Republicans on ballots in coming weeks stick with Trump on Comey firing

Comey's out: What's next?
Comey's out: What's next?

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Comey's out: What's next? 01:30

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  • Trump faced criticism from some leading Capitol Hill Republicans
  • But not from those facing near-term election battles

(CNN)Three Republicans whose names will appear on ballots in the coming weeks showed Wednesday that they fear alienating President Donald Trump's loyalists more than the criticism they face from Democrats for refusing to take on the White House.

Trump faced criticism from some leading Capitol Hill Republicans over his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey -- the man who was leading an investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia and its attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.
But in Georgia, Republican congressional candidate Karen Handel -- who faces Democrat Jon Ossoff in a June runoff that has already shattered fundraising and spending records -- wouldn't criticize Trump's decision to fire Comey.
"It's been clear for some time that FBI director Comey has lost the confidence of Republicans, Democrats and broader institutions, and his removal as FBI director was probably overdue," Handel said. "I hope that the President will quickly nominate a strong, independent leader as the next director of the FBI and that the Senate will consider the nomination as quickly as possible."
The statement was a stark contrast from Ossoff, who said: "Comey's firing raises severe questions. There should be bipartisan support for a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference."
In Montana, Republican Greg Gianforte -- who faces Democrat Rob Quist in the race for the seat's at-large House seat previously held by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke -- similarly backed Trump.
"The FBI has been plagued by controversy, low morale, and a lost of confidence from the American people. I strongly urge the President to appoint a well respected, independent voice who will restore the public's trust and confidence in the FBI," Gianforte said in a statement.
Quist promptly criticized him over it, saying: "Greg Gianforte has refused to support an independent investigation and instead has doubled down on his Russian investments. It's time for him to come clean and for the American people to know what really happened in 2016."
In the Virginia governor's race -- where the electorate is typically more Democratic than in the districts holding House special elections -- leading Republican candidate Ed Gillespie issued a statement that drew criticism from both his GOP foes in the June primary and the two Democrats in the race.
He cited "questions and concerns raised" -- but did so in passive voice, leaving it unclear whether Gillespie himself shares those concerns.
"While it is any president's prerogative to hire or fire an FBI director, there have been many questions and concerns raised about this decision and I look forward to learning more about its timing and rationale as they're answered," Gillespie said in the statement. "It's critical that the American people have faith in the bureau, its leadership and the administration."
The Democrats both took to Twitter to cast Gillespie's statement as befuddling.
"Huh?" wrote Tom Perriello, the former congressman.
"What a BS statement," wrote Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam.