In a sudden about-face, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bud Pierce says he is dropping his support for presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Pierce had repeatedly said since May that Trump is a better choice than Democrat Hillary Clinton.
But the Salem cancer doctor and first-time candidate said Tuesday it’s now clear to him that Trump isn't unifying Republicans. Pierce also criticized Trump for driving away Hispanic voters.
“Too many times he’s more apt to talk about a group of people and pretty much imply in his statements that this group as a whole is this way," he said in an interview with OPB, "and I think that is something you should really stay away from.”
Pierce said he is actively trying to woo Hispanic voters, many of whom he said are predisposed to support conservatives. But Trump is unable to make them feel welcome, he said.
Trump has repeatedly said he'll reduce illegal immigration from Mexico and deport many of those immigrants now living in the U.S. And he's claimed many of them are dangerous criminals.
Pierce first indicated support for Trump while running in a contested GOP gubernatorial primary. Abandoning Trump then could have upset many Republican voters. But Pierce said he's not dropping his endorsement of Trump because he's trying to woo a broader base of voters.
Polls show Clinton running ahead of Trump in Oregon, and Democrats have repeatedly sought to tie Pierce to Trump.
In an interview with OPB last month, Democratic Gov. Kate Brown noted Pierce's support for Trump.
"I don't think that (Trump's) vision is one that the majority of Oregonians hold," Brown said.
Brown spokesman Chris Pair said in a statement Tuesday the governor recently urged Pierce to disavow Trump and is pleased that he answered her call to "do the right thing."
Trump's campaign director in Oregon, Jacob Daniels, put out his own statement saying that "we intend to win Oregon and the Presidency, with or without the approval of the Oregon Republican Candidate for Governor."
At this point, Pierce said he doesn’t intend to vote for any of the presidential candidates. In a later statement released by his campaign, he was quoted as saying:
"I will not be voting for Hillary Clinton or any third party candidates. Like many Americans, I will continue to watch how Trump conducts himself and his campaign between now and election day."