In a sharp break with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, Republican Rep. Patrick Meehan said Wednesday that he plans to cast his presidential vote next month for Trump running mate Mike Pence.
Meehan's disclosure to the Inquirer Editorial Board came two weeks after he called for Trump to drop his presidential bid amid a furor over explosive recordings in which Trump boasted of sexually assaulting women.
In declaring that he plans to write in the name of the Indiana governor, Meehan, the incumbent representing most of Delaware County and parts of Chester, Montgomery, and Lancaster Counties, became the first known GOP member of the Pennsylvania delegation to both disavow the billionaire at the top of the ticket and to pledge support for his running mate.
Several congressional Republicans, including Rep. Frank LoBiondo of South Jersey and New Hampshire's Sen. Kelly Ayotte, have said they planned to vote for Pence, their disclosures coming soon after the release of the 2005 Access Hollywood TV show recordings.
Meehan, a onetime federal prosecutor, did not respond to a request for comment after his meeting with the editorial board.
Meehan's Democratic challenger, retired La Salle University professor Mary Ellen Balchunis, who also appeared before the editorial board, had a dim view of Meehan's declaration.
"I don't believe that he'll vote for Pence," she said afterward. "It would not surprise me if he goes in there and votes for Trump."
Several prominent incumbents and newcomers in the GOP congressional races have distanced themselves from Trump with harsh language in recent weeks. But until Wednesday, none in Pennsylvania appeared to have gone so far as to say they would vote for Pence, said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College.
Meehan spent years as a relatively low-key prosecutor before joining Congress and is not known as "provocative or flamboyant," Madonna said. Nor is he in a tight race where, politically at least, there would be a clear benefit to going public with plans to back Pence at Trump's expense, Madonna said.
"It doesn't surprise me that he would walk away" from Trump, Madonna said.
Federal Election Commission records show Meehan has raised more than $2 million to retain his seat, whereas Balchunis has banked less than $200,000.