Republican With White Nationalist Ties Nabs Almost 40 Percent of the Vote, Despite Defeat in Local Tennessee Election

A man who was disavowed by the Republican Party for having ties to white nationalism still managed to pull in close to 40 percent of the vote in a primary this week for the role of assessor in Shelby County, Tennessee.

Keith Alexander, the man who ran for the position, was once a member of Council of Conservative Citizens, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designates as a white nationalist hate group. He also contributed to a weekly radio program called The Political Cesspool, and used his platform to disparage the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., according to The Commercial Appeal, a Memphis-based newspaper.

“[The Communists] had to give him plenty of money to keep him on task,'' Alexander told that radio show of King, "because if they hadn’t, he would have just gone on into doing what so many black ministers do, which is, to, you know, preying on his congregation… and chasing after the women in his congregation, too.’’

RTS1HHQF Men participate in a "White Lives Matter" rally in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Keith Alexander, disavowed by the Republican Party for having ties to white nationalism, managed to pull in close to 40 percent of the vote in a primary this week. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

Despite this history, and having been disavowed by his own party publicly in the lead up to the election, Alexander still managed to grab 10,018 votes in Shelby County, Tennessee, on Tuesday, or 38 percent of the vote, The Commercial Appeal reported. The assessor’s duties are primarily of a technical nature, the paper noted. The person that fulfills the role appraises property values as they relate to taxes.

Alexander ultimately lost the primary election to Robert "Chip" Trouy, who clinched 16,540 votes, or 62 percent, according to The Commercial Appeal

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Alexander has denied that he is a white nationalist. The strong showing from a Republican candidate with links to white nationalism comes amid a flurry of far-right figures seeking office in elections of both national and local importance.

Patrick Little, a Republican who is running against Democrat Dianne Feinstein for her Senate seat in California, is a self-described white nationalist. He told Newsweek that if he were a man of stronger faith, he would consider late German leader Adolf Hitler to be “the second coming of Christ.” Paul Nehlen, a Republican congressional candidate in Wisconsin, and a white nationalist, told former Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke’s radio show in February that he wanted to put “armed machine gun turrets” on America’s southern border to target any “man woman or child” that approaches it. Arthur Jones, who will be on the ballot representing the GOP in a race for Illinois’ Third Congressional District this November, is a veteran neo-Nazi activist.

Shelby County has a recent history of public officials stirring controversies for espousing racist beliefs. David Barber, the former deputy director of the county’s Department of Corrections, was fired in 2016 after posting a series of openly racist messages on Facebook.

RTS1HHQU A man holds up a Confederate flag while participating in a "White Lives Matter" rally in Shelbyville, Tennessee. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

Lee Mills, the chairman of the Republican Party of Shelby County, told Newsweek that people should not be concerned about the apparent closeness of the race because roughly half of the votes had been cast during early voting, before local papers had picked up on Alexander’s views. But he expressed frustration with the fact that he made it as far as he did.

“There was information on his beliefs going back to 2015 on page two or three of a Google search, but nobody brought it up to me or the leadership,” Mills said, adding that he takes the blame for the advancement of Alexander’s candidacy.

Mills added that he believed that white nationalist candidates would not be advanced in his county in the future.

“There are no white nationalists that will be running for office in Shelby County,” he said. “We are going to vet them. I don’t see this as a trend. Not here.”

Vickie Terry, the executive director of the Memphis branch of the NAACP, told Newsweek that the public had to make sure that people like Alexander do not advance in local elections at a time when a surprising number of them are seeking office.

“Clearly with the election of President [Donald] Trump it seems that more and more individuals with white nationalist beliefs are surfacing, like Keith Alexander,” Terry said. “Now they feel more emboldened to run for political office and it’s our responsibility to do our homework and research and educate our members—to make sure that these individuals are not elected. ”

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