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Clinton breaks barrier; Trump sweeps final primaries

WASHINGTON (BP) — A major American political party selected a female as its presumptive presidential nominee for the first time, while Donald Trump swept the final Republican primaries without any active opponents.

Hillary Clinton easily won the California primary and three other contests Tuesday (June 7) to cement the Democratic Party nomination, a nod she reportedly had clinched on the eve of her latest victories. If officially nominated at the Democratic convention, she will become the first woman to head a presidential ticket for a major party.

Meanwhile, a GOP congressional leader charged Trump with racist rhetoric for claiming a federal judge was biased against him because of the judge’s Mexican descent.

The latest controversy has left Republicans in Congress divided on their response: Some criticized Trump but continued to support him; some have withheld endorsement so far; and at least one has walked back his endorsement.

The party division appears to be no shock to a Southern Baptist political science professor running for Congress.

All of his 13 competitors for the Republican nomination in the Eighth District of Tennessee have embraced Trump, Hunter Baker told Baptist Press in written comments. Baker is associate professor of political science at Union University in Jackson.

“I have expressed my tremendous disappointment with his nomination, but have also said I would probably vote for him as the wild card over Hillary about whom I am certain,” Baker said.

Trump’s candidacy has resulted in a “real concern” by many Republicans that he “will not have coattails” for the party’s incumbents and challengers, he told BP.

“His brand is not the GOP brand,” Baker said. “Voters who support him are for him and not for the GOP in any meaningful sense.”

In addition, Baker said, “The voters who do traditionally vote GOP with enthusiasm may stay home to some degree.”

One Trump-endorsed congresswoman — Rep. Renee Ellmers, R.-N.C. — became the first incumbent to lose in 2016. Ellmers’ June 7 primary defeat appeared to be less a rejection of Trump than a repudiation of Ellmers because of her failure to support the pro-life position she espoused and a result of redrawn congressional districts in the state. She lost to Rep. George Holding, another GOP incumbent.

Trump’s candidacy not only has divided Republicans but Southern Baptists and other evangelicals as well. The strong resistance from some Southern Baptists and evangelicals apparently will continue through the general election. Using the hashtag #NeverTrump on Twitter, objectors have made no-vote promises based on his inconsistent and even harsh policy positions on such issues as abortion, religious liberty and immigration; autocratic inclinations; uncivil, insult-laden rhetoric; and a lifestyle marked by adultery.

Other Southern Baptists and evangelicals have supported Trump in the primaries or plan to vote for him in the general election as an alternative to Clinton, who supports abortion rights and government funding of abortion, as well as other liberal policies.

The latest criticism from Republicans came after Trump accused on more than one occasion a federal judge in Southern California of being biased against him in a case involving Trump University because of the judge’s Mexican descent.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan described Trump’s charge against the judge, Gonzalo Curiel, as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

“I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It’s absolutely unacceptable,” Ryan said June 7, acknowledging, however, he continued to support Trump, The New York Times reported. “But do I believe that Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not.”

Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who is running for re-election, withdrew his endorsement of Trump, saying June 7, “I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for president. … I have concluded that Donald Trump has not demonstrated the temperament necessary to assume” the presidency, according to The Times.

In a June 7 statement, Trump — who has promised to build a wall on the American-Mexican border — said his remarks were “misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage.”

“I do not feel that one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial,” he said, “but, based on the rulings that I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial.”

Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, also of Mexican descent, said Trump may have a basis for questioning the judge’s impartiality apart from ethnic bias.

“Regardless of the way Trump has gone about raising his concerns over whether he’s getting a fair trial, none of us should dismiss those concerns out of hand without carefully examining how a defendant in his position might perceive them — and we certainly should not dismiss them for partisan political reasons,” Gonzales wrote in an opinion piece for The Washington Post.

Gonzales is dean of the Belmont University College of Law in Nashville.

After winning California and four others states June 7, Trump has 1,536 delegates, according to The Times. That is nearly 1,000 more than his nearest competitor and almost 300 more than the 1,237 required for the GOP nomination.

Clinton — the former secretary of State, United States senator from New York and first lady — has 2,755 delegates, The Times reported after the June 7 primaries. Among those are 571 superdelegates, who are unpledged. Clinton had accumulated enough superdelegates to reach the 2,383 delegates needed for the nomination even before the June 7 voting, the Associated Press reported June 6.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has 1,852 delegates but pledged to fight for the nomination until the convention.