GOP dis­avows can­di­date over in­flam­ing posts

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - BAY AREA - By John Wil­der­muth

Repub­li­can lead­ers are fran­ti­cally backpedal­ing away from the party’s can­di­date in a key Cen­tral Val­ley con­gres­sional race in re­ac­tion to a sec­ond re­port that his so­cial me­dia ac­counts for­merly con­tained anti­Mus­lim, anti­im­mi­grant and con­spir­acy the­ory mes­sages.

The Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee on Thurs­day pulled its en­dorse­ment of Ted Howze, who will face Demo­cratic Rep. Josh Harder of Tur­lock (Stanis­laus County) in the Novem­ber elec­tion, and GOP lead­ers had harsh words for the mes­sages that had been deleted.

Among them was a post on Howze’s Face­book page in Septem­ber 2016 that said, “The Western world and Chris­tian Na­tions should all be sus­pi­cious of ALL MUS­LIMS! They ob­vi­ously can­not be both ‘good’ Mus­lims and good Amer­i­cans,” Politico re­ported Wed­nes­day.

A post in June 2016 signed, “Ted Howze, Amer­i­can Cit­i­zen,” said then­Pres­i­dent Barack Obama “puts the wel­fare of for­eign Mus­lims ahead of his

own cit­i­zens,” and that “it is time to ar­rest and charge Bar­rack (sic) Obama with TREA­SON!”

Other posts in­cluded a charge that Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton left “a trail of bod­ies as long as the Mis­sis­sippi be­hind them,” and one that com­pared the “Dream­ers” — young peo­ple brought into the U.S. il­le­gally as chil­dren years ago and cur­rently al­lowed to stay in the coun­try — to pe­dophiles: “Sure they un­der­stand that pe­dophiles are ‘dream­ers’ too,” the post read.

Howze, a vet­eri­nar­ian and for­mer Tur­lock coun­cil­man, fin­ished sec­ond to Harder in the March pri­mary. He also ran in the 2018 pri­mary in the same con­gres­sional district, and deleted the posts the day he en­tered that race, Politico re­ported.

Howze fin­ished third in the pri­mary that year to Harder and then­GOP Rep. Jeff Den­ham. Harder won the race in Novem­ber 2018, one of seven House seats in Cal­i­for­nia that Democrats grabbed from the GOP. Repub­li­cans have made them na­tional pri­or­i­ties to try to flip back this year.

Politico re­ported ear­lier this month on an­other se­ries of anti­im­mi­grant and anti­Mus­lim Face­book and Twit­ter posts and retweets from Howze’s ac­counts, in­clud­ing one that re­ferred to the “Pe­dophile Prophet Mo­hamed” and an­other in which he called for send­ing all Dream­ers to Mex­ico, adding the hash­tag, “#De­portThemAl­l.”

Those sen­ti­ments likely don’t play well in a con­gres­sional district where 40% of the res­i­dents are Latino.

Howze de­nied writ­ing those orig­i­nal posts, call­ing them “neg­a­tive and ugly,” and said his ac­count had been hi­jacked by an un­named per­son who used his pass­word to post the mes­sages.

The posts “do not rep­re­sent me, who I am, now or ever,” he told Politico.

On Wed­nes­day, Howze’s campaign called the new re­port “a re­dun­dant story al­ready re­ported on weeks ago,” and blamed Demo­cratic lead­ers for bring­ing it back.

GOP lead­ers, who had sidesteppe­d calls to take ac­tion af­ter the first re­ports, were quick to re­act Wed­nes­day. By late in the even­ing, Howze had been pulled from the Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee’s “Young Guns” pro­gram, which re­cruits GOP can­di­dates be­lieved to have a solid chance of win­ning open or Demo­cratic­held seats. Then, on Thurs­day, the com­mit­tee re­scinded its en­dorse­ment.

Howze was one of 104 can­di­dates in the Young Guns pro­gram, in­clud­ing seven other Repub­li­cans in Cal­i­for­nia. The de­ci­sion to re­move him, made by Min­nesota Rep. Tom Em­mer, head of the GOP com­mit­tee, and House Repub­li­can leader Kevin McCarthy of Bak­ers­field, could be costly for Howze’s campaign.

The Young Guns pro­gram is also de­signed to in­tro­duce lo­cal can­di­dates to GOP donors across the coun­try. That out­side money could be cru­cial to Howze’s chances in Novem­ber, since the most re­cent campaign fi­nance re­port showed Harder with nearly $3.6 mil­lion in his campaign ac­count, com­pared with just $100,702 for his Repub­li­can op­po­nent.

Both GOP lead­ers had harsh words for the posts linked to Howze.

“These state­ments are un­ac­cept­able and not in­dica­tive of the Repub­li­can Party and what we are build­ing here at the NRCC with our di­verse slate of can­di­dates,” Em­mer said in a state­ment.

In a state­ment sent to the Na­tional Jour­nal, McCarthy called the mes­sages in Howze’s so­cial me­dia ac­counts “dis­ap­point­ing and dis­turb­ing,” adding that “big­otry and hate­ful rhetoric — in any form — have no place in the Repub­li­can Party.”

McCarthy has not pulled his en­dorse­ment of Howze and threw the can­di­date the slimmest of life­lines. He said that while he and Em­mer “will take im­me­di­ate ac­tion if Mr. Howze is found to be the orig­i­na­tor of these posts,” the so­cial me­dia mes­sages “do not re­flect the Ted Howze that I have briefly in­ter­acted with.”

Josh Haner / New York Times 2018

Repub­li­can Ted Howze, run­ning against Demo­cratic Rep. Josh Harder in ’18, when he came in third.

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