Suburban Republicans in Congress weigh words on Trump carefully

 
 
Updated 10/12/2016 6:31 PM
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  • Peter Roskam

    Peter Roskam

  • Bob Dold

    Bob Dold

  • Randy Hultgren

    Randy Hultgren

  • Sen. Mark Kirk meets with the Daily Herald Editorial Board.

      Sen. Mark Kirk meets with the Daily Herald Editorial Board. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Several suburban Republicans in Congress would not say Monday whether they are following House Speaker Paul Ryan in his decision not to defend or campaign for their party's nominee for president.

Some others who'd previously criticized Trump began further distancing themselves after a video surfaced last week of a 2005 conversation in which Donald Trump talked about trying to have sex with a married woman and being able to grope women.

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton, previously the No. 4 member of the House who's worked closely with Ryan, called Trump's comments and the attitude that they reflect "disgusting and corrosive. They fly in the face of every lesson (my wife) Elizabeth and I taught our daughters and sons about how men and women should interact."

Asked whether Roskam still intended to vote for Trump, Roskam spokesman Davis Pasch would not comment.

Roskam, in his statement, said of Trump: "He says he has changed and this is not who he is today. Political figures in the past have claimed to change, and some of them have been sincere. Donald Trump is the only person who can prove he means what he says now, and he's got work to do."

Roskam and U.S. Reps. Bob Dold of Kenilworth and Randy Hultgren of Plano would not tell the Daily Herald whether they were on the line during the conference call between Ryan and the House Republican Conference on Monday.

Dold is refusing to support Trump, while Roskam and Hultgren were among the small number of high-ranking members of the Illinois delegation who attended the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer to see Trump confirmed as the party's candidate.

Hultgren has made no comment about the Trump video or about Ryan's statements. He did not return several requests for comment from the Daily Herald on Monday.

Hultgren said in May he was "not sold" on Trump. In July, he described himself as "encouraged" with a meeting between Trump, Ryan and other House GOP members.

"Let me be clear: I will support the Republican nominee. I stand strong in my belief that Hillary Clinton is the wrong choice for president," Hultgren said at that time.

During a recent meeting with the Daily Herald editorial board, Roskam called the election a "binary choice."

He said he views Donald Trump as a "wild card" who he was "choosing to vote for ... over the unworthy candidate."

At the same time, he said, Trump has made statements during the campaign that Roskam doesn't agree with.

"I recognize the wild in wild card," he said.

Dold in late 2015 was one of the first officials in the area to publicly disavow Trump for controversial statements the nominee made about Sen. John McCain's military service.

Dold did not elaborate on Monday, saying only that if elected he would "serve as a voice for the entire district, not just one political party, and be a responsible check and balance on whomever our next president is."

Republican candidate Tonia Khouri of Aurora, who is making a bid against Democrat Bill Foster in the 11th Congressional District, said she was "personally offended" by Trump's comments and that "locker room banter is something I, and many other hardworking women, have been subjected to throughout our lives. It is unacceptable and demeaning." Khouri told the Sun-Times editorial board during a recent session that she planned to vote for Trump.

By contrast, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who's in a heated re-election bid against Hoffman Estates Democrat Tammy Duckworth, said via Twitter on Friday that Trump "is a malignant clown -- unprepared and unfit to be president of the United States."

He later tweeted: ".@realDonaldTrump should drop out. @GOP should engage rules for emergency replacement."

Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has largely avoided any discussion of the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump.

That changed Monday, when Rauner directed harsh criticism at Trump for the vulgar remarks, although he didn't mention Trump's name.

Speaking after participating in Chicago's Columbus Day parade, Rauner said the rhetoric, the language, the statements in the video was, "disgusting, appalling, outrageous, beyond any reasonable bounds of decency." He reiterated his refusal to back Trump.

According to a video obtained by The Washington Post Friday, Trump made the vulgar remarks during a conversation caught on a hot microphone with "Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush.

Trump later apologized during a 90-second video posted to his Facebook page. "I said it, I was wrong, and I regret it," he said.

• Daily Herald staff writers Russell Lissau and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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