Just before the GOP National Convention launched Monday, a high-profile Republican Latter-day Saint — former Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona — endorsed Joe Biden and headlined a new group called Republicans for Biden, which includes 27 former GOP members of Congress.
“Because I am gravely concerned about the conduct and behavior of our current president,” Flake said in a video, “I stand here today proudly and wholeheartedly to endorse Joe Biden.”
Noting that he voted for an independent instead of Donald Trump four years ago, Flake said, “Given what we have experienced over the past four years, it’s not enough just to register our disapproval of the president, we need to elect someone else in his place — someone who will stop the chaos and reverse the damage.”
The announcement came just two weeks after the launch of a very different group — Latter-Day Saints for Trump — during a visit by Vice President Mike Pence in Mesa, Ariz.
Flake said he has never before voted for a Democratic presidential candidate but was asked many times in recent years if he as a conservative could vote for a Democrat.
“‘Sure,’ has been my ready answer, if he or she were a Joe Biden kind of Democrat. Well, the Democratic Party just nominated a Joe Biden kind of Democrat,” he said.
He said Biden will approach the presidency “with the reverence and dignity it deserves. I know he will reach across the aisle, because that’s what he has done his entire career. After the turmoil of the past four years, we need a president who unifies instead of divides. … We need a president who summons our better angels, not a president who appeals to our baser instincts.”
Flake blasted Trump for praising dictators and belittling political opponents with childish name-calling.
“It is apparent by now that the president’s behavior has not and will not change whatever hopes we Republicans might have entertained about the office changing the man,” he said.
Flake noted that many Republicans and conservatives say they don’t like Trump’s behavior, but say he governs as a conservative and his reelection is important to help maintain a conservative Supreme Court.
But Flake said Trump’s behavior “is most assuredly not conservative. Indifference to the truth or to the careful stewardship of the institutions of American liberty is not conservative. … Governing by tweet is not conservative. It’s not even governing.”
Utah’s two senators declined comment Monday about action by their former colleague, Flake. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has said, however, that he does not plan to vote for Trump, although he has not yet said whom he will support. But Sen. Mike Lee has gone from being a “Never Trumper” to signing on as a co-chair of the president’s Utah reelection campaign and happily casting the state’s delegate votes for him on Monday.
Among Republicans for Biden are: Former GOP Sens. Gordon Humphrey, N.H. and John Warner, Va.; and former GOP Reps. Steve Bartlett, Texas; Bill Clinger, Charlie Dent and Jim Greenwood, all Penn.; Tom Coleman, Mo.; Charles Djou, Hawaii; Mickey Edwards, Okla.; Wayne Gilchrest, Md.; and Bob Inglis, S.C.
Others included: former GOP Reps. Jim Kolbe, Ariz.; Steve Kuykendall, Calif.; Ray LaHood, Ill.; Jim Leach, Iowa; Susan Molinari, Jack Quinn and Jim Walsh, all N.Y.; Connie Morella, Md.; Mike Parker, Miss.; Claudine Schneider, R.I.; Christopher Shays, Conn.; Peter Smith, Vt.; Alan Steelman, Texas; Bill Whitehurst, Va.; and Dick Zimmer, N.J.