Former Republican State Representative Ken Rizer announced yesterday that he was quitting the GOP over President Donald Trump’s “erratic and misguided leadership.” Less than 24 hours later, the post had vanished from Rizer’s Facebook feed.
William Petroski reported for the Des Moines Register on Rizer’s comments, posted soon after Trump’s astonishing press conference with the Russian president in Helsinki. The Air Force veteran praised H.R. McMaster’s book Dereliction of Duty, “which outlined how the Joint Chiefs failed to step up and oppose President Johnson’s disastrous Vietnam War policy. Military officers read and studied this book, presumably so that we wouldn’t repeat similar mistakes.” Rizer continued,
We’re at another such moment in our foreign affairs where people of character in this administration need to speak up or resign. As for me, I can no longer call myself a Republican given the erratic and misguided leadership of the president. I will always be a Reagan conservative, but find no place for such views in Trump’s World. Until the Republican Party recovers its values, my party affiliation will be “No Party.”
Not surprisingly, Rizer’s declaration generated some heated arguments and insults. I should have taken a screen shot yesterday, because when I checked this morning, the Facebook post was gone. Rizer has not responded to repeated inquiries: does he stand by his comments about Trump, or is he reconsidering his decision to change his party registration? Did he delete the post under pressure from fellow Iowa Republicans, or because the thread became contentious? Editor’s note: see update below.
Rizer caused a stir in October 2016 when he posted on Facebook the day after the Access Hollywood video became public that he would not vote for Trump. He was the only Iowa Republican lawmaker to take that stance. (State Senator David Johnson left the GOP the day he came out as #NeverTrump and did not look back.) Rizer later deleted that post, and it’s not clear whether he followed through on withholding his vote from his party’s presidential nominee.
First elected in 2014 to represent House district 68 in the suburbs of Cedar Rapids, Rizer announced in January that he would not seek a third term in the legislature. He resigned his seat shortly after state lawmakers adjourned for the year in May. Democratic nominee Molly Donahue will face Republican Randy Ray in a race certain to be targeted by both parties.
UPDATE: According to the Marshall County Auditor’s office, Rizer is registered as a no-party voter. (Though he represented a Linn County district, he now officially resides in Marshalltown.) The elections official declined to specify whether the switch happened yesterday, following Trump’s disgraceful behavior in Helsinki, or sometime before that. I’m seeking comment from Rizer and will update as needed.
SECOND UPDATE: While the Helsinki summit triggered Rizer’s public statement about his political affiliation, he left the Republican Party weeks earlier. Staff at the Marshall County Auditor’s office have confirmed that Rizer registered to vote in his new county on May 31 (six days after he resigned his Iowa House seat) and modified the registration to “no party” on June 18.
THIRD UPDATE: Rizer responded via Facebook message on July 17,
I changed my registration to Independent purely based on Trump and national politics. I support the Iowa Republican Party, I am proud of what we did in my time in the Legislature, and I will vote to support Republicans in the fall. I had no intention of making my decision public, but then the Putin thing happened.
I deleted the Facebook & Twitter comment because some took my decision as a criticism of Iowa politics, when it in fact is a critique of national leadership. I’m finding other means to express my opinions, which tend to be more nationally-focused as my expertise is in national security and leadership.