Rep. Scott Rigell is off to a rocky week with the GOP. On Saturday, the Virginia congressman endorsed Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, and on Monday he severed ties with his district’s local Republican Party.
“I’ve always said I will not vote for Donald Trump and I will not vote for Hillary Clinton,” Rigell told The New York Times. “I’m going to vote for the Libertarian candidate.”
He is the first GOP member of Congress to back the former New Mexico governor.
Though Rigell will retire at the end of this term, his rejection of Trump comes from a sitting Republican member of Congress in a key battleground state, which also happens to be the home state of Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine.
The announcement drew criticism from Donald Trump himself who tweeted that “sleepy eyes” Rigell was previously “BEGGING” the Manhattan businessman for a job.
— DonaId J. Trump (@realDenaldTrump) August 6, 2016
After breaking ranks from the majority of GOP congressmen who plan to back Trump, Rigell also distanced himself from his district’s GOP base.
On Monday Rigell left the Republican Party of Virginia Beach, drawing harsh criticism from the group in a Facebook post:
“[T]he public support of the Congressman for a third party candidate with no chance of winning the election is a profound disappointment. Congressman Rigell has served his constituents well over the past 6 years but his vote, and any Republican’s vote for a third party candidate, only serves to elect Hillary Clinton President,” the group said.
Over the past 6 years, Congressman Rigell has relied on hundreds of Republican volunteers, Republican donors and… https://t.co/tVLabV3osG
— Republican Party VB (@RPofVB) August 8, 2016
Rigell said that the party was already planning to remove him following his Johnson endorsement and that it was better to just resign.