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In Washington GOP, some Cruz and Kasich fans inclined not to vote for president

Kerry French at American Lake in Lakewood. She's campaigning for Sen. Ted Cruz in Pierce County.
Kerry French co-chaired Ted Cruz's campaign in Pierce County. She says she'll still go to the Republican state convention.

Overnight, Washington Republicans have had to change gears.

Tuesday they were preparing to welcome candidates Ted Cruz and John Kasich at presidential campaign rallies and events in the state. 

Now with those candidates out of the race, they’re deciding whether they want to support Donald Trump, the party's apparent nominee, or anyone at all.

“I suppose the only thing worse than him being nominated would be Donald Trump getting elected,” said Mike McKay. 

So that’s a “no” from the former U.S. attorney in Seattle.

McKay has championed previous Republican nominees in their Washington state efforts, from George W. Bush to John McCain and Mitt Romney.

But he calls Trump a “harmful” candidate, because McKay believes Trump can’t win and because he finds Trump’s statements offensive and lacking in integrity.

"So I think it’ll be harmful to the party brand, and it’s going to take us a good four years to get that repaired for the next presidential election,” McKay said.

But McKay is not about to switch his vote to the Democrats. He says Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy positions are “OK,” but not her domestic policies, and he finds her also lacking in integrity. And he says President Barack Obama has been ineffective as president, and that’s stoked the anger of Trump supporters in the first place.

McKay and many elected officials in Washington had endorsed John Kasich’s candidacy, although Kasich remained far behind Trump and Cruz. 

Saul Gamoran chaired the Washington state campaign for Ted Cruz. He says he was surprised and disappointed at Cruz’s decision Tuesday to bow out. Gamoran called the fact that Kasich has also now dropped out of the race “irrevelant.” 

“He was a dead man walking months ago," Gamoran said.

Gamoran says he was drawn to what he called Ted Cruz’s “reverence for the Constitution.” He says he wouldn’t consider voting for Trump or Clinton, and he doesn’t foresee a third-party candidate. So he’s asking disenchanted Cruz supporters to keep working on the issues that matter to them. It’s just not clear that they’ll vote at the top of the ticket in November.

“Just because the polls didn’t go our way, that doesn’t mean there was something unfair about it," Gamoran said. "These are fair elections and people supported Donald Trump. We need to respect that. But we don’t need to follow along like lemmings, either.”

Cruz’s departure raises a question for the many delegates in Washington state’s Republican caucuses so far who supported him.

Kerry French is the Republican chair of the 2nd Legislative District in Pierce County. She also co-chaired the Cruz campaign there, and his departure comes as a blow. 

“I was very upset, very shocked and very sad,” she said.

She says members of the Cruz campaign in Washington state had a conference call following the news. They’re asking Cruz’s delegates to hang in there.

“We talked about it, and we are still going to carry on and go to the convention and do the best we can," she said. "Of course there are some delegates who don’t want to go now, but we’re trying to encourage them to continue to be involved.”

For one thing, French says, those delegates can focus on the Republican Party platform and oppose any attempts to weaken it. And she says, you just never know.

“Although we’re not delusional, we’re going to try to stick in there until we get to the end and see what happens,” she said.

So French says there could be many bereft Cruz supporters at the state’s Republican convention in Pasco later this month.  

Year started with KUOW: 2005