Strife of the party: Some GOP legislators bypassing RNC, alliance with Trump

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New Jersey Congressman Tom MacArthur  on the left (AP Photo/Mel Evans

New Jersey Congressman Tom MacArthur on the left (AP Photo/Mel Evans

Most Republican members of Congress from Pennsylvania and New Jersey are skipping their party’s convention in Cleveland this week, but they maintain it’s not to avoid being tied to their party’s controversial nominee.

“No, I’m heading to the Middle East,” Pennsylvania’s Pat Meehan said.

“As of right now, it’s not in my schedule,” New Jersey’s Scott Garrett said. “I have various meetings that are scheduled back in the district.”

“No, I’m more of a home guy,” Mike Fitzpatrick, also from Pennsylvania, says. “I prefer to be in Bucks County more than anywhere else.”

Only six of Pennsylvania’s 13 House Republicans have confirmed they’re going, and U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who is running for re-election this year, is also skipping.

In New Jersey only one of six Republican members of Congress will attend.

Pennsylvania’s Charlie Dent said he won’t travel to Cleveland because Trump has yet to win over his support.

“My concerns with the presumptive nominee is that he has made a number of incendiary comments — whether it’s on the disabled, POWs, Mexicans, Muslims, women,” Dent said. “Too few policy specifics and, at times, the few policies that he has presented have often been conflicted or contradictory.”

Dent, whose 15th District spreads for Reading to Harrisburg, said he had hoped to attend — but only as a part of an effort to derail Trump’s nomination.

“Well, I had intended to go to the convention, had it been an open or contested convention,” Dent said. “I was a strong supporter of Gov. John Kasich, and once it became a settled matter, that we have a presumptive nominee, I felt there was no longer any reason for me to attend.”

Other Republicans from the region, including New Jersey’s Leonard Lance, are supporting Trump, but said they have their own re-elections to worry about. And GOP members are coming around to Trump, Lance said.

“I don’t think we’re completely unified yet, but I, but I hope we will be unified,” he said. “I think it’s important to elect a Republican president.”

Get the party started

Then there are those who are eager to attend.

“I’m proud to go and be part of my party, it’s kind of exciting to go,” said Tom MacArthur,  New Jersey’s only Republican congressman going to the convention.

Attending the RNC was a no-brainer, he said.

“I’m a new member of Congress and this is the first presidential convention, since I’ve been here,” MacArthur said, adding that he’s looking forward to spending time with Garden State delegates while also having some fun.

“I want to support the Jersey delegation, you know, we have a lot of people from the state that will be there,” said the legislator representing parts of Burlington and Ocean counties. “I want to get a selfie with LeBron James. Why not? I’ll be in Cleveland, get a picture with the king.”

As for Trump, MacArthur said he’s not worried about sharing the ticket with him this fall.

“Nobody is going to confuse me for anybody else,” he said.

While retiring U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick is skipping the Cleveland festivities to spend time with his family, he said he’s looking forward to showing Democrats around Philadelphia next week.

“I’ve been telling my friends, on the other side of the aisle too, ‘Give me a call’ when they get in town, and I’d like to show them the sights,” said the congressman whose brother is running to take his place. “Not only the city of Philadelphia, but Washington Crossing, Bowman’s Tower, New Hope, Bucks County — we’ve got a lot to see up in Bucks County as well.”

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