The California Republican Party and its top statewide candidate are urging citizens in the 11th Congressional District not to vote for the party’s nominee because of his anti-Semitic statements and Holocaust denial.
John Fitzgerald was the only Republican running in the reliably-Democratic district’s all-party primary last month, earning himself just under 25% of the vote and advancing to November’s general election. Fitzgerald’s campaign website questions the Holocaust, criticizes “Jewish supremacism” and falsely claims that Jews played a “prominent role” in the African slave trade.
California does not allow write-in candidates in general elections, forcing Republican voters in the Bay Area’s eastern suburbs to choose in November between voting for Fitzgerald, his incumbent Democratic opponent Rep. Mark DeSaulnier or skipping the race entirely. Republican officials were clear when asked by the Forward: anything but the Holocaust denier.
“Voters will have to choose between not voting in the race and choosing the incumbent,” state party spokesperson Matt Fleming told the Forward. “We just ask that they don’t vote for John Fitzgerald.”
Matt Shupe, a spokesperson for gubernatorial nominee John Cox, was even blunter: “John Fitzgerald is an idiot. We absolutely condemn in the strongest possible language his viewpoints on his issues.”
“I would either leave it blank or anybody but Fitzgerald,” added Shupe, who is Jewish. “People can leave it blank, they don’t have to vote in that race.”
Fitzgerald, a small business owner, had received the party’s endorsement automatically in March after he ended up being the sole Republican candidate in the race. The state party revoked its endorsement in May and condemned his candidacy and his anti-Semitic comments after learning more about his views.
“As always, California Republicans reject anti-Semitism, and all forms of religious bigotry, in the harshest terms possible,” party chairman Jim Brulte said in a statement at the time.
Fleming told The New York Times last week that the state party is bolstering its vetting process.
As the number of GOP candidates with ties to white supremacists has grown, Republicans politicians and state parties have had to decide whether to urge voters to ensure Democratic victories. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner was criticized for initially demurring when asked about Arthur Jones, a former American Nazi Party leader who won the Republican nomination in a suburban Chicago district after no one else ran. Rauner eventually urged voters in a tweet to “vote for anybody but Arthur Jones.” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had gone a step further, tweeting, “write in another candidate, or vote for the Democrat. This bigoted fool should receive ZERO votes.”
Fitzgerald ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2010 and 2012 but never received that party’s endorsement. He told The New York Times that he considers himself more of an independent.
DeSaulnier, his opponent, has condemned Fitzgerald’s views and said he believed the primary results were likely due to Fitzgerald being the only Republican on the ballot rather than local support for his extremism. DeSaulnier told the San Jose Mercury News that he wasn’t “going to go out of my way to debate him.”
“I hate to give him more of a platform,” he added.
But Fitzgerald’s primary success appears to have emboldened him to be more outspoken, continuing to publish anti-Semitic statements on his website and appearing on extremist podcasts. “Everything we’ve been told about the Holocaust is a lie,” Fitzgerald said two weeks ago on a British radio show. “My entire campaign, for the most part, is about exposing this lie.”
Aiden Pink is the Deputy News Editor for the Forward.