Republican Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia has endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson for president, deeming GOP nominee Donald Trump to be unacceptable. The congressman has had to resign from his local Republican chapter because of his decision.
On August 6, Rigell told The New York Times that he would be endorsing Johnson as a third-party alternative to Trump. The Virginia congressman has previously stated that he could not support the GOP nominee because of his controversial rhetoric.
“I’ve always said I will not vote for Donald Trump and I will not vote for Hillary Clinton,” Rigell said. “I’m going to vote for the Libertarian candidate.”
Rigell added that if the GOP permanently became the party of Trump, “Then I’m done and I’ll be an Independent.”
The Virginia congressman had previously blasted Trump for his criticism of the Gold Star parents of slain U.S. Capt. Humayun Khan. Rigell represents the Second Virginia District, which encompasses Virginia Beach, host to a high concentration of U.S. Navy personnel and veterans.
After Trump fired back at the Khan family that he had made sacrifices in his business life, Rigell took to Facebook to scold the GOP nominee.
“Deep shame on any man who would compare ‘sacrifice’ in creating jobs with the profound, unending sacrifice of a Gold Star family,” Rigell wrote, according to WAVY. “One so deficient in [judgment], so incapable of speaking sentences that reflect sound [judgment], and so distanced from a true understanding of sacrifice would be unworthy of the title ‘Mr. President.’ He wouldn’t even be worthy of the common title ‘Mr.’”
The Republican Party of Virginia Beach forbids any local GOP lawmaker from endorsing any candidate other than the standard bearer of their party. On August 8, Rigell announced that he had resigned from his local chapter because he was already facing expulsion.
“My conscious directed me to a different candidate after a long and deliberative process, and this is a consequence of that decision,” Rigell told WAVY.
That same night, 80 members of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach convened to discuss Rigell’s ouster. Member Toni Hendrick blasted the congressman for taking the local chapter funding and resources for his elections only to turn his back on the party’s nominee, The Virginian-Pilot reports.
“He has shown incredible disrespect to the party and to the people who put him in office,” Hendrick said.
Fellow member Paulette Diaz Reed defended the congressman, stating “That man has served this party well. How dare anyone state otherwise. Let’s give him the grace he deserves.”
Rigell is retiring after his second term expires, freeing him up from having to support the GOP nominee for his reelection.
On August 9, Rigell sat down with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” panel to discuss his decision to support Johnson instead of Trump.
“I do so because the nominee for our party, the Republican nominee, I am just convinced is so lacking in judgment and temperament and in character that I think he really represents a true risk to our country,” Rigell said. “And I cannot, in good conscience, support him.”
The Virginia congressman added that he would not support Clinton either, encouraging GOP voters to give Johnson a close look.
“There is pent-up demand for a third alternative, and there is one,” Rigell concluded. “The more you know about Governor Johnson -- he’s the real deal.”