By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BERRIEN COUNTY — With a few prominent Republicans like U.S. Sen. John McCain and House Speaker Paul Ryan pulling their support from presidential candidate Donald Trump, the same does not appear to be seen in Berrien County.
Among Trump’s bigger proponents is Sharon Tyler.
The Berrien County clerk, who is running unopposed Nov. 8, is in a unique position. She chairs the Berrien County Republican Party, which gives her a good idea of whether Trump support is waning or growing within the GOP.
Tyler, who served as a national delegate for Trump, reaffirmed her belief the real estate mogul has done and will continue to do well in the county.
“I would say his support has been increasing in Berrien County,” Tyler said. “There’s certainly been a lot more passion from Republicans.”
Tyler said this presidential campaign is significantly different to recent ones because it has brought out more people who aren’t regular voters.
“This is a lot different because we have an interesting candidate to a lot of people,” Tyler said. “I remember with (2012 GOP nominee) Mitt Romney, when you got to his events, there wasn’t the enthusiasm or excitement. Donald brings five to six times the amount of that to each rally.”
As for the recent video and claims of sexual assault brought out against Trump, Tyler said the GOP must get past those transgressions.
“The phrases he shares, we are not proud of them,” Tyler said, “but he has apologized to the public.”
Tyler said while some legislators may not want to come out and endorse Trump, a lot of them are still supporting the party.
State legislators Sen. John Proos, Rep. Dave Pagel and Rep. Al Pscholka were all contacted to see what the climate of support has been like for Trump around Lansing. None returned calls to The Herald-Palladium.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton has refused to endorse Trump.
Cindy Duran, who ran Ted Cruz’s Berrien County campaign and is a precinct delegate, said she left the county’s Republican Party because of its support for Trump.
“I don’t like the direction they are going in,” Duran said. “There was not too much room for any different opinions in the county party.”
Duran said she believes the Republican Party has split into three.
Some factions are lukewarm toward its presidential candidate, others are fully behind Trump, and the third group of conservatives are against him, Duran said. Duran is part of the third group, which she refers to as “the constitutional group.”
However, that does not mean she supports Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton either. Through her search to find a proper write-in candidate, Duran said she doesn’t begrudge anybody who votes for Trump.
She said the conservative movement has taken a hit during this presidential election season, which could have brought in a new generation of Republicans.
“Instead of talking about constitutional conservative principles, we’ve heard nothing but sex and groping scandals,” Duran said. “Incidentally, I’ve talked to many Democrats who are not as happy with their candidate. This is a year where neither party holds the upper hand.”
Kevin Gillette, treasurer for the Berrien County Republican Party, said the support seems to be high as more than 2,000 Trump/Pence signs have been distributed over the last two weeks. He said it appears Trump will likely win Berrien County by a comfortable margin.
While Trump has his baggage, Gillette is voting for Trump because he feels they need to change the recent Democratic policies.
“In my lifetime, this has been the most contentious, mean-spirited campaign ever,” Gillette said. “Open discussion is healthy, but this behavior is counterproductive.”
Political observers have said Trump’s struggles nationwide may mean trouble for congressional, state and local elections.
However, Duran doesn’t see the down-ballot effect coming to play Nov. 8, as most of the county races aren’t contested.
“Whether it happens statewide, I’ll say maybe,” Duran said. “Could the Senate and the House (of Representatives) be lost? Not the House, but the Senate is closer than comfortable.”
Tyler said the down-ballot effect is not a thing. She said that the way polls are taken nowadays, anything could happen in November.
“I think polling has totally changed. Where we came from four to eight years ago, it has a lot to do with new technology,” Tyler said. “Polls might be a bit skewed because it doesn’t reach the same people it used to. Not everybody has a landline phone. We’re in a different time with polling.”
Gillette argued anything is possible because straight-ticket voting remains legal.
“We watched what happened in 2008 and 2012, where a lot of people voted for the top of the ticket and nothing else,” Gillette said. “There’s always that potential. It can happen, especially with first-time voters.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Oct. 29, 2016)