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Endorsement tracker: Some California Republicans still not ready for Trump

About half of the Republicans in California's U.S. House delegation aren't ready to say Donald Trump is their guy.

The New York businessman has been the presumptive nominee for more than a week, but five of the 14 California GOP lawmakers will not say outright that they are backing Trump.

Several couch their support by saying only that they will be for the "Republican nominee."

Most of California's Republican members of Congress have stayed out of the primary, especially as it seemed more likely that the June 7 contest here would be decisive. A handful endorsed a candidate early, but those endorsements stopped as the crowded field dwindled.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) was one of the first members of Congress to publicly back Trump, telling Politico at the time, "We don't need a policy wonk as president. We need a leader as president."

He was the only congressional supporter from California until after Trump dominated the May 3 Indiana primary, pushing Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich out of the race. 

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) quickly became a frequent Trump surrogate on cable news and on Capitol Hill. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) has indicated he'll endorse Trump if he's the nominee. Hunter, Issa and McCarthy are Trump convention delegates.

Of the state's 41 Democratic lawmakers, all but four have lined up behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Rep. Paul Cook (Yucca Valley)
Rep. Paul Cook (Yucca Valley) (Irfan Khan/ Los Angeles Times)
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.)
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

When I make that endorsement I hope it’s going to be a ticket I can be proud of and one that is winnable.

— Cook

I don’t agree with him on everything, but he's right on immigration and he's right on cronyism in Washington.

— McClintock on Trump

Some Republicans said they would vote for Trump because they can't support a Democrat.

"I don’t agree with him on everything, but he's right on immigration and he's right on cronyism in Washington,” said Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove. "I'd rather have somebody who I’m not entirely sure would do the right thing as opposed to someone like Hillary Clinton, who I'm assured would do the wrong thing."

McClintock was selected as a delegate for Cruz, who will still appear on the California ballot. He is one of several House Republicans picked to be convention delegates.

Hunter, who said he doesn't plan to attend the convention, is a Trump delegate, though he said he didn't want to be.

Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine), who supported former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and then Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, plans to vote for Trump.

“She believes a Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders presidency is unacceptable and would damage our nation for decades to come,” said Walters' campaign spokesman, Dave Gilliard.

Issa gave Trump a full-throated endorsement, calling him the "obvious choice" for Americans hurt by policies pushed by President Obama in the last 7 1/2 years. Issa is also a Trump delegate.

Rep. Paul Cook of Yucca Valley at first said that even though Trump's ascension was a "foregone conclusion," he wanted to see who Trump would pick as his vice presidential running mate before endorsing.

“When I make that endorsement I hope it’s going to be a ticket I can be proud of and one that is winnable,” Cook said.

But on Wednesday he endorsed Trump in a statement with his request that Trump choose someone to balance the ticket.

"He's tapped into the discontent and frustration pent up over the last eight years, and he represents an alternative to the normal political channels that have turned off so many Americans. I will support Donald Trump just as I have supported every Republican presidential nominee," he said.

See the delegation's presidential endorsements >>

Others just aren't there yet

Many of the Republican members were vague, allowing that they would support the GOP nominee without using Trump's name.

The Republican National Convention is July 18-21 in Cleveland, and any chance for a brokered convention faded when Cruz dropped out. 

A vocal supporter of Cruz, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa, said this week through a spokesman that he would support the Republican nominee, but did not mention Trump.

His wife, Rhonda Rohrabacher, is among Cruz's slate of California delegates.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is hoping Trump's rhetoric will hurt GOP candidates down the ballot, and have tried to tie him to vulnerable Republicans.

Rep. Steve Knight, a Lancaster Republican seeking a second term in the 25th Congressional District, distanced himself from Trump during a recent debate in his district.

"We still got a convention," he told The Times in an interview after the debate. "And they are not going to cancel the convention and he still hasn't gotten enough delegates. So until that happens, I think this is a moot point, I think this is something for sensationalism."

Central Valley Reps. Jeff Denham and David Valadao each have shied away from endorsing another candidate after Bush ended his bid.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock)
Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford)
Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) (Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call)

I will be supporting the Republican nominee.

— Denham via Twitter

I’m going to stick with the winner from my party, obviously.

— Valadao

Denham's 10th Congressional District and Valadao's 21st each has a large Latino population. Latino activists in California offended by Trump's comments that Mexican immigrants are murderers, drug dealers and rapists and his stance on immigration have promised large protests when Trump campaigns in the state.

Denham has said that he would support the nominee. Both he and Valadao have said they won't endorse before California's June 7 primary.

Nathan Gonzales, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report newsletter, said it makes sense for candidates worried about angering supporters to distance their election from Trump's.

“Some congressional Republicans are going to have to form coalitions of Trump supporters and people who are offended by Trump,” he said. “The worst-case scenarios happen for Republicans when Republicans don't turn out to vote.”


ENDORSEMENT TRACKER >>

This list was compiled through conversations with the 55 members of California’s congressional delegation and their staffs, news reports and social media statements. It will be updated as members make or change endorsements. Members marked as "none" either have not endorsed a candidate, or it was unclear if they have. Send updates to sarah.wire@latimes.com.

Follow @sarahdwire on Twitter

Read more about the 55 members of California's delegation at latimes.com/politics



UPDATES:

12:53 p.m. May 16: This post was updated to reflect a new endorsement.

The post was originally published at 12:05 a.m. May 13.

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