During a campaign rally in Redding, California on June 3, presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump looked out into the crowd and spotted a black man. “Look at my African-American over here,” he said. The man he was referring to is Gregory Cheadle, a Republican congressional candidate from California’s 1st district. By his own account Cheadle was delighted that the real estate tycoon turned politician would single him out, but now he has decided that we should all know he is not a Trump supporter.
Trump’s comment was big news over the weekend. It sounded extremely racist, as if Trump was claiming ownership over the man, and he was called out for it on social media. But for his part, Cheadle said that he didn’t take offense. In fact, he bragged that he “got two autographs” on the campaign signs he was holding thanks to being noticed by The Donald. And in an incredible admission for a grown man, Cheadle said that after the rally, as the candidate was leaving, he got Trump’s attention by yelling “Uncle Donald! Uncle Donald!” to him. He even described the giddy condition he was in as he and Trump chatted.
It’s all a fog. I’m glad I’m not on the witness stand. But it means a lot to me when a person of his stature can come to Redding.
But now Trump’s Boeing 757 is gone, and maybe Cheadle decided it wouldn’t be such a good idea for voters in his district to see him as being too close to the most controversial presidential candidate in recent years. He is now saying that he is not a Trump supporter.
California’s 1st congressional district encompasses the inland section of the state north of Sacramento. The seat has been held by Republican Doug LaMalfa since 2013, but prior to that, it had been in the hands of Democrat Mike Thompson for 12 years. So it’s not a safe Republican seat by any means. There are two Democrats and four Republicans, including Cheadle and LaMalfa, who are running in the primary. California holds an open primary for congressional seats, with the top two vote-getters facing off in the general election, regardless of party. A Field Research poll conducted in April found that Trump’s support is weak in the region — weaker than any other region in the state save for the Los Angeles area. That may be the reason for Cheadle’s backpedaling.
Cheadle told NPR that the encounter with Trump has gotten him some extra attention in the run-up to the primary. But he also made sure that everyone knows that just because he gushed over the candidate and called him “Uncle Donald,” it doesn’t mean he’s a fan.
I am not a Trump supporter. I went to go hear Donald Trump because I have an open mind.
I am a free man. I am not chained to any particular party, and I refuse to be chained to any particular party.
Gregory Cheadle appears to be walking the same thin line that Republican leaders have been walking for weeks. Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and others have been trying to put a positive spin on the fact that Trump is their nominee, but at the same time not wanting to get too close to him, in case they need to run away from the next crazy thing he says.
With an incumbent in the race who has won twice by comfortable margins, it’s not likely that Cheadle will get very far. So why not own the endorsement from Trump? What a great last minute campaign commercial! “Hi! I’m Gregory Cheadle, also known as Uncle Donald’s ‘African-American.'” That would probably be a hit with Trump’s racist base, and who knows, it just might win Cheadle an election.
Featured image via Cheadle For Congress/Elijah Nouvelage-Getty Images