With just weeks to go before the presidential election, most Carroll County elected officials, all Republicans, indicate they will cast their vote along party lines for GOP nominee Donald Trump, though few say they are completely satisfied with their options.
"It's kind of a shame that out of 320 million people in this country, these are the two best that we can come up with," said Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5. "I'm going to hold my nose and vote for Trump. Not happily."
Others said they cannot commit to a candidate.
"I'm undecided," said Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1.
Wantz, who favored Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the Republican primary, said he has never not voted in an election. The notion of voting for one candidate to spite another, he said, is not something he's ever found himself considering before. But this presidential election, he said, has left him disheartened.
"It's ridiculous," he said. "I have never been undecided this close to an election. Never."
Wantz said he has not ruled out any of the candidates yet. Trump, the Republican nominee, trails Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the national polls. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are seeing limited supported nationwide.
"I'm looking at every option," Wantz said.
Commissioner Doug Howard said he did not wish to disclose whom he might vote for.
"I think I'm going to leave this one up to the citizens to decide by themselves," he said. "I think no matter how we vote, people are going to have to put a lot of what this campaign is about aside and look at what direction the country is going in."
Many lamented that they felt their best option available is to vote for Trump.
Shoemaker said he plans, for now, to vote for Trump, unless more unappealing information about the Republican nominee comes to light.
While he supports some Trump policy proposals — like lowering tax rates on businesses — recent events have tested his commitment to the party's nominee, he said.
"The stuff that's come out that he said, it's indefensible," Shoemaker said.
But Trump's wrongs, to him, do not compare to Clinton's.
"No matter what stupid stuff he says, it's nothing worse than the stuff she's done," he said, adding that he hopes Trump can make an effort in the coming weeks to appear more polished and humble and make an effective appeal to women.
"I'm not lockstep with all of his policy pronouncements," Shoemaker said, but he does support proposals that address tax policy, in particular lowering the tax rate on businesses.
Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said he is disappointed with all of his options but will probably vote for Trump.
"There's really no good person to vote for," he said. "I wish the Libertarian candidate [Johnson] was stronger."
Frazier said he doesn't believe all of the narrative he has heard about the Trump campaign wavering. But he also doesn't blame Republicans who have decided not to support the candidate, such as Gov. Larry Hogan.
"They all have to run for office," he said. "There's nothing wrong with that."
"I don't love the choices, but I'm going to vote," he added. He said he would ask those who refuse to support Trump, "Are you going to vote for Hillary?"
But some in county politics predict that a lack of support for Trump will hurt Republicans both nationally and in Maryland.
Tim Craig, Carroll County chair of the Trump campaign, said support for the candidate is strong in Carroll.
"We have only gotten that feeling [of waning support] from the establishment and our local officials," Craig said.
People like Hogan and other officials who don't endorse Trump, Craig said, will see the effect of their actions in the future.
"Everywhere I go, it's not that Carroll County necessarily wants to see Hogan defeated in 2018, but they'd like to see him [challenged] in the primary," Craig said.
In future elections, Craig said he and other Trump supporters "will do everything in our power to beat Republicans who have not endorsed" or supported efforts to elect Trump. That includes those who won't vocalize their support to help Trump and those who indicate that he is not an ideal choice for president.
Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5, and Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, questioned whether some of the people making statements about whom they will or will not vote for are telling the whole truth.
"I really think that there are a lot of people out there who don't want to say who they're voting for," Krebs said.
"People are going to vote for [Trump] but don't want to admit it," Rothschild echoed.
Krebs, who initially supported Rubio and Ben Carson in the Republican primary, said she will vote for Trump.
"I liked a lot of the candidates, but this is who is left," Krebs said. "I have two choices right now: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump."
Krebs said her decision to cast her vote for Trump, whom she said is not without flaws, comes down to policy.
The U.S. Supreme Court, Krebs said, is a major factor. She said she is confident Trump will select good justices. She also wants a president who will bring more jobs to the country, and address health care and government spending, she said.
Rothschild said he also looked at other factors in determining to vote for Trump.
"My decision will not be based on the individual," Rothschild said. "My decision will be based on the team."
While Rothschild said both Clinton and Trump are "imperfect" candidates, he prefers Trump running mate Gov. Mike Pence and ally Carson to what he called Clinton's "cadre of Constitution-haters."
Del. April Rose, R-District 5, who initially liked former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said she is also weighing potential cabinet picks in her decision to vote for Trump.
"To me, the election is about more than just the presidency," she said, noting that she prefers Trump to Clinton on matters of security. "Based on the cards that we were dealt, that's the decision I've made."
On Clinton, Rose said, "I cannot trust her. I don't trust her."
Rose said she agrees with Trump on taxes, regulations and the Second Amendment. She also said the country shouldn't take more Syrian refugees while there are homeless veterans on streets and in shelters.
For state Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5, the decision to support Trump is tied to his opposition to Clinton.
"The issues most important to me in this election are the Supreme Court, protecting our country, dealing with the disaster that is Obamacare and protecting constitutional rights," Ready said.
"Between the two candidates, Trump's positions on those issues are closest to what I believe. Under no circumstances can I support Hillary Clinton," he said, adding that he believes Clinton's record shows a lack of ethics and disregard for the country's security.
Many said there is more they would like to see from the candidates before Election Day, Nov. 8.
"I'd like to see someone who is really putting the country first and not distracted by all this other noise," Rose said.
Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, could not be reached for comment.
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