Unfortunately, it was no fluke that Steve “Hitler was right” West trounced his three rivals in his GOP Missouri House primary, receiving more than twice as many votes as his closest competitor.
No, down-ballot races don’t get the attention they deserve. Many Northland Republicans in House District 15 may have been unaware of West’s race-baiting, anti-Semitic radio show on KCXL 1140AM and 102.9FM. Maybe they never heard of his extremist website or his alter egos, which include “Jack Justice” and “Hollywood Hymee.” It’s highly unlikely that they knew about his chronic failure to pay child support.
But it’s no exaggeration to say that he ran on Islamophobia and homophobia. His platform was unapologetically anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT.
And a year after the deadly white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, GOP primary voters in his Kansas City and Gladstone district had to have known who and what they were choosing. To believe otherwise is to believe that they randomly went overwhelmingly for the only one in the race who was campaigning on hate.
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Statements deriding Oak Park High School students for choosing a transgender homecoming queen and calling Islam “a problem for America” are all over West’s campaign website and right there in his statements to the Gladstone Dispatch.
Islam “is a political movement masquerading as religion and should not receive the benefits we provide religious institutions” under the First Amendment, West told the paper.
In answer to a question about the district’s greatest needs, he told the Gladstone Dispatch that school choice was top on his list: “Many parents and students don’t want to have to deal with alternative sex ed, and the LGBT clubs and staff at all the public schools today.”
On his campaign website, his slogan of “Restore Old American values” is illustrated with a photo of African Americans and Hispanics.
His platform, his campaign site says, includes six issues: 1) “Islam is a problem for America.” 2) Education reform. His explanation of that issue notes that “Oak Park High School recently had a transgender homecoming queen! A proud 1st in the country for the North Kansas City School District.” 3) Anti-pornography. 4) Vaccines should be optional. 5) We’re being poisoned by the fluoride in our water supply and 6) Welfare recipients should be banned from casinos.
That’s it. Clear, right? So were the alternatives.
Tim Harris, who is retired from General Motors, ran on his experience “working with different people from all over the country” and his ability to “get along with people and get things done.”
Simon Abela, a self-employed environmental engineer, promised to work on lowering taxes, building infrastructure and modeling civility. He told the local paper that if elected, he intended to “be more responsible and respectful to our citizens, even when we disagree politically.”
J. Ranen Bechthold, an Army veteran, said his top issues were fighting corruption and improving services to constituents.
No, no and no, voters responded. Instead, they went with the candidate whose campaign site urged them to “Please study my platform” as “these are not the vague nice sounding intentions you’ll hear from other candidates.” No denying that.
The Democratic incumbent in the district, Jon Carpenter, said he never expected West to win because he was known to be the most extreme of the four candidates.
“He’s run very publicly as a proud bigot and was going door-to-door saying all kinds of things,” including, according to one constituent, that all female coaches and most girls who play basketball are lesbians. West, who lives four doors down from Carpenter, knocked on his door, too, and “talked to my wife, and he talked about Islam.”
West has been denounced by both state and local Republicans since he won. He certainly has little in common with someone like Republican Kevin Corlew, who represents the 14th House district. Corlew tweeted that “to those lumping together anyone who claims to be of the same party, you’re way off base.”
But it’s West’s supporters who make a reasonable guy like Corlew look increasingly like the outlier in his party.