COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A group of anti-Trump Republicans in Ohio, including former officeholders, party officials and military veterans, said Thursday that they’re working to build support for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, claiming the president doesn’t represent their long held GOP values.
Through the nonprofit Operation Grant, the Republicans said they will try to persuade others in the battleground state that it’s okay to cross party lines this November.
“A lot of folks, particularly Republicans, you want to have some stability with policy and with management and what we’ve seen in the last years is constant turnover of appointees and unfilled positions and I’m not sure that’s what we bargained for with this guy,” said Columbus attorney Charles “Rocky” Saxbe, a founding member of the group.
Saxbe, a former Republican state lawmaker, Marine veteran and the son of a former U.S. Attorney General, said he is perhaps most upset by President Donald Trump’s reported remarks calling service members “losers” and “suckers,” statements Trump has denied making.
“The fact that he has said that and is somewhat mystified as to why men and women go into the armed forces or public service, it’s troubling,” he said.
The Ohio Republican Party quickly pushed back against the group’s effort.
“No one cares about these former Republicans,” spokesperson Evan Machan said in a statement. “Ohio stands firmly behind President Trump.”
Trump easily defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in Ohio four years ago, notably carrying traditionally Democratic areas around blue-collar Youngstown and in Appalachia, along with the state’s reliably red rural areas.
Sarah Moser, a farmer and Air Force veteran from rural Van Wert, Ohio, said she voted third party in 2016 because she didn’t support Trump but, as a lifelong Republican, she couldn’t stomach pulling the lever for a Democrat. Since then, she said she’s come around to the idea that it’s the only way to enact change.
“We knew Trump would be bad, but we had no idea he’d be this bad — for farmers, for the working class, for veterans, for Christians,” she said. “He’s divisive and he’s tearing the country apart, and we have to find a way to come back together.” She said she feels Joe Biden is “closer to what I learned a Republican was than Donald Trump is — good, strong, sound family values and he’s just a good person.”
Operation Grant is named for Ohio-born Republican Ulysses S. Grant, a Civil War general whom the group says “rose to the moment” to unite the nation as president after the war. The organization is the Ohio affiliate of The Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump.
Phil Heimlich, a one-time conservative Republican prosecutor, city councilman and county commissioner, said his work with Operation Grant amounts to “putting patriotism above party.” He said he doesn’t consider Trump to be “a real Republican.”
“A real Republican would never refer to our fallen troops as ‘losers’ and ‘suckers,’” he said. “We think Donald Trump is the loser and, if we reelect him, we’re the suckers.”