Branagan calls on Vermont GOP to denounce Trump

MONTPELIER — Georgia Rep. Carolyn Branagan is calling on leaders of the Vermont Republican Party to condemn recent comments by presidential candidate Donald Trump in which he called for banning all Muslims from traveling to the U.S.

Branagan, in an email Monday to Vermont Republican Party Chairman David Sunderland and Executive Director Jeffrey Bartley, asked for the party to “point out that his comment is against everything America stands for” and that “he is damaging to all Republicans.”

Rep. Carolyn Branagan

Rep. Carolyn Branagan

Trump, the real estate mogul and the frontrunner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, called Monday for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Trump has previously advocated for surveillance of mosques in the U.S. and perhaps creating a database of Muslims in the country.

“What trump was talking about is not the terrorists or people who mean us ill will. He’s talking about banning an entire group of people based on only their religion,” Branagan told the Vermont Press Bureau Tuesday. “It is not Republican, it is not American, it is not anything except Trump.”

“I really think it’s time to stand up and say that he’s going over the edge. He doesn’t speak for me,” she added.

Sunderland on Tuesday resisted pressure to condemn Trump. He issued a press release Tuesday afternoon accusing Democrats of trying “to distract from their failures” on issues crucial to the economy. He did not note the widespread condemnation expressed by Republicans across the country.

“The upcoming presidential campaign is also crucial for the future of our country. The very direction and character of our nation is at stake,” Sunderland wrote. “We trust the primary process and Vermont Republican voters to select a presidential nominee who supports our Constitution, America’s sacred freedoms, Vermont values and who leads with both character and integrity.”

In a telephone interview, Sunderland told the Vermont Press Bureau that he personally disagreed with Trump’s position.

“I think comments about prohibiting people from coming to the United States and seeking citizenship in the United States is offensive,” he said. “I personally found Mr. Trump’s comments offensive and not in the best tradition of our founding fathers and on the principals that our country was built upon. However, I trust that in the primary process and that Vermont Republicans will cast their votes on their views.”

Sunderland said there would be no official position coming from the Vermont Republican Party directly commenting on Trump.

David Sunderland (VPR photo)

David Sunderland (VPR photo)

Branagan said she remains hopeful that more members of the Vermont Republican Party, and its leaders, will denounce Trump’s position.

“We’ll see who else comes forward. I hope that these leaders of the Republican Party will make a statement as I’ve asked them. If they don’t, if they decide for some reason they don’t want to, I’m going to continue standing up,” she said. “We need to stand side-by-side and say, as Republicans, ‘Look, this is wrong and he’s not speaking for us.’”

Branagan said her husband’s family emigrated from Ireland and experienced xenophobia. Some of them, she said, remember signs reading “No Irish Need Apply” when seeking work. Such discrimination, whether aimed at religion, race or nationality, should not be tolerated, she said.

“That can’t happen in America. That’s not what we’re standing for. It’s not religion that we’re fighting against here,” Branagan said. “You can’t just say all Muslims are doing wrong. By doing wrong I mean harming people.”

Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s 2012 nominee for president, took to Twitter to speak out against Trump’s policy proposal.

“On Muslims, @realDonaldTrump fired before aiming,” he tweeted.

Other Republicans, including Vice President Dick Cheney, House Speaker Paul Ryan and National Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus condemned Trump’s remarks.

“We need to aggressively take on radical Islamic terrorism but not at the expense of our American values,” Priebus told the Washington Examiner.

“This is not conservatism. What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for and more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for,” Ryan said.

Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, who is attending a U.N. summit on climate change in Paris, released a statement through his office denouncing Trump and his policy proposal.

“Donald Trump’s words are hateful, dangerous and wrong. Regardless of political party, leaders should stand up and condemn his message of hatred and bigotry. If we are to ban anything, it should be more words coming from the Donald’s mouth,” Shumlin said.

Bargain said there are likely plenty of Vermont Republicans who are disturbed by Trump’s proposal.

“I’ve had it. I need to stand up and say, ‘No, this can’t happen in America,’” she said. “What Trump has said appalls me and I don’t think I’m the only one.”

neal.goswami@timesargus.com

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