Republican U.S. Senate candidate Chris Vance, a former Washington state GOP chairman, says he won’t vote for the party’s presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump this fall.

Share story

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Chris Vance joined the ranks of the #NeverTrump crowd Thursday, declaring he will not vote for his party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

At a Seattle news conference, Vance, who is challenging four-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, blasted Trump’s views on trade, economics and foreign policy as “naive,” “wrongheaded” and “insane.”

As a former state GOP chairman, Vance said he takes “no joy” in refusing to support his party’s presidential candidate, “but I must place conscience and principle ahead of party.”

Vance said he’ll vote for Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the state’s May 24 presidential primary. In November, he intends to vote for a third-party candidate “if a responsible conservative alternative emerges” — or simply not vote for president.

While acknowledging Trump’s possible drag on down-ballot candidates, Vance argued that Democrats have a similar problem, pointing to Hillary Clinton’s poor favorability ratings.

“This is an amazing moment in American history. The two major parties are about to nominate maybe the two most unpopular people in America,” Vance said.

He contrasted his own decision to break with his party’s nominee with Murray, who has endorsed Clinton and, like other Democratic superdelegates, is taking heat from supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Vance noted he has spoken out against Trump’s controversial statements on Muslims and immigrants living in the country illegally. But he said a particular “tipping point” is Trump’s opposition to free-trade deals, which he said would be disastrous for trade-dependent Washington state.

The state Democratic Party called Vance’s statements unconvincing, predicting he’d fall in line behind Trump and GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Vance is a loyal Republican party insider who, if elected, will fight for the Trump-McConnell agenda that will deeply harm America’s middle-class families,” Democratic Party spokesman Jamal Raad said in a statement.

Vance is not alone in his discomfort with the top of his party’s ticket. Trump’s emergence as the Republican nominee has divided the GOP in Washington as it has nationally.

State GOP Chairwoman Susan Hutchison and other party leaders have called for unity, but some prominent Republicans have said they cannot support Trump.

Others, such as GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant, have declined to say whether they’ll vote for Trump this fall.

Vance declined to criticize fellow GOP candidates for declining to take an anti-Trump stand.

“Everyone has to make their own decision. There is no playbook for this,” he said.