You know you’re in trouble when Ted Cruz sounds like the moderating voice of reason in your party, but that’s where Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner finds himself after again saying voters shouldn’t go nuts and, say, vote for a Democrat for Congress just because the guy running against him is a literal Nazi.
This week, Rauner dutifully condemned the candidacy of Arthur Jones—a 70-year-old who secured a place as the Republican on the November ballot in a Chicago-area race for Congress despite being a Holocaust denier who espouses openly racist views. But he declined to say Republicans should vote for the Democratic incumbent, Congressman Dan Lipinski.
“No,” Rauner replied, when WCIA TV asked during a Tuesday campaign stop if voters should cast ballots for Lipinski over Jones. “The one thing I will say is the person, that guy, Johnson or whatever his name is, should not be on the ballot.”
That seemingly begrudging act of distancing came after Cruz on Friday urged voters to pull the lever for the Democrat or to write in another candidate—apparently a bridge too far for the governor.
Jones has been labeled a “local white supremacist” and “long-time neo-Nazi” by the Anti-Defamation League.
Earlier this year, Rauner said: “There is no room for neo-Nazis in American politics. I condemn this man in the strongest possible terms.” But now he’s essentially throwing up his hands, saying the Republicans did what they could to block Jones from the ballot, including trying to get a third-party candidate to run against him.
“I called [on] him to get out and he should be out, and we should have somebody run against him,” Rauner also said. “There is no room, as I said right immediately when he snuck on there, there is no room in our politics for a person like that.”
But, as Jones told Politico last week, he wormed his way in simply by working the system as it exists:
Jones, who told POLITICO he’s running to counter a “two-party, Jew-party, queer-party system,” laughed when he was informed the GOP was unable to put up a candidate against him.
“They didn’t put up a third-party candidate?” Jones asked when reached by phone Thursday. “That’s great! That’s fantastic!
“I snookered them,” he said of state Republicans. “I played by the rules, what can I say?”
Getting on the Illinois ballot as a third-party candidate is no small task. In the 3rd Congressional District, a candidate would have needed 14,600 valid signatures, a laborious and expensive endeavor and even then, there’s a slim chance of success against Lipinski.
When neo-Nazis keep finding their way onto the ballot, winning the primary, and then becoming your accidental nominee, you should probably take a long, hard look at what your party’s become.
UPDATE, 5:40 pm: After coverage of Rauner’s comments were picked up today, the governor changed his tune, imploring voters in a tweet to “vote for anybody” but Jones.