College Republicans endorse Donald Trump in near-tie

Members vote 67-63 to back GOP nominee

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After Trump's most recent comments, the College Republicans are considering whether to revoke their endorsement of Trump.

The College Republicans voted to endorse GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump in a 67-63 vote at its meeting Wednesday night. The vote included absentee ballots.

During the meeting, University College Republicans Chair Joanna Ro, a fourth-year College student, reminded members the organization’s bylaws state they may only endorse Republican candidates. Therefore, she said endorsing any other candidate, including Libertarian Gary Johnson — whom many individual members of the College Republicans support — was not an option for the group’s endorsement.

When the College Republicans at Cornell University endorsed Gary Johnson, the national federation revoked their chapter.

Following this announcement, members of the organization debated what their organizational stance should be and ultimately decided to endorse Trump.

This decision follows statements from members of the College Republican executive board in recent weeks, which had noted that members of the organization were split over whether to endorse the Republican nominee.

Each speaker was given two minutes to make a case for or against the group endorsing Trump.

Several speakers who spoke in favor of Trump emphasized him as the lesser of two evils.

One such speaker was Mary Talkington, a first-year College student.

“I don’t think anyone likes Trump, but we don’t have an alternative,” Talkington said. “If we don’t vote for Trump and support him, Hillary Clinton is going to be the next president of the United States and I don’t think anyone wants that.”

Talkington then rhetorically asked the group if they would feel safe from ISIS and other terrorist groups with Clinton as president, to which the overwhelming majority of students in the room answered out loud, “no.”

However, other students in room, including second-year Curry student Peyton Lester, advocated for Trump on principle.

“Hillary Clinton has screwed up, and done some crazy things, but the [University Democrats] are still going to endorse her,” Lester said. “Donald Trump has done some crazy things, but we should still endorse him. I believe 80 percent of our views probably align with him.”

While several speakers claimed that the College Republicans had no obligation to endorse Trump because they do not view him as a true conservative, others felt that being the official Republican nominee was reason enough. University Students for Trump Ambassador Sabrina Kim, a second year College student, was among the latter.

“We owe, as our duty as the College Republicans, to endorse the Republican candidate,” Kim said. “I think it says a lot if we choose not to do so.”

Joe Reigner, a first year College student, also highlighted the College Republican’s public image and ability to sway the opinions of others.

“I think there’s a lot of people, Republicans, who are on the verge, who haven’t decided yet like a lot of us and by seeing this group, the College Republicans … decide together to back Donald Trump could be the push for them in the end to support our party in the election,” Reigner said.

Students who did not want the organization to endorse Trump were concerned with the legitimacy and legacy of the College Republicans.

First-year College student John Garza and third-year Engineering student Cameron Springer made points to this effect.

“If we sacrifice all of our credibility by endorsing Donald Trump, what’s going to happen in four years?” Garza said. “We will be the laughingstock of U.Va.”

Like Garza, Springer highlighted future elections, and said the College Republicans would need to make decisions well beyond the 2016 election. Springer cited polls showing Trump’s comparative lack of support amongst millennials, and said there were countless University students who stand in strong opposition to Trump and his candidacy.

“You could chase away new members and people who may otherwise agree with our ideology,” Springer said. “No one really cares that much about what the College Republicans think of Trump. What they do care about is that there is a candidate almost unanimously hated by a generation, and an organization representing this generation ignored the thoughts of many people our age and on Grounds.”

Members of the executive board also offered their opinions during the debate, although they emphasized the personal nature of their opinions and said they would honor the decision either way.

Vice Chair for Campaigns Adam Kimelman, a second-year College student, said while being the lesser the two evils was a valid reason to vote for Trump, it was not a reason for the organization to endorse him.

“The main case anyone here could make for Trump is that he’s not Hillary Clinton … but as an organization, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard than that,” Kimelman said. “If just being better than Hillary Clinton is the standard, we could endorse the entire Democratic Party.”

Alie Hiestand, vice chair of events and third-year College student, brought up the late Captain Humayun Khan, a former University student, and how Trump made unfavorable comments about his parents.

“If we endorse Trump, we are saying we value the name of the Republican party over someone who very well could have been one of our friends,” Hiestand said.

Ro did not take a stance during the meeting, but emphasized that not endorsing Trump did not mean the organization was explicitly anti-Trump.

“Not endorsing him isn’t saying we don’t support him,” Ro said.

Following the decision, Ro emailed the results to the College Republicans.

“As indicated by the numbers, this was a very split, close decision,” the email read. “Therefore, although our official stance will be to endorse Mr. Trump, we do not expect all of our members to publicly support him. Those who would like to show their support will be provided with the resources to do so, but as a group, we will likely be focusing more on congressional and senatorial elections in an effort to preserve Republican majorities in the legislative branch.”

University Democrats President Sam Tobin, a fourth-year College student, commented on the endorsement in an email to The Cavalier Daily.

“The College Republicans are probably going to try to frame endorsing Trump as picking the lesser of two evils,” Tobin said. “While our organization is incredibly proud of our nominee and thinks she will make a fantastic president, I can understand why a group of Republicans may not agree.”

Tobin said the College Republicans did not take into account the damaging effects he believes a Trump presidency could have.

“What I cannot understand though is how anyone, regardless of party, can say with a straight face that they believe Donald Trump will not severely damage America's international standing, rule of law or security,” Tobin said. “The College Republicans had a chance today to make a statement by standing up to bigotry, hatred and incompetence. They failed spectacularly, and history will judge them accordingly.”

The issue of whether individual College Republican chapters will choose to endorse Trump has been a contentious debate across the country for the past several months.

The College Republicans at Harvard College and American University, for example, released statements this summer refusing to endorse Trump.

The University College Republicans join the ranks of College Republican chapters at Yale University, Liberty University, Citadel College and the University of Alabama, among others, in endorsing Trump.

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