Leslie Wexner is the wealthiest Republican in Ohio, a one-time mega-donor with a net worth of nearly $6 billion — but now he has renounced the party he supported since college.
This week, the business magnate whose company owns Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works announced that he can no longer support the party, the Columbus Dispatch reported. Speaking at an event for business leaders in Ohio, Wexner said he does not identify as a Republican anymore.
“I’m an independent,” he said, adding that he was a GOP supporter since joining the Young Republicans in college. “I won’t support this nonsense in the Republican Party.”
Wexner has donated large sums to Republican candidates, most recently supporting Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential run, but has become sharply critical of Donald Trump in recent months. Last year, Wexner told employees in a speech that he felt “dirty” by Trump’s response to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville where white supremacists marched in support of a Confederate statue, with one of them killing a counter-protester. Now, he has decided to leave the party entirely.
Leslie Wexner’s announcement came the same day that Barack Obama visited Columbus to stump for Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray, the Huffington Post reported. Wexner said he was inspired by Obama’s message.
“I was struck by the genuineness of the man; his candor, humility and empathy for others,” Wexner said of Obama.
“I just decided I’m no longer a Republican,” he added.
Wexner has now joined a number of other prominent Republicans leaving the party over Donald Trump. Steve Schmidt, who in 2008 served as campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, also recently announced that he could no longer support the GOP.
Schmidt said he could not support a party that supported Trump’s child immigrant separation policy.
“29 years and nine months ago I registered to vote and became a member of The Republican Party which was founded in 1854 to oppose slavery and stand for the dignity of human life. Today I renounce my membership in the Republican Party. It is fully the party of Trump,” Steve Schmidt tweeted in May (via CNN).
It was not clear if Leslie Wexner’s pocketbook would follow his new political leaning, but even if he does not support Democratic candidates, losing the financial backing of the state’s wealthiest Republican is seen as a major blow to GOP candidates facing an uphill battle in midterm elections.