baffled by Trump.

"I could tie myself up in knots trying to figure out what he is. I've listened to people try to explain him and I'm not going to engage in some kind of contorted effort to engage in what he's saying," said Flanagan. "I'm just not capable of doing it."

Other local prominent Republicans fall somewhere in the middle of Trent Kittleman's support and Flanagan's bafflement. Trump, they said, does not violate any sacred Republican precept.

Del. Warren Miller said Trump is one of many candidates he "had to hold my nose and vote for." Still, "ideological differences and consistency issues do not excuse you from supporting your party or the nominee," he said.

"If we don't support him, we're going to get Hillary for president. We've had eight years of Democrats leading our country. The economy hasn't improved. We still have troops in Iraq and in Afghanistan. These are promises made by this president that haven't been met," said Miller. "Everybody realizes we have to try something different."

County Councilman Greg Fox, who originally endorsed John Kasich, said Clinton lacks transparency, good judgment and has put the country at risk, a clear "pattern of behavior," begging the question why Democrats support her.

"I'm not necessarily happy about my choice, but based off of the alternate [and] barring any credible third party, I'll be voting for Trump," said the Republican. . "I think that while there may be some basis for some of his concerns and concepts, the level of extent of some of the solutions and the tone of the comments are not where I'm at."

State Sen. Gail Bates, a Republican who represents District 9, said she's waiting to see what happens at the convention.

"There's a lot that's up in the air," Bates said. "A lot of people are hoping he will be the end of the Republican Party. The Republican Party is strong. We have a lot to offer the state and the county."

Devoid of any semantic somersaults, members of the Howard County Central Committee said they will support Trump.

Loretta Shields, chairwoman of the local central committee, said she stands by the Republican Party's nominee. Her personal opinion is "none of anybody's business."

Although Christopher Oxenham said he has some "reservations" — pointing out Trump became a Republican in this election cycle — Oxenham said he plans on voting for the party nominee.

"He is a much better alternative than Hillary Clinton," he said.

Jeff Robinson, a central committee member since 2013, agreed.

"My philosophy is I will support the candidate that comes out of our party. … His statements have usually been taken out of context," Robinson said. "I'm therefore less worried about the content of his statements. He clearly has a different perspective." It's time to shake things up."

Laura Walsh and Chris Yates, two Republican convention delegates for Howard County who plan to attend the convention, also expressed support for Trump. Walsh called him a "successful businessman" who "is being attacked by people who don't know anything about businesses."

Trent Kittleman has a photograph with Trump, but she's not comfortable putting it up — yet.

"I don't think I've ever felt quite this strongly about anything. Politicians insult people in elegant ways. Trump will just call somebody a jerk," said Trent Kittleman. "I keep telling my daughter, it's going to be fine. You can come several years later and say, 'Mom, it's okay. You were right.' "

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, a Republican who lives in the county, was not immediately available for comment.

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