David Abroms is running for Georgia’s sixth congressional seat.
SANDY SPRINGS, GEORGIA — Voters in the northern Atlanta suburbs will get to elect a member of Congress on Tuesday in a race that is shaping up to be a potential referendum on President Trump.
Thirty-year-old Democrat Jon Ossoff, a former congressional staffer and documentary filmmaker who is hoping to defy the odds by winning an election in a solidly red district, has captured much of the national attention. But this race includes another groundbreaking candidate who’s often overlooked: The first Republican to run in a national election in the Trump era who has publicly denounced the president.
David Abroms did not vote for Donald Trump. He tells voters on the campaign trail that he disagrees with the president on policies and that he has no respect for Trump’s character.
It’s unclear if the message is resonating with Republican voters — recent polls put Abroms, who struggles with low name recognition, in the low single digits. But his stance stands out from the GOP frontrunners like Dan Moody, who told ThinkProgress Monday that “the president has great ideas, all he needs is people to help him do the hard work.”
Speaking to ThinkProgress on Monday, less than 24 hours before Election Day, Abroms said that he expected to have to be on the defensive, explaining his rationale for not backing the president. Instead, the 33-year-old former business owner said it has become an asset to his campaign.
Why did you decide to join the pool of Republicans running in this special election?
I think the country is in a pretty serious crisis. We seem to be so divided and the divisions in this country are growing deeper and wider… There’s no way we’re going to solve the problems before us unless we can have more civil politics and unless we can start talking to each other, even if we’re in different parties.
I’ve seen in this campaign that just because there’s an ‘R’ next to my name, people seem to think they know everything I stand for. Nothing could be further from the truth. I align more with the historical Republican platform, but I’m my own person and I have my own beliefs. That ‘R’ doesn’t define me.
You said you voted for Marco Rubio in the primary and couldn’t vote for Trump in the general election. Why not?
There are characterological issues that bother me. I think he ran on a platform of division and resentment, which I think is damaging to the country. And I don’t think he’s a conservative. I think he’s more of a nationalist than a populist.
Is the fact that you have denounced Trump resonating with voters?
To be honest with you, going into this campaign, I was ready to be in the defense mode because it’s public record who I supported. And I thought that would be picked up more and I would have to defend myself. But in fact, it was quite the opposite. I would tell anyone who asked that I did not support Trump and it really never made it into the media.
So no, I don’t think it’s hurt me at all. I think quite the opposite. If I had more publicly and forcefully stated my independence in terms of who I supported, I think that that would have been more beneficial. I wish we had talked about it more, earlier. I wish we had been open about it. Not that I really hid it, it just wasn’t really talked about much.
A lot of voters here are frustrated with Trump and Republicans in Congress, so they are turning to Democrat Jon Ossoff in this race. What is your pitch to them? Why should they still vote for a Republican?
The independents, the conservatives, even the more moderate Democrats, I think they’re making an emotional decision. It’s very unlikely that Jon is going to win this election. He has to win it, in my opinion, in the primary, and that’s looking very unlikely. You have all this frustration building up around Trump and they channeled it by propping up Jon. So whoever comes in second, the Republican, they’re going to end up winning in the run-off, because right now Jon has all this money and the Republicans are not consolidated.
The better approach I think would have been for people to say, ‘Okay, this is a Republican district.’ The district voted for Mitt Romney by over 23 points. Yes, it wasn’t enamored with Trump, but it’s a Republican district. The best thing would be for people to say, ‘Let’s think a little bit strategically. Why don’t we vote for someone that’s willing to stand up to Trump and that’s willing to be independent-minded?’
If Jon were to win, which I think is highly unlikely, and he goes to Washington, he’s just going to be another Democrat voting against Trump. It’s not going to mean anything. If I win and I go to Washington and I’m willing to stand up to Trump on issues that I disagree with, that will be a statement. Right now in Washington, the Republicans have full control and it’s up to Republicans to search their conscious and to do what they think is right. That’s going to be the way the legislative branch can be a check on the power of the executive branch.
On which issues would you split with the president?
The national debt is such a big issue for me. We can’t do a trillion dollar infrastructure unless we find a way to pay for it. I think that free trade is a good thing… Calling judges “so-called judges “ is a problem.
Do you think your issue with Trump is more about policy or character? If all of his policies came from a Marco Rubio-esque character, would it be more appealing?
I’m a firm believer that character is destiny, so even if all the policies lined up, I still would like for our leaders to be of high character. If our policies lined up I would say that… I still think the character issue is a serious issue and it already has caused problems and could cause even more. To me it’s really hard to divorce the character issues from the administration.
Do you think running against Trump will be an asset for other politicians?
If I had a message for Republicans that are running for reelection or that are considering running, my recommendation would be to run as your own person. Don’t feel like you have to defend Trump… Just because Trump has struck a nerve with a big part of the electorate doesn’t mean that that is going to be transferrable to other Congressional candidates.
The Republicans that are doing the best are the ones who are not running as the ones who say they will go to Washington and do whatever Trump wants. The ones who are saying that are doing very poorly. [In this race,] you have Bruce LeVell, who was Trump’s national diversity coalition chair. I don’t even think he’s registering in polls. Amy Kremer, she started the super PAC to support Trump in the primaries. She’s at zero. So the Trump movement has not transferred over to certain candidates. I think that’s very noteworthy and people across the country should pay close attention.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Meet the first Republican candidate to denounce President Trump was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.