WASHINGTON – Former Rep. Amo Houghton of Corning, a moderate Republican who long served a sprawling Southern Tier congressional district, signed on to a joint statement with 29 other retired GOP lawmakers urging voters to reject their party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump.
Released Thursday, the letter by a group of moderate to conservative Republicans criticizes Trump in strikingly harsh terms.
“In nominating Donald Trump, the Republican Party has asked the people of the United States to entrust their future to a man who insults women, mocks the handicapped, urges that dissent be met with violence, seeks to impose religious tests for entry into the United States, and applies a de facto ethnicity test to judges,” the group said.
“He offends our allies and praises dictators. His public statements are peppered with lies. He belittles our heroes and insults the parents of men who have died serving our country. Every day brings a fresh revelation that highlights the unacceptable danger in electing him to lead our nation.”
Asked why he signed the letter, Houghton said: “I want my name to be out there” in opposition to the GOP nominee.
The former nine-term congressman told The Buffalo News in July that he opposed Trump, citing the brash Manhattan billionaire’s habit of trashing people across the political spectrum.
“I was brought up with the idea that you should treat people with respect,” said Houghton, whose tenure in the House from 1987 through 2004 was marked by a mid-1990s effort to restore civility to the House floor.
Houghton went much further Thursday, though, signing on to a statement that bluntly says Trump is not qualified for the presidency.
“As Donald Trump’s unfitness for public office has become ever more apparent, we urge our fellow Republicans not to vote for this man whose disgraceful candidacy is indefensible,” the statement said. “This is no longer about our party; it’s now about America. We may differ on how we will cast our ballots in November but none of us will vote for Donald Trump.”
The statement is not an endorsement of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In fact, it mentions no candidate other the Trump – and in a brief phone interview, Houghton would not commit to Clinton, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, Green Party nominee Jill Stein or any other candidate.
Asked who he would vote for, Houghton said, “It is a very, very difficult decision, and I am still tossing it around in my mind.”
Houghton, 90, is a former chairman of Corning Inc. who is now retired and living in the Boston area.
He was the only former Western New York lawmaker to sign the letter, which includes several prominent House members from recent decades, including former Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert of Utica, former House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach of Iowa, and former Rep. Vin Weber of Minnesota, a leading conservative strategist who, like several other lawmakers on the letter, later became a lobbyist.