Former President Barack Obama visited Ohio looking to boost the campaign prospects of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray, who served as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during Obama’s second term.
Inadvertently, Obama also seemed to convince a longtime Republican, and the state’s wealthiest man, to leave his own party.
Leslie H. Wexner, the fashion retail tycoon whose net worth is estimated by Forbes to be $5.9 billion, recently told a small audience in Columbus that he has decided to quit the party he has called home for decades after Obama’s visit.
“I just decided I’m no longer a Republican,” Wexner, the CEO of L Brands said at the event, according to the Columbus Dispatch. “I’m an independent,” he continued. “I won’t support this nonsense in the Republican Party. I’ve been a Republican since college, joined the Young Republican Club at Ohio State.”
Wexner said that he hadn’t made any public declaration in a newspaper about jumping ship, but that he’s been contacting Republican elected friends and telling them that he now considers himself an independent.
The billionaire, who has expressed some bi-partisan leanings in recent months, also reportedly had kind remarks about Obama’s visit to Columbus, which came before a rally for Cordray in Cleveland.
“I was struck by the genuineness of the man; his candor, humility and empathy for others,” Wexner said of Obama, according to the Dispatch. In addition to hearing the former president speak, Wexner’s shift in political attitude also seems attributed to President Trump. The CEO recalled a moment last year when he told employees that he felt “dirty” and “ashamed” when Trump equivocated about white nationalist violence at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year.
“I have to do something because the leader of our country is behaving poorly,” Wexner said, recalling his reaction to the racially charged nature of the event.
Recent filings from the Federal Election Commission, show that Wexner contributed to the National Republican Congressional Committee and Rep. Troy Balderson (R-OH), who narrowly edged out Democrat Danny O’Connor in a recent special election in the state.
Last year, he also contributed $300,000 to the With Honor PAC, an organization that supports both Democratic and Republican veterans running for Congress.