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GOP lawmakers in Southwest Colorado split over Trump

State Reps. Coram, Brown back billionaire; state Sen. Roberts yet to back presumptive nominee

DENVER – Two of Southwest Colorado’s three lawmakers say they will support Donald Trump after news Tuesday that he is the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee.

Reps. Don Coram of Montrose and J. Paul Brown of Ignacio say they are on “team Trump.”

But Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango says she is having trouble mustering the energy to support a candidate who she has largely disagreed with.

“I’m not a Trump supporter,” Roberts said. “I don’t know (what I’m going to do). I would not have guessed with the large number of candidates at the start of this that this would be where we are.”

Roberts hoped John Kasich would have won the party’s nod. The Ohio governor dropped out of the race Wednesday evening after finishing a distant third in Indiana.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announced Tuesday he was suspending his campaign after losing to Trump, who was declared the presumptive nominee by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus shortly after Cruz exited the race.

“I don’t see him (Kasich) and Trump linking arms at this stage,” Roberts continued.

Brown, however, says it is time for the party to unite around Trump.

He supported Cruz during the state assembly and convention, when Cruz swept to victory, earning all 34 delegates, plus another three unbound who were expected to support him.

“Let’s unify our party and support Trump,” Brown said. “I just hope and pray that we’ll get behind him, and right or wrong, I just feel like we can’t afford to have another eight years of Obama, and I think that’s what we’re going to get with Hillary Clinton.”

Coram joked that he was “basically ABC, anybody but Cruz,” adding that he was not surprised to see Trump become the presumptive nominee.

“The thing that Donald Trump has done is that he has brought a lot of people into the process who have never participated, and as someone who has been in politics for a long time, I know the easiest way to herd cats is to find the right mouse for the chase.”

Acknowledging that Trump was not his first choice, and that the candidate often says “stupid” things, Coram said the larger issue is that Trump has tapped into frustration in the blue-collar world, reaching people who are tired of the status quo.

“I truly believe it is the implosion of business as usual,” Coram said. “But I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, agreed that Trump successfully tapped into unrest.

“That frustration is going to push a lot of people to consider someone like Donald Trump, and I take that very seriously,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s a very, very bad situation for the country. Some of his positions that he has staked out would be difficult for our economy on a nationwide basis to absorb.”

Hickenlooper said he will try to convince Bernie Sanders’ supporters this summer to back Clinton, assuming she walks away with the Democratic endorsement following what has been a bitter and divisive primary season.

In some instances, Hickenlooper will walk into unfriendly territory, considering the governor is using his superdelegate influence to back Clinton, despite Sanders securing a large win in Colorado at the March 1 caucus.

“I haven’t had a chance to really sit down and listen to some of the serious Bernie supporters,” Hickenlooper said. “One of my goals is to get out there and really sit down with the Bernie supporters and listen.”

pmarcus@durangoherld.com

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