IA-02 GOP nominee Christopher Peters joins #NeverTrump camp

Dr. Christopher Peters, the Republican nominee in Iowa’s second Congressional district, announced today that he will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. In a prepared statement, Peters said his “views don’t fully align with either party’s platform” and asserted that neither major-party nominee has exhibited the “character and judgment necessary to be president.” He rejected the “lesser of two evils” approach to voting, which in his view won’t “bring us closer to fixing” a “deeply flawed” political system.

Since launching his campaign in March, Peters has often promised to be an “independent voice” for Iowans, in contrast to five-term Representative Dave Loebsack, who “votes with the Democrats more than 90 percent of the time.” Up to now, he had avoided taking a clear stand on Trump’s candidacy. For example, speaking to Kevin Barry of KGAN-TV in Cedar Rapids in May, Peters said, “The top of the ticket I can’t control, so I’m not going to worry about it. It’s kind of like taking the Serenity Prayer at a certain point. My focus is the second district, specifically Iowa, more broadly the country as a whole. […] I don’t think Mr. Trump cares whether I endorse him or not, because he’s rich, and I’m not that rich. So I think he’ll do just fine. […] I don’t think it affects this race too much, or in any way I can control.”

When Barry pressed Peters on whether he is behind Trump, Peters replied, “He’s got till November to earn my vote. We don’t know who all the candidates are going to be yet, and we don’t know all their policy positions. Again, if I’m an independent voice, and that’s who I am, I’ll vote [for] whoever I want to vote for in November, and I haven’t made that decision yet.”

Peters did not attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, nor has he appeared at any Trump campaign rally in Iowa. He spoke at U.S. Senator Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride fundraiser in late August, but left that event before Trump’s featured speech and photo op with Iowa GOP leaders. A Libertarian candidate for Iowa Senate in 2010, Peters went to Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson’s rally in Des Moines over Labor Day weekend but didn’t endorse Johnson then or now.

In today’s statement, Peters said “Trump’s behavior and temperament are only a part of the problem. He has repeatedly demonstrated a poor grasp of constitutionalism, civil rights, the rule of law, the role of diplomacy versus military interventionism, and even fundamental economics. I should have spoken out against him much earlier, and regret that I failed to do so.” Scroll down to read the full commentary.

Peters and Loebsack are will attend their first candidate forum today at the Coralville Public Library, beginning at 2 pm. IA-02 leans Democratic, with a partisan voting index of D+4. The latest figures from the Secretary of State’s office indicate that the district’s 24 counties contain 171,027 active registered Democrats, 146,108 Republicans, and 172,729 no-party voters.

Although dozens of GOP members of Congress have joined the #NeverTrump ranks, Peters is the only federal candidate in Iowa willing to repudiate the party’s nominee. To my knowledge, only two other Iowa Republicans on the ballot this year have said publicly they will not vote for Trump: Hardin County Auditor Jessica Lara and State Representative Ken Rizer. State Senator Jack Whitver, who is up for re-election in 2018, has called on Trump to step aside without saying whether he would vote for Trump, assuming he remains the nominee. State Senator David Johnson, whose term also runs through 2018, left the Republican Party in June to express his opposition to Trump.

Final note: While numerous Republicans cited their concern for daughters or granddaughters when denouncing the explosive Trump videotape from 2005, I applaud Peters for condemning Trump’s “character deficiencies” as a father of three teenage sons: “if I ever learned that any of them grew up to be men who conduct themselves like Trump, I would be deeply disappointed.”

Statement from Dr. Christopher Peters, October 10:

One of my goals when I decided to run for Congress this year was to elevate our political discourse. Throughout the campaign, I’ve rejected partisan talking points in favor of nuanced and realistic discussions about the issues that matter here in Iowa’s 2nd District.

My campaign team and I have tried to avoid discussing the presidential election. Some Democrats accused me of endorsing Trump because I wouldn’t disavow him, while some Republicans accused me of disavowing Trump because I wouldn’t endorse him. As an independent-minded Republican in a Democrat-leaning district, I hoped to make the point that presidential politics shouldn’t dominate our political conversations to the extent that it has.

A large number of former and current Republican politicians have now repudiated Trump. All of them have far more political clout than I do, and to be honest, I don’t think people should care so much about what I think. But I cannot avoid the issue any longer.

Donald Trump’s remarks about women that surfaced last week – along with his well-documented pattern of disparaging remarks about women, minorities, and other groups – demonstrate disturbing character deficiencies. My wife and I have three teenage sons, and if I ever learned that any of them grew up to be men who conduct themselves like Trump, I would be deeply disappointed. I must trust that Julie and I have raised them better than that.

Trump’s behavior and temperament are only a part of the problem. He has repeatedly demonstrated a poor grasp of constitutionalism, civil rights, the rule of law, the role of diplomacy versus military interventionism, and even fundamental economics. I should have spoken out against him much earlier, and regret that I failed to do so.

At the same time, I continue to believe that Hillary Clinton is a similarly flawed candidate. Like many Americans, I believe she is insincere, manipulative, and untrustworthy. Over her career, Clinton has consistently supported economic policies that favor the wealthy at the expense of ordinary Americans, and she’s been a proponent of every American military intervention in recent history. The company she keeps, by itself, should give us all great concern – she is closely tied to the monied interests which contributed to our financial crisis, as well as world leaders whose records on human rights are questionable at best.

Neither Trump nor Hillary Clinton have exhibited the character and judgment necessary to be president, and I cannot vote for either of them.

These are two of the most unpopular political figures of our time, but this isn’t just about them. Any system that would select these two candidates as the choices for president is deeply flawed and is in need of fundamental reform.

I have been warmly welcomed by most Iowa Republicans since I decided earlier this year to run for Congress on the GOP ticket and I remain ready to work with them, both during this campaign and throughout my time in Congress. I grew up in a Republican household, I’ve supported many Republican candidates over my lifetime, and my staff is made up of young Republicans.

But like most Americans and most Iowans, my views don’t fully align with either party’s platform.

When I get to Congress, I’ll get to work on a set of reforms that address the structural defects that have made our political process so toxic. They include lowering barriers for third-party candidates, restricting the influence of money in politics, and exploring major changes to our voting system. More details about those plans are available at my website, DrPetersForIowa.com/.

I won’t begrudge or shame anyone for whom they chose to vote for. But to those supporting a candidate they see as the “lesser of two evils,” I ask this – how many more elections will we have to vote this way? Does voting this way bring us closer to fixing our political system, or push us further away? And most importantly, what will you do in the next four years to help?

The presidential campaign has become a colossal distraction from the many other races happening around our state and the problems our nation must address. My team and I plan to resume focusing on the issues important to Iowans. Regardless of who wins the presidential election, we will need strong and principled legislators to stand up to whatever nonsense might emanate from the White House in the next four years.

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